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U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Kia Rio Performance Review


Performance: 7.7

The 2020 Kia Rio boasts excellent fuel economy and fairly agile handling. The new four-cylinder engine is a bit weaker than in prior model years, but it still has a decent amount of horsepower. However, it's noisy at highway speeds.

  • "The sole Rio engine is a new-for-2020 multi-point direct-injected 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with 120 horsepower. Joining the new engine this year is what Kia is calling an 'iVT' automatic transmission, which is basically a CVT with intelligence that can adapt shift logic for improved performance and fuel economy. Given the big jump in the 2020 Kia Rio’s fuel economy over last year's model (five mpg more in the city and four mpg on the highway), we’d say replacing the previous 6-speed automatic was a good move." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "... the Rio's crisp handling and steering make it one of the livelier subcompacts around." -- Edmunds
  • "It suffers from deficiencies endemic to this class, such as slow acceleration, a stiff ride, and a loud cabin.." -- Consumer Reports

Acceleration and Power

The Rio's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces 120 horsepower, which is decent for the subcompact car class. However, it takes a hard press on the gas pedal to get up to highway speeds, and these higher speeds cause the engine to make quite a bit of noise. Like the engine, the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is new for 2020, and it contributes to the Rio's improved fuel economy. This Kia delivers 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, making it one of the most efficient cars in the class.

  • "The new 1.6-liter engine puts out 10 less horsepower than last year, but the new CVT transmission is more efficient, with no noticeable loss in performance and a substantial gain in fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine gets the job done, but isn't notable in any way. ... drivers really need to step on the gas pedal to climb hills and to merge onto highways. At that point the engine gets buzzy and sounds coarse." -- Consumer Reports
  • "The throttle response is linear, and the Rio feels zippy enough around town but runs out of grunt quickly. When pushed, the engine is noisy and sounds strained." -- Edmunds (2019)

Handling and Braking

The front-wheel-drive Rio is stable through turns and over rough roads, and it delivers fairly agile handling. Its tight turning radius and small stature make the Rio easy to maneuver into tight parking spaces and through city traffic.

  • "A nicely sorted suspension gives the Rio a pleasant demeanor on the road, offering a good mix of comfort and agility along with a substantial feel. The hatchback version we tested soaked up bumps impressively well for such a small car thanks to its solid structure and well-tuned suspension. It also does a good job of controlling body roll in corners, even if it doesn't feel as overtly sporty as the Honda Fit. The numb steering doesn't communicate as much as we'd prefer, but it is nicely weighted and precise." -- Car and Driver
  • "There's even some welcome feedback from the front wheels, which sets the Rio apart from most competitors." -- Edmunds (2019)
  • "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 (2019)
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2020 Kia Rio

MSRP: $15,850 - $16,790

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