2008 Kia Rio


$3,012 - $3,766

2008 Kia Rio Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Kia Rio was new.


Performance: 6.7

The 2008 Kia Rio gets good performance scores, and U.S. News' Rick Newman notes that it "handles nicely for such an inexpensive car, with surety on curves and a stable highway ride."

Following its redesign in 2006, the Rio now offers a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that reviewers find makes a considerable difference in the Rio's performance. As Cars.com says, "The prior Rio's performance was decidedly modest, but this version is easily adequate, even with the automatic transmission."

Acceleration and Power

All Rios offer a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder double overhead cam engine with continuously variable valve timing, which Newsday describes as delivering "a sufficient, if slightly raucous" 110 horsepower for "quick acceleration from a stoplight." The engine's takeoff from a light is mentioned more than once, as the Chicago Tribune explains: "While there is a little more horsepower and torque, you'll feel it most when moving from the light. Rio has that zero- to 30-m.p.h. burst and then settles into economode." The Boston Globe doesn't degrade the engine performance as an economy feature. “The 1.6-liter in-line four had no trouble merging on the highway or keeping up with traffic," its writer finds.

According to Kia, the decision to upgrade its power was a fuel economy decision as well. The EPA rates the 2008 Kia Rio at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway with an automatic transmission. The Rio's manual transmission rates at 27 mpg for the city, 32 on highways. The irony of added power with more fuel economy is not lost on the reviewers. The Chicago Sun-Times says, "fuel economy is up 20 percent despite the added power," and Edmunds says fuel mileage is "above average for this class of vehicle."

The 2008 Kia Rio has a standard five-speed manual transmission with the base model and an electronically controlled four-speed automatic for the LX and SX. Both transmissions have overdrive. Most reviewers recommend the manual transmission. Cars.com says the manual transmission "makes the Rio even more appealing for lively motoring," while Edmunds notes that "acceleration with the automatic is slightly subpar."

Handling and Braking

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviewer, "I found myself enjoying the heck out of driving the Rio. It's great on corners and around curves, and it never loses its composure. The steering was quick and responsive. And the brakes were superb, stopping me quickly and efficiently with no nose dive." Many others write the same.

To help the reviewers enjoy their experience, the Rio has an independent MacPherson front suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar and torsion beam rear suspension. Base models provide rack-and-pinion steering that is power assisted for the LX and SX trims. New Car Test Drive took a drive with one of the higher trims to test out the power steering and found that it "stiffens up as the engine speed increases, felt taut with just the right amount of feel dialed in."

The brakes are hydraulic, power-assisted four-channel vented discs in the front, drum and solid discs in the back. Drivers have the option of anti-lock brakes, and the Kansas City Star is one to suggest that drivers take it. This is backed up by Consumer Guide, whose reviewers say that "ABS furnishes good stopping control, pedal feel … but a test LX without ABS suffered every rear-wheel lockup in rapid braking on wet roads."

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