2012 Kia Rio sedan

Kia released the redesigned 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door ahead of the sedan, but the four-door is soon to follow. It will be available in early 2012 and will start at $13,400, according to Kia. That makes the Rio sedan just one more addition to a slew of compact cars, like the Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa and Chevrolet Sonic, that are redesigned or all-new for 2012.

In terms of price, the Rio is more expensive than both the Accent and Versa, but less expensive than the Sonic. But overall, all four affordable small cars are very similar. They’re available as hatchbacks and sedans, and the automotive press says they’re all an improvement over the models they replace. Every model manages to stand out in at least one area.

Reviewers say the Nissan Versa has a large cabin and trunk for the money, and is one of the best options if you want a lot of space without getting a larger and more expensive model like the Hyundai Elantra or Chevrolet Cruze.

Of the four, the Rio and Accent have the highest fuel economy ratings, averaging up to 40 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. And you don’t have to add a special fuel economy package to get these ratings like you do with the Ford Fiesta.

Though it isn’t as fuel-efficient, the Chevrolet Sonic has better performance than the Accent, Rio and Versa. The Sonic is also the only model that the insurance industry has tested so far. It’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick, which means it received the highest score of “Good” in front, side and rear crash tests and roof strength tests.

If you’re shopping in this bracket, the up-coming Rio sedan is just one more reminder to do your research. There are a lot of small cars available, and with many of them boasting great interior space, good fuel economy and plenty of standard features, it’s important to know the market.

Shopping for an affordable small car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.