$15,390 - $16,490

2019 Kia Rio Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2019 Kia Rio was new.


Performance: 7.3

The 2019 Kia Rio has a quiet, responsive engine, a smooth automatic transmission, and stable road manners. With all elements at play, you get a likeable little car that offers a splash of sportiness. Fuel economy is average for the class.

  • "Overall, the engine is impressively quiet, only making itself known under hard acceleration." -- Autotrader
  • "Despite its diminutive size, it feels safe on the highway, in the city, and on wet and slippery backroads." -- Automobile Magazine (2018)
  • " … 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 (2018)

Acceleration and Power

The Rio has an unassuming powertrain that’s reasonably peppy and quiet. It delivers the right amount of power to get you going from a stop or accelerate up to highway speed, but its 130-horsepower engine is not a good choice for heavy-footed drivers.

Every Rio comes standard with a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The only transmission choice is a six-speed automatic, since Kia is not offering a manual transmission in the Rio for 2019. The Rio’s fuel economy rating of 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway is typical for a subcompact car.

  • "The automatic transmission compliments the low engine output, downshifting right on cue to push the Rio past slower traffic. Acceleration from a standstill isn't neck-snapping, but the Rio won't be left behind when the light goes green. All in all, it performs well within the parameters of its segment." -- Autotrader
  • "With 130 peak horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, the Rio merges with ease onto the expressway but is by no means a powerhouse. That stated, we like the Rio's blend of performance and economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "In fact, the power feels just barely adequate. It has enough power to scoot about town, and it has just enough to avoid feeling dangerous when going up an onramp or attempting a pass, but it never feels brisk. The engine also is fairly quiet at low rpm and cruising speeds, but becomes buzzy and loud when wound up." -- Autoblog (2018)

Handling and Braking

The Rio is a poised, stable, front-wheel-drive car with responsive steering and brakes. This Kia’s sporty handling makes it a great companion for spirited drivers on a budget, though some passengers may long for a silkier ride.

  • "Although there is nothing earth-shattering in the way it performs, it does everything reasonably well. As with every car in this segment, the suspension relies on struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. It tackles twisty roads without objection. It feels well balanced, soaking up most pavement imperfections." -- Autotrader
  • "With its recently updated chassis, the longer, lower and wider 2019 Kia Rio corners with confidence and displays a composed overall demeanor, especially considering its entry-level price category." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Kia … 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 (2018)

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