Occupying the bottom rung of Kia’s lineup and designed to appeal to car buyers on a budget, the Rio subcompact is the sort of car you have to see to believe. It’s not luxurious, but it presents itself with more style than you might expect in an economy car.
We actually think the Rio was more distinctive looking before its 2018 redesign, but the new look is a grown up one and gives the car a strong visual link to some of Kia’s larger and more expensive models.
For 2019, Kia adds LED headlights to the top-end EX Tech trim, and replaces last year’s optional six-speed automatic with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Otherwise, the Rio’s makeup is the same. Under the hood is a 1.6L four-cylinder engine that makes 130 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque. LX trim comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission; the CVT is optional there and standard in EX, EX Sport and EX Tech trim levels.
The Rio will soon face a smaller crowd of competitors when Ford phases out its Fiesta next year. Still, that leaves a number of other notables in this class, like the Hyundai Accent (which shares the Rio’s platform and powertrains), Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Honda Fit. Kia has one of the better-looking cars in the category, though we’re not sure how important that is to the bulk of buyers at the sub-$20,000 price point.
Standard features in LX trim include 15-inch steel wheels with covers, heated side mirrors, power windows, locks and mirror adjustments, keyless entry, automatic headlights, heated front seats and steering wheel, four-speaker stereo with 5.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and USB input.
LX+ trim adds air conditioning and cruise, and the only other option down here is the CVT.
EX gets alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, fog lights, sunroof, tilt-and-telescopic steering, automatic climate control, passive keyless entry, 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and a six-speaker stereo.
EX Sport trim brings 17-inch wheels, LED taillights and automatic wipers, while EX Tech gains navigation, automatic emergency braking, leather seats and LED headlights.
Kia’s fuel consumption estimates for the 2019 Rio curiously list the old six-speed automatic as the optional transmission; nonetheless, those ratings are 8.5 / 6.5 L/100 km (city/highway) with the auto and 8.3/6.4 with the stickshift. We suspect that the CVT’s estimates will be a bit thriftier than those for the six-speed auto.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed