The Kia Rio is a good car at a great price, but it won’t be around for much longer. Available as either a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, the Rio offers simple transportation while delivering impressive city and highway fuel efficiency. Many of its competitors, such as the Chevy Sonic, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris have since been replaced by larger and more expensive crossovers but the Rio hasn’t, and it’s one of the best of the few remaining subcompact models on the market today. Power comes from a 120-hp inline-four bolted to a continuously variable automatic. The Rio’s lack of power can make speeding tickets urban legend, but it deserves some credit for a well-tuned suspension. As one of the cheapest cars sold today, the Rio’s standard equipment makes it a tempting choice, and its low price makes it a no-brainer in the sub-$20,000 market. Kia announced earlier this year that 2023 will be the Rio’s last.
What’s New for 2023?
2023 marks the final year for the Kia Rio. Its only notable revision for its final model year is the addition of an oil-level sensor that will notify the driver should the oil level need replenishing. We think it’s likely the Rio will be replaced by a new small sedan Kia calls the K3.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We think the several hundred dollars that separates the base Rio LX from the S model is worth the upcharge. The latter adds a center armrest, cruise control, rear USB outlet, split-folding rear seat with adjustable headrests, and keyless entry. The S also has desirable options such as forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking, SiriusXM satellite radio, LED headlights, and more. Since the hatchback adds more cargo space and slightly better passenger volume, we’d recommend it over the sedan.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter inline-four engine with 120 horsepower, and the only transmission choice is a continuously variable automatic. It’s not the quickest car on the block, but a 2021 hatchback model we tested got to 60 mph in an adequate 8.6 seconds—on par with many subcompact crossovers. More impressively, the Rio soaks up bumps 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. The numb steering doesn’t communicate as much as we’d prefer, but it is nicely weighted and precise.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the Rio sedan and hatchback will earn 32 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway. Those figures are identical to the Hyundai Accent’s and slightly better than the Nissan Versa’s. In our real-world 75-mph highway fuel economy test, a 2021 Rio hatchback achieved 39 mpg, some two miles per gallon lower than the EPA highway rating. For more information about the Rio’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Simplicity is the name of the game inside the Rio, and that’s not a slight. In fact, it presents a clean, easy-to-use dashboard with climate and audio controls. There is plenty of hard plastic, but it’s nicely textured, and the overall interior appearance is mature and sophisticated for a subcompact. Space in the Kia’s front seats is more than adequate, but rear-seat passengers won’t be nearly as happy due to restricted legroom. The Rio hatchback provides more space than the sedan’s trunk, but neither Kia is a good choice if you plan on hauling lots of cargo. We were disappointed to find that the folded seats don’t make for a flat load floor in the hatch. Its center console is competitively sized, as are its door pockets.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Rio comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that offers the latest wireless smartphone-mirroring options for both Apple and Android phones. An upgraded infotainment system is optional on the S trim level that adds Kia’s UVO telematics system and SiriusXM satellite radio.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
While it doesn’t have as much driver-assistance technology as some rivals, the Rio is available with forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, and automated emergency braking. However, base models lack such equipment. For more information about the Rio’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning and keep assist
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Kia has a well-established reputation for impressive warranty coverage, and the Rio nearly matches its corporate cousin–the Accent–at the top of the segment. However, it doesn’t offer any complimentary maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 10 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2021 Kia Rio S Hatchback
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
Base/As Tested: $17,985/$20,200
Options: Technology Package, $1800; floor mats, $155; cargo mat with seatback protection, $115; cargo mat, $95; cargo net, $50
DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection
Displacement: 98 in3, 1598 cm3
Power: 120 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 112 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
continuously variable automatic/direct-drive
Suspension, F/R: struts/torsion beam
Brakes, F/R: 11.8-in vented disc/8.0-in drum
Tires: Continental ProContact TX
185/65R-15 88H M+S
Wheelbase: 101.6 in
Length: 160.0 in
Width: 67.9 in
Passenger Volume: 90 ft3
Cargo Volume: 17 ft3
Curb Weight: 2893 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 8.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.8 sec @ 83 mph
100 mph: 27.4 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 9.0 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.3 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.9 sec
Top Speed (C/D est): 120 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 190 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.80 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 32 mpg
75-mph Highway Driving: 39 mpg
Highway Range: 460 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 36/33/41 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
More Features and Specs