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MSRP: $13,900 - 18,700

2018 Kia Rio Review

The pint-sized 2018 Kia Rio owes its high ranking in the subcompact car class to its sporty driving dynamics and user-friendly interior. It also earns a near perfect predicted reliability rating.

Pros & Cons

  • User-friendly infotainment systems
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available
  • Nimble handling 
  • Superb predicted reliability rating

 

  • Power windows and cruise control aren't standard features
  • No available navigation system

 

Is the Kia Rio a Good Car?

Kia fully redesigned the Rio for 2018, and the new generation turned out pretty well. Available as a sedan or hatchback, this subcompact car has more standard features than before (such as power door locks) and is newly available with safety tech like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The Rio also offers sprightly handling and intuitive infotainment operations. The Rio has an outstanding predicted reliability rating, and there are no major flaws that tarnish its overall score.

Should I Buy the Kia Rio?

With its base price under $14,000, the Rio is an affordable subcompact that should definitely be on your list to check out. It's a good value, with standard features like a 5-inch touch screen and satellite radio. Four-door sedan or five-door hatchback body styles allow you to choose the right level of utility. A firm suspension gives the Rio more agile handling than most cars in this class, but if you're looking for a softer ride, consider a rival like the Honda Fit. The Ford Fiesta also boasts good performance for the class, while the Nissan Versa appeals to those on the tightest budgets.

Compare the Rio, Fit, and Fiesta »

Should I Buy a New or Used Kia Rio?

Kia redesigned the Rio for the 2018 model year. Its new base engine sees an 8-horsepower drop from 2017 model's, but it offers marginally better fuel economy. The 2018 Rio hatchback also has a much lower maximum cargo capacity (roughly 17 less cubic feet with the rear seats down). On the plus side, the 2018 model gets more standard features, including a 5-inch touch screen and power door locks. It also has more available features, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. There weren't a lot of changes to the Rio for the 2017 model year, except that the four-door SX trim was discontinued.

You can likely save money by shopping for a used Rio from 2017 or earlier, but you won't get the benefits of the vehicle's redesign. If you're still interested in a used model, be sure to visit our reviews of the 2016 Kia Rio and 2017 Kia Rio. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Rio »

We Did the Research for You: 10 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 10 Kia Rio reviews – along with safety and reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2018 Rio is the right new car for you.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than a combined 75 years of experience in the automotive industry. To maintain objectivity, we don't accept incentives or expensive gifts from car companies, and an outside team handles the ads on our site.

How Much Does the Kia Rio Cost?

This is one of the least expensive subcompact cars you can buy. Retail prices for the Kia Rio sedan start at $13,900 (for the base LX trim) and go as high as $18,400 (for the top-level EX). The Rio also comes as a hatchback, with prices ranging from $14,200 to $18,700.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Kia dealer. You may 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 sits among the best vehicles in the subcompact car class. The hatchback Fit offers a spacious and comfortable cabin, with seats that fold in a number of ways for versatility. Cargo capacity is among the best for such a small car. Adding to the Fit's appeal are excellent safety scores. The Rio, however, costs a few thousand dollars less and has a better predicted reliability rating than the Fit. Choosing between these excellent subcompacts comes down to your preferences and needs. 

Which Is Better: Kia Rio or Ford Fiesta?

The Ford Fiesta undercuts the Rio's price by a few hundred dollars, but these cars are similar when it comes to nimble performance. However, the Fiesta offers two optional and more powerful engines over its base powertrain. The Rio boasts roomier seats and a larger cargo area, which could make it a more practical choice. The best choice for you depends on whether you place a greater value on performance or everyday practicality.

Which Is Better: Kia Rio or Nissan Versa?

The main appeal of the Nissan Versa is its surprisingly low MSRP. For under $12,000, you can get a basic car that will get you where you need to go, but be prepared to spend more cash for essentials like power windows, power locks, and cruise control. At that level, you might spend around what you'd pay for the Rio. Skip the hassle and go with the Rio, which feels nicer on the inside and is livelier to drive.

Compare the Rio, Fit, and Fiesta »

Rio Interior

How Many People Does the Rio Seat?

The five-seat Rio is spacious for a subcompact car. The driver's seat has six different adjustments (including a height setting), allowing a wide range of body shapes to find a comfortable driving position. There's ample headroom in the rear seat for a 6-footer, and enough legroom as well (unless a tall occupant is riding in the front).

Rio and Car Seats

The Rio comes with a set of lower anchors on each of the outboard rear seats, as well as three tether anchors. The Rio’s system of LATCH child-seat connectors received an Acceptable rating for ease of use (the second-best possible) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Rio Interior Quality

Some hard plastics are mixed in with higher-grade materials, and the base model's standard feature list is slim (power windows are not included in the base trim), but the Rio's solid build quality and stylish design make it feel like you're getting a good value.

Rio Cargo Space

With its 13.7-cubic-foot trunk, the Rio sedan has enough room for about nine large grocery bags – more than the Ford Fiesta can carry. With the hatchback body style, you get 17.4 cubic feet of cargo space. That's more space than a Honda Fit but less than a Hyundai Accent.

Rio Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Kia offers a nice array of standard and optional technology for the 2018 Rio. The base infotainment system includes a 5-inch touch screen and satellite radio. The best system comes in the top-level EX trim, which adds a larger touch screen and enhanced smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The interfaces are straightforward and user-friendly.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Rio Performance

Rio Engine: Peppy 4-Cylinder

The Rio comes with an eager four-cylinder engine. It's rated at 130 horsepower, but test drivers say it feels more energetic than that number suggests. You can easily get up to speed and climb a hill with this car.

Rio Gas Mileage: About Average

With the automatic transmission, the Rio has EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. That's typical gas mileage for a subcompact car.

Rio Ride and Handling: A Splash of Sportiness

The Rio is one of the more athletic options in our subcompact car rankings. Spirited drivers will enjoy the firm suspension, which adds to the Rio's nimble character without feeling harsh or uncomfortable.

Read more about performance »

Rio Reliability

Is the Kia Rio Reliable?

The 2018 Rio has an outstanding predicted reliability rating. It received a score of 4.5 out of five from J.D. Power.  

Kia Rio Warranty

The Rio's warranty coverage – which includes a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty – is one of the best in the class.

Read more about reliability »

Rio Safety

Rio Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2018 Kia Rio the highest score of Good in five individual crash tests, and the second-highest mark of Acceptable in the passenger-side small overlap front test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not evaluated the Rio.

Rio Safety Features

The Rio doesn't come standard with any advanced safety equipment, which is not unusual for this vehicle segment. Available safety features include a rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning.

Read more about safety »

Which Kia Rio Model Is Right for Me?

Three trim levels (LX, S, and EX) are available for the 2018 Rio. Each comes standard as a four-door sedan. For $300, you can step up to the five-door Kia Rio hatchback. All models come with a 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. On the base trim, you can choose the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic, which adds about $1,000 to the price. The S and EX trims come with the automatic transmission.

Kia offers few options, so look for the trim that comes with the set of features you most want. Of the three, the S is the best value. It comes with essentials like power windows and cruise control, as well as convenient niceties like Bluetooth and a rearview camera.

Kia Rio LX

The base LX trim comes with a 5-inch touch screen, satellite radio, a four-speaker sound system, a USB port, air conditioning, power door locks, cloth seats, and a six-way adjustable driver's seat. With a manual transmission, pricing for the LX sedan starts at $13,900. An automatic transmission will cost you $1,090 more.

Kia Rio S

Power windows, cruise control, keyless entry, and a 60/40-split-folding back seat are added to the S sedan ($16,100). This trim also comes with an automatic transmission, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, six speakers, two additional USB ports, and a rearview camera.

Kia Rio EX

Upgraded technology in the Rio EX ($18,400) includes the UVO infotainment interface, a 7-inch touch screen, voice recognition, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning. This trim also features premium cloth upholstery.

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 2018 Kia Rio specs and trims »

The Final Call

If the proportions of a subcompact car appeal to you, the Kia Rio should be on your short list of candidates. Its animated driving dynamics add a splash more fun than most. This small car is a good value, in part because of its below-average starting price, but also because Kia includes an appealing number of standard features, with additional infotainment and safety upgrades on the options list.

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

  • "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
  • "With the 2018 Rio, Kia digs under the sheetmetal to sharpen and strengthen its small car reflexes while making the overall ride quieter, tighter, and more refined. So is the Rio now all grown up? Not really. Instead, the Rio embraces its entry-level status-with the promise that something bigger and better awaits at the Kia dealership when the time comes." -- Motor Trend
  • "2018 Kia Rio proves cheap cars can be really good." -- CNET

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: January 17, 2019

Surging Sales: Sales of the Kia Rio soared through 2018, climbing 37.1 percent compared to sales during 2017. A redesign for the 2018 model year helped propel it to a top spot in our subcompact car rankings as well.

Research more buying advice »
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