Kia is getting set to launch the all-new 2018 Rio it unveiled in September 2016 at the Paris auto show, so changes to the 2017 model amount to the usual lineup simplification we see when an existing model is on the verge of being replaced.
In this case, the LX+ Eco model is gone, as is the SX hatchback with a manual transmission. That leaves four entry-level variants -- LX and LX+ in sedan and hatchback body styles -- as the only options for drivers looking for a stickshift.
Good news includes the addition of heated front seats to LX+ models, where before they were available only in EX trim and up.
The Rio continues to be a handsome little car whose chunky styling -- updated in 2016 -- makes it look larger than its subcompact footprint really is. As is now the norm even in small cars, the Rio presents a nicely-finished interior, with straightforward secondary controls.
North American buyers get just one engine in the Rio, a 1.6L four-cylinder making a generous 137 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. We actually like the six-speed automatic transmission better here, as its slick operation is more polished than the spongy clutch that makes the six-speed stick hard to drive smoothly.
Transmission choice has little effect on fuel consumption, estimated at 8.8/6.6 L/100 km (city/highway) with the manual, or 8.8/6.5 with the automatic.
Our only complaint about the Rio’s drive is the suspension’s tendency to become easily unsettled with any wheels larger than the base model’s 15-inchers.
As much as the Rio has aged nicely since this generation debuted in 2012, it lacks any of the active safety features that have begun to trickle down to the subcompact class.
Even at its most basic, the Rio comes with four-wheel disc brakes, trip computer, power windows, locks and heated side mirrors, and a four-speaker stereo with auxiliary and USB inputs. Sedan and hatchback models are nearly identically equipped, trim for trim, the only notable difference being the hatchback’s addition of standard rear wiper and washer.
You have to move up to LX+ to get air conditioning, keyless entry, Bluetooth and the heated front seats we mentioned up top.
EX gets 16-inch alloy wheels (replacing 15-inch steelies), telescopic steering (the only adjustment in the LX is tilt), leather-trimmed shifter and steering wheel, backup camera, UVO infotainment, automatic headlights and fog lights. EX models can be optioned with a sunroof.
Finally, SX trim comes with 17-inch alloys, paddle shifters, upgraded front brakes, sport-tuned suspension, passive keyless entry, heated steering wheel, leather seating, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, LED taillights and daytime running lights and power-folding side mirrors. Navigation and a sunroof are bundled as SX’s only options.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed