The Kia Rio subcompact has an entirely new look for 2018. In a reversal of the typical automotive redesign, the 2018 Rio looks more sedate than the previous model. Gone is the nose-down, butt-up posture and slanting character lines that have, in the opinion of my eyes, nearly destroyed the visual appeal of many a subcompact. To its credit, Rio’s rake wasn’t as severe as the worst offenders, but the new Rio is still a classy step up.
Rio is available as a sedan or hatchback, and there are three trim levels: LX, S and EX. All are powered by a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine generating 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. The LX trim is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; S and EX models have automatic transmissions only. Fuel economy ratings are 28/37/32 mpg (city/highway/combined) with an automatic transmission, and 29/37/32 mpg with a manual. All models have front-wheel drive.
The four-cylinder engine, used in the outgoing Rio, has been tweaked for 2018. It delivers a little less horsepower in general but better performance at lower speeds, where modestly powered cars most need it. Fuel economy is better, too.
My tester was a Rio 5-Door, the hatchback version, in the EX trim. Stylewise it reminded me of the Volkswagen Golf, and that’s a big compliment. The tester was a limited Launch Edition version ($500 extra) that adds attractive red accent seats and trim in place of a unicolor interior.
For the 2018 Rio, a new platform and suspension, longer overall length, a longer wheelbase, lower and wider stance, and wheels moved closer to the corners have created an affordable subcompact that doesn’t seem at all like something purchased only because funds were scarce. It looks and feels well made, drives very nicely, and has a roomy, comfortable and quiet interior. And yet, the new Kia Rio’s base pricing, including an $895 destination charge, starts at just $14,795 and tops out at $19,295.
If you go shopping or looking, be aware that the base LX model is pretty bare bones. It doesn’t even come with power windows. (This reminds me of the time I had a test car with crank windows and the little kids in the car, who had never seen anything but power windows, said “this is cool” and kept rolling the windows up and down.)
On the infotainment front, the 2018 Rio has a standard 5-inch center screen, but the EX model comes with a 7-inch touchscreen and Kia’s Uvo system. No navigation system is available on any model, which isn’t a terrible hardship. As often as not, I use my smartphone for navigation. If you’re already spending big money on a smartphone, it’s good to know there’s a car out there whose price isn’t increased by a navigation system you don’t need. Can’t say the same for the crank windows. Power windows are a must. But that’s just me.
2018 KIA RIO 5-DOOR EX
Base price, including destination charge: $19,595
Price as driven: $20,225
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.