$11,614 - $16,283

2018 Kia Rio Performance Review


Performance: 7.9

From behind the wheel, the 2018 Kia Rio feels eager to get out and play. Its peppy engine pairs nicely with lively handling, making this small car one of the sportier options in the subcompact car segment. It does a fine job soaking up jarring imperfections in the highway, but some may prefer a softer suspension over the Rio's firm ride.

  • "Despite its diminutive size, it feels safe on the highway, in the city, and on wet and slippery backroads." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Accelerating to get on the freeway, the Rio used every ounce of the engine's 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. No, this 1.6-liter 4-cylinder isn't a race engine and it's down a few horsepower and torque from last year, but the benefit is better fuel economy. Considering this is a commuter car, getting mpg as good as 29 in the city and 37 on the highway will offer a bigger benefit than high horsepower in the long run. The engine did fine getting to freeway speeds, thanks to the work of the 6-speed automatic transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Rio's attention to noise, vibration and harshness earns it another gold star. At idle, the engine is damn near silent. It's a little buzzy as the revs climb, but it's no better or worse than competitors' engines in this regard." -- CNET

Acceleration and Power

The Rio comes with a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The standard transmission in the base trim is a six-speed manual; you can upgrade to a six-speed automatic for about $1,000. This automatic is standard in the uplevel S and EX trims. The Rio's powertrain is smooth and energetic, moving this small car through traffic and up hills with relative ease. Fuel economy is about average for a car this size, at 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission.

  • "I was feeling a little uneasy sitting behind the wheel of the all-new 2018 Kia Rio EX, but thankfully, help was on the way. After putting the subcompact in sport mode, I stepped on the accelerator and away we went, easily passing the trucker on a 5 percent grade at about 65 mph. I was impressed and relieved. The five-door hatchback from Kia may be small, but it can dart like a fox when you need it to." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The Rio's six-speed automatic, standard on the S and EX, works well. Shifts are handled quickly and smoothly, which is good because the Rio often has to downshift when passing or accelerating. The frequency with which the Rio has to shift is the one place where its small car character comes through, but it's nothing out of the ordinary for the segment." -- Edmunds
  • "Acceleration numbers haven't been released yet, but we can confirm the Rio is adequate in terms of power. It's not a quick car, but for vehicles in this category it's more important to keep up with traffic while avoiding a noisy or buzzy cabin -- especially when calling on maximum acceleration. The Rio succeeds, offering satisfying thrust and a relatively serene environment, even when mashing the pedal." -- Forbes

Handling and Braking

The Rio is a stable front-wheel-drive car, and its steering and braking feel solid and predictable. The suspension is tuned on the sporty side, with a stiffer quality that gives the Rio somewhat athletic handling. The Rio is one of the sportier options in this segment. The ride quality is firm, and while it isn't harsh, some may prefer a softer suspension.

  • "Kia also completely redesigned the Rio's suspension to improve handling and high-speed stability, and the steering has been revised for better response and on-center feel. The result is a car that instills confidence in corners and feels rock-steady on the freeway. The ride is definitely firmer than that of a lot of small cars, but even on cobblestone streets it didn't come across as harsh. In terms of ride and handling, this might be the sportiest offering in the class now that the Ford Fiesta ST is gone." -- Edmunds
  • "The brakes were admirable as well. The EX model we drove featured four-wheel disc brakes, and they seemed to have plenty of stopping power. The brake pedal is a highlight. It feels firm and makes it easy to dial in just the right amount of brake pressure." -- Autoblog
  • "While the US-spec Rio is tuned to be a bit softer than its European counterpart, it stills feels solid. With its fat (185/65) all-season tires wrapped around 15-inch alloy wheels, bumps and cobblestones turn from jarring motions into slight bumps with some road noise. The combination of the stiffer suspension and the softer tires worked wonders. In spirited driving, the suspension setup was bang-on. Drivers who want the softest-possible ride may want to look elsewhere, but I will say that the Rio exceeded my expectations in terms of ride quality." -- CNET

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