2018 Kia Rio EX new car reviews

The Kia Rio is new for 2018, but let’s start by answering one important question: Yes, you can still get it with a manual transmission. That six-speed box comes mated to a 130-horsepower, 1.6-liter, direct-injected engine. Curb weight for that combo is listed at 2648 pounds.

However, there’s a caveat to that statement: The manual box is only available with the base LX trim. If there’s a silver lining here, the stick can be ordered with the sedan as well as the 5-Door model.

Our test car, the top-of-the-line 5-Door EX, was not so equipped. While it traded a stick shift for an automatic box, it came nicely equipped by most normal standards: alloy wheels, 7-inch center display, heated outside mirrors, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Something else standard: a 5-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Rio still uses struts up front and a twist beam out back. The big news for 2018 is the styling: “A new eye-catching design that is decidedly European,” the release states, while remaining a value buy. The sedan starts at $13,900, while our EX 5-Door starts at $18,700.

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David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

The Rio 5-Door wagon was perfect for the mission: a weekend in and around Washington, D.C. The Rio’s small footprint is easy to park, yet the cabin is quite roomy. Win, win.

And while not an upmarket car, it doesn’t feel cheap, either. The styling inside and out looks better than you’d expect for a car with a starting price below $14,000.

Outward visibility was good in all directions—maybe a little tight to the back due to the wagon body. The seats are comfortable. Kia provides plenty of usable cubbies. The controls all make sense and don’t feel cheap. It takes about 5 seconds to master the HVAC controls.

The power port is covered by a little door that, when closed, perfectly blends into the rest of the panel. Those little details on an entry-level car are much appreciated.

The ride is comfortable, even across D.C. The cabin was quiet. No complaints.

I’d call power fine for the class. This isn’t a modern take on the classic hot hatch, but I never felt like I had to feed the hamsters. The automatic can be shifted manually, and there is a Sport button. Honesty, I just left the transmission in drive. Don’t try to make the car something it’s not.

I admit that I didn’t track my milage, but the 32 combined mpg rating seems believable. After a weekend of city driving, plus an out and back to Kent Island, I put 4 gallons of gas into the tank.

Final thoughts: For the money, it’s a heck of a deal on a modern people-mover.

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Stealthtercel
Stealthtercel Dork
6/11/18 8:31 p.m.

In Canada, every Rio comes with heated seats and a heated steering wheel.  Now that's knowing your market.  OTOH, every Rio beyond the base model (the one with rear drum brakes) comes with a mandatory sunroof.  If yours had one of those, how was the headroom?  Also, how were the headlights?  The IIHS says they are awful... but, as I understand it, they test cars the way they get them, with no effort to check or fix aiming.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/15/18 1:24 p.m.

That's cool re. the heated wheel and seats. Yeah, it sounds frivolous until it's like 30 below. 

Good question on the headlights, but I didn't do a lot of night driving away from urban environments.

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