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2019 Kia Rio Review

Lively handling, a handsome interior, and some of the highest safety scores in the class help the 2019 Kia Rio place near the top of our subcompact car rankings. One of the Rio's few flaws is a short list of standard features and options. 

Pros & Cons

  • Quiet, pleasant cabin
  • Straightforward infotainment system
  • Agile handling
  • Few standard and available tech, safety, and comfort features

New for 2019

  • Kia Rio EX trim not available
  • Bluetooth, rearview camera, and power windows now standard
  • Manual transmission no longer available

Is the Kia Rio a Good Car?

Yes, the Kia Rio is a good car that is available in two body styles. The four-door sedan comes with a lower starting price, while the five-door hatchback has a much larger cargo area. This Rio’s animated performance, attractive interior, and spacious front seats help it stand out among subcompact cars. A solid combination of quality and value helped the Rio to be named a finalist for our 2019 Best Subcompact Car for the Money award. The Rio also earned a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as well as an above-average predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power. In other areas like fuel economy and back-seat space, the Rio comes close to its rivals.

Should I Buy the Kia Rio?

You should buy a Rio if you want an affordable small car that mixes a little fun with practicality. Its sprightly handling and pleasant cabin make it enjoyable, while its price tag, crash test results, and good predicted reliability rating make it a smart buy. You also get many of these same qualities with the Chevrolet Sonic, which is worth a look. The Honda Fit also ranks near the top of the class, in part because of its incredibly spacious interior.

Compare the Rio, Sonic, and Fit »

Should I Buy a New or Used Kia Rio?

The Rio was redesigned for 2018, and it gains just a couple of improvements for 2019. These include the addition of Bluetooth, a rearview camera, and power windows to the list of standard features.

A used 2018 Rio can save you quite a bit compared to a new 2019 model, and you’ll get almost the same set of features. This is partly because starting prices for the base trim are considerably lower for 2018 than for 2019. By shopping for a higher trim of a used 2018 model, such as the Kia Rio S and Kia Rio EX, you can get upgrades such as Bluetooth, premium cloth seats, and automatic emergency braking.

Rio models from the previous generation don't come with as many features, but they have similar driving dynamics. If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 Rio and 2018 Rio reviews to help make your decision. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used cars.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Rio »

We Did the Research for You: 21 Reviews Analyzed

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know about the Kia Rio in our comprehensive review. It combines concrete data (like fuel economy estimates, horsepower specs, and cargo space dimensions) with 21 professional Kia Rio reviews.

This 2019 Kia Rio review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which runs from 2018 to 2019.

Why You Can Trust Us

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Jobs, Best Hospitals, and Best Colleges to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. We've been ranking and reviewing the Best Cars since 2007, backed by a team with more than 75 years of combined automotive experience. To keep favoritism out of the picture, we maintain a separate advertising team and decline expensive gifts and trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Kia Rio Cost?

Retail prices start at $15,390 for the Rio sedan and $16,490 for the Rio hatchback. Pricing for the Rio's entry-level model is close to average in the subcompact car class, but the Rio's top-level trim costs less than the highest trims of most competitors. For more information on vehicle pricing and standard features, check out the Which Kia Rio Model Is Right for Me? section below.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

Kia Rio Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Kia Rio or Honda Fit?

The Honda Fit and Kia Rio are both excellent subcompact cars, and you won't go wrong choosing one over the other. That said, if it's in your budget, we recommend the Fit. It comes standard with a back seat that folds in multiple ways, giving you a variety of choices when hauling oversized cargo. The Fit also gets better fuel economy ratings than the Rio, and the Honda comes with more safety and tech features.

Which Is Better: Kia Rio or Toyota Yaris?

The Toyota Yaris isn't as enjoyable to drive as the Rio, but there are a couple of reasons why some shoppers may want to consider this pint-sized auto. Like most of its kin, the Yaris is expected to have a higher resale value than many of its competitors. You also get more standard features in the Yaris sedan than in the Rio sedan, such as a 7-inch touch screen, cruise control, low-speed forward collision warning, and forward automatic emergency braking. On the other hand, the Kia has a stronger engine (130 horsepower to 106) and a larger trunk. Choosing between these two is a matter of preference. 

Compare the Rio, Fit, and Yaris »

Rio Interior

How Many People Does the Rio Seat?

The Rio seats five people and comes standard with cloth upholstery. Long-legged drivers will love how much legroom there is up front. The seat's six adjustments allow you to easily find a suitable driving position, and it even includes a height adjustment. The amount of space in the rear seat is about average for a subcompact car.

Rio and Car Seats

The Rio has two complete sets of LATCH child-seat anchors and a tether connection for the middle seat. The three tether anchors are clearly marked and easy to locate, but you may need to fish in the seat cushions a little to find the lower anchors. Altogether, the LATCH hardware received the second-lowest rating of Acceptable for ease of use from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Rio Interior Quality

The Rio's cabin does not match its budget-friendly price tag. Though there are still some hard plastics present, there are also plenty of quality materials. Overall, auto journalists say the space is attractive and feels pleasantly upscale for the class. On the downside, the Rio doesn't offer options such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel or upgraded seat upholstery.

Rio Cargo Space

If you frequently need ample storage space, you should consider buying the hatchback Rio instead of the sedan. It has 17.4 cubic feet behind the seats, and folding its 60/40-split rear seat gives you as much as 32.8 cubic feet. Those measurements are good for a hatchback of this size, though some rivals have larger spaces with the rear seats folded. The Rio sedan's 13.7-cubic-foot trunk gives you enough space for about ten grocery bags.

Rio Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Rio's infotainment interface is easy to use, and all models feature a touch screen complemented by sturdy knobs and buttons. The base trim now comes with Bluetooth, but the uplevel Kia Rio S still has the best system. Its notable features include a larger touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Rio Performance

Rio Engine: Modest and Smooth

The Rio's four-cylinder engine delivers drama-free acceleration. The powertrain has enough oomph to quickly pull away from a stoplight or merge with highway traffic, and it’s mostly quiet and well-mannered. Every model comes with a 130-horsepower inline-four paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The manual transmission is not available for 2019.

Rio Gas Mileage: Typical for its Class

The Rio gets 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. That fuel economy rating is about average for a nonhybrid subcompact car.

Rio Ride and Handling: Good Road Manners

The front-wheel-drive Rio feels composed and stable around turns. Its responsive steering and strong brakes add to its poised demeanor. With handling that’s unexpectedly athletic, the Rio is one of the sportier cars in the class. Though its ride isn't harsh, some may prefer a softer ride than the Rio offers.

Read more about performance »

Rio Reliability

Is the Kia Rio Reliable?

The 2019 Rio has an above-average predicted reliability rating of four out of five from J.D. Power.

Kia Rio Warranty

Kia covers the Rio with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Rio Safety

Rio Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Rio a 2019 Top Safety Pick. It aced five of six crash tests and received the second-highest rating of Acceptable in the passenger-side small overlap front test. Trims equipped with the Technology package earned the top rating of Good for how well the headlights illuminate the road ahead, but other models earned the lowest rating of Poor. Properly equipped models earned the highest rating of Superior for front crash prevention. 

Rio Safety Features

The Rio comes standard with a rearview camera, and the top trim is available with forward collision warning and forward automatic emergency braking. This list of advanced driver assistance features is scant in comparison with what you get in the Honda Fit and other competitors. 

Read more about safety »

Which Kia Rio Model Is Right for Me?

For 2019, the Rio sedan is available in LX and S trim levels, with prices starting just above $15,000. The Rio hatchback comes only in the S trim level. All models are equipped with a 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive.

Unless your budget is limited to around $15,000, you should consider skipping the base trim in favor of the Kia Rio S. For an additional $800, you get some conveniences few shoppers want to live without, including cruise control, keyless entry, and a folding back seat. It also comes with a superior infotainment system with a larger touch screen and Apple CarPlay.

Kia Rio LX

For 2019, the base Rio LX ($15,390) gained Bluetooth and power windows. Additional standard features include cloth seats, a six-way adjustable driver's seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, air conditioning, a 5-inch touch screen, satellite radio, a four-speaker sound system, and a USB port. This model is only available as a sedan.

Kia Rio S

The top-of-the-line Kia Rio S is available in both body styles. Prices start at $16,190 for the sedan and $16,490 for the hatchback.

The infotainment system in the Rio S is upgraded to include a 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Satellite radio is not standard in the S trim, but it is available as an option. Additional standard features include remote keyless entry, cruise control, a rear USB charging port, and a 60/40-split folding back seat.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Kia deals page.

See 2019 Kia Rio specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2019 Kia Rio offers a nice mixture of practicality and fun. It's lively and smooth, and it comes with a fantastic infotainment system, and the uplevel trim includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Rio is a smart buy, with outstanding crash test and predicted reliability ratings. Though it doesn't have any major blemishes, there are a few reasons shoppers may want to consider another subcompact car. Kia doesn't offer many options in the Rio, leaving shoppers wanting if they’re in search of advanced safety features or upgrades like a sunroof. Also, commuters who rack up a lot of miles each year may want to look for a car with a better fuel economy rating.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • Offered as a sedan or a more versatile 5-door hatchback, the fourth-generation Kia Rio delivers value, economy and style, all at a very reasonable price starting just over $16,000, including destination. The Rio is larger and more comfortable than the Toyota Yaris, although it doesn't come standard with driver-assist features. The Rio is newer and more enjoyable to drive than the Nissan Versa, and it comes with a better standard warranty than both the Nissan and the Toyota. However, in the all important fuel economy battle, both the Versa and Yaris can travel further on a gallon of gasoline." -- Autotrader
  • You'll Like This Car If... If you're looking for an attractive subcompact city runabout that blends good fuel economy with lots of value, the 2019 Kia Rio deserves attention. It fits with ease in snug parking spots, it boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, it's available with autonomous emergency braking, and it has a fantastic powertrain warranty. You May Not Like This Car If... If your primary focus is fuel economy, you might want to look elsewhere. The Rio gets 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway, which is good, but not up to the level of some competitors. Nor is there a hybrid or an electric Rio." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Our first impressions were positive, and the new Rio came across as a comfortable, solidly built, and smartly designed small car with above-average driving dynamics for the class." -- Edmunds (2018)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: November 7, 2019

Improving Sales: Sales of the Kia Rio this year are strong, up 7.3 percent compared to the same span in 2018. Even so, the Rio is in the middle of the subcompact car sales rankings and is being outsold by the class sales-leading Nissan Versa by almost 3 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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2019 Kia Rio

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