By KBB.com Editors
Consumers on budgets have learned that finding a new sedan for under $12,000 is not easy. And finding one with standard front and rear side-curtain airbags and a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty leaves only one option: The 2008 Kia Rio. The Rio's bargain-basement price doesn't come at the expense of styling or fuel economy. The handsome little four-door is quite the looker, and those willing to spend a bit more cash can equip this little entry-level econobox with such upscale features as power windows, AM/FM/CD stereo and heated outside mirrors. The Rio has also made great strides in refinement over previous models, with more precision in the gearshift, less vibration from under the hood and a higher quality feel both inside and out.
If you're seeking a fuel-efficient small car that is affordable, stylish, roomy and well equipped, the 2008 Kia Rio makes a great choice. Those worried about long-term reliability can take comfort in the Rio's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
If finding a car with the highest fuel efficiency, best resale value and strongest customer satisfaction survey responses are more important than a low sticker price, purchasing a Nissan, Scion or Honda may be a better choice.
A five-door LX model is added to the Rio line (covered in a separate review), while all LX models receive a new auxiliary audio input jack.
Driving Impressions Ride comfort and easy maneuverability head the list of Rio merits. Even when the pavement gets troublesome, the Rio's suspension absorbs considerable roughness. Steering is light, but the Rio is...delightfully nimble in urban environments, tracks adeptly on straightaways and is easy to guide into turns. Through curves the body doesn't lean as much as might be expected. Performance is improved but is no more than adequate with the mannerly automatic transmission. Although the engine gets seriously buzzy when accelerating, it quiets nicely at speed. A low cowl and sizable rear glass help create nearly unobstructed visibility.
Six Standard Airbags
If Kia can put side-impact airbags and curtain-type airbags into every Rio, one wonders why other automakers have made these important safety features optional -- if available at all.
Unlike some small cars with automatics, the Rio goes through the gears promptly and easily, with no awkwardness or lurching. Shifts are barely noticed, in fact, though the manual transmission can deliver slightly more spirited acceleration.
Although five passengers can squeeze into the Rio, longer-legged folks might not be comfortable in the backseat. Rear head- and foot-room are adequate, but the rear seat is hard and reclines excessively, and the center occupant straddles a tunnel. Front occupants get ample space on supportive and well-cushioned seats. The Rio's trunk has grown to 11.9 cubic feet and, with the LX trim, can be expanded thanks to the 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The Rio5 is a bit more useful, thanks to its large hatch opening and folding rear seats. Helpful extras include a dashboard slot that can hold a parking ticket, plus a hook that can carry a purse.Exterior
Although designed in South Korea, the Rio's European-influenced appearance imparts a sporty and youthful character into an entry-level automobile. It's bigger than one might think, given its sub-compact status, and it has a better-tuned suspension and a wider track than the last model. As a result, the Rio delivers a smooth ride with somewhat sporty handling. The Rio rides on 14-inch steel wheels and the upper-level LX is equipped with full-wheel covers and wider tires, while the SX can be equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels.
The 2008 Kia Rio features a 1.6-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, body-colored bumpers, auto-off headlamps, rear defroster, variable wipers, height-adjustable driver's seat, tachometer, dual sun visors with vanity mirrors, dual cup holders and front, front side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags. The LX trim adds air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with CD, auxiliary audio input jack, power steering, full wheel covers, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seat and rear-seat adjustable headrests. SX models include 15-inch alloy wheels, sport seats with red trim, fog lights and a rear spoiler.
Options for the Rio include a four-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), dual heated power mirrors, power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, front tweeter upgrade and a rear spoiler.
Kia has raised the power of its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which drives either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Although Kia has made major improvements in noise, vibration and harshness, the Rio's engine is still buzzy at high speed and lacks the smoothness and refinement of its Japanese competitors. Fuel economy is excellent, and it's EPA-rated at 35 miles per gallon on the highway when equipped with the four-speed automatic.
1.6-liter in-line 4
110 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
107 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/32 (manual), 25/35 (automatic)
By JackO (SC) on Sunday, April 14, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Cheap - Reliable - Easy to Park"
Cons: "Lousy mileage, Same 25 MPG as my old V8"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"Kia changed the transmission gearing in 2008 model year resulting in very poor mileage for such a small car. The 5th gear is barely overdrive at all. Engine is revving extremely high at highway speeds. I have the 5 speed manual and added cruise control. At 70 mph it is revving well over 4000 RPM when it should be in the 2500 RPM range for the feel of this engine. There is no way this car is sold in Europe with this transmission gearing (I lived in Europe for three years.) When tires were needed I bought larger exterior diameter tires (P195 70R14) as a way to change the gearing. Mileage improved to 30 highway and rpm dropped significantly. My speedometer is off 2-3 mpg. Fully loaded on hard bumps and turning corners I do NOT bottom out or rub. Handling, cornering, and ride comfort are all noticeably improved (per skeptical wife and my opinion.) Needed a cheap reliable car - It has been reliable for the 50,000 miles we have driven in the last 5 years. I would not buy this make-model-car-year due to the gearing and lousy mileage. My other car with small V8 gets the same 25 mpg highway."
By Vonnie (CO) on Saturday, April 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great gas mileage, fast, depanable,5-speed"
Cons: "no radio/stereo, no power steering or windows"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"The inside is like brand new, the outside has very minor hail "dents". It was used to go back and forth to work and garaged when not being used. It needs a new head gasket and that's it. It's never been in an accident!!!!. Looking to sell it to get either a motorcycle or camper."
By toni (MI) on Friday, April 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"love this car, but for long trips I wouldn't recommend it, just too small for long trips. Plus with 2 big dogs, there's no room in the back for them to lay down. I miss having all power windows, seats,etc. MPG has been awesome, always hit about 38mpg highway and around 32 in town. Great for a get around car, I would suggest buying it for a college kid, not ideal for my boyfriend who is over 6' tall! Would I buy it again? YES, just for local use."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Jimmy (TX) on Monday, March 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 62,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, and fun to drive, in the four speed model."
Cons: "none, really, it is small, but that's expected."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Chic little, good mileage car. Pay attention to schedule maintenance and the quality is good. Only one issue.......front wheel bearing went out at 45000 miles, but otherwise has been trouble free, and a great little sports car type vehicle."
By casey (UT) on Saturday, March 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great 40MPG, cheap payments, and cheap to own"
Cons: "Uncomfortable to drive, and not real reliable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"Great compact 4dr sedan. Great MPG, affordable to pay for and own. Drawbacks: small interior, not very comfortable to drive,lacking in holding up long term(over 8 years). I'm seeing signs that it wont be very reliable much beyond the 8 year mark after owning it from 2008-2013. Other more expensive vehicles have greater reliability that I've owned. Was cheap to buy. Brand new for $12,500."
By KCA (GA) on Saturday, March 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Gas friendly:)"
Cons: "Highway noise at speeds over 65mph."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"After searching for a reliable used car, I was initially skeptical about buying a Kia. After driving this car for a year, it's the best purchase I've made in years. Its reliable, and economical. I just keep the oil changed and tires inflated and I've not experienced any difficulties in the least, and it's got a little over 80,000 miles on it. I'm a social worker; which explains the milage noted, but I couldn't be happier with my Kia. Great little car!!!"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful