2009 Kia Rio

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2009 Kia Rio Review

By KBB.com Editors

Consumers on budgets have learned that finding a new sedan for around $12,000 is not easy. And finding one with standard front and rear side-curtain airbags and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty leaves only one option: The 2009 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, steering-wheel audio controls 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.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you're seeking a fuel-efficient small car that is affordable, stylish, roomy and well equipped, the 2009 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 and 5-year/60,000 basic warranty.

You May Not Like This Car If...

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 Versa, Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit may be a better choice.

What's New for 2009

All 2009 Kia Rio models receive an AM/FM/MP3 compatible CD stereo with a three-month trial subscription to SIRIUS Satellite Radio as standard equipment. LX and SX trims add a USB port beside the standard auxiliary audio input jack.

Driving the Rio
Driving Impressions

Ride comfort and easy maneuverability head the list of the 2009 Kia Rio's 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 side curtain-type airbags into every Rio, one wonders why all automakers have not followed.

Automatic Transmission
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.

2009 Kia Rio Details
2009 Kia Rio photo Interior

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.


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 nicely-tuned suspension and a wide track for added stability. 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.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The 2009 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, AM/FM stereo with MP3-compatible CD player, 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, auxiliary audio input jack and USB port, 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.

Optional Equipment

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, steering wheel audio controls, front tweeter upgrade and a rear spoiler.

Under the Hood

The 2009 Kia Rio is powered by a 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: 27/33 (manual), 26/35 (automatic)

Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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