By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.7
Kia’s 2016 Rio sedan and Rio 5-door subcompacts may be small and inexpensive, but you’d never know it from looking at the pair. The Rio stands out from the Nissan Versa and Chevy Sonic by offering an impressive list of standard and available features, such as Kia’s UVO infotainment system, power-folding side mirrors and navigation. Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is also standard, nearly double what is offered by the Honda Fit, Scion iA or Ford Fiesta. Having come a long way from the first subcompacts to hit U.S. shores, the Kia Rio and Rio 5-door prove you can have good fuel economy and a low car payment without feeling like you’ve had to sacrifice much to get both.
If your limited budget has you thinking you’re going to have to settle for manual mirrors, an AM radio and a car so bland you’ll want to drive it only at night, Kia’s 2016 Rio and Rio 5-door are going to come as a welcome surprise.
While the Rio’s fuel economy is nothing to sneeze at, the Chevy Sonic, Nissan Versa Note and Honda Fit all get slightly better fuel economy that meets or surpasses 40 mpg. Those seeking a more athletic driving experience will likely find it in the Scion iA or Ford Fiesta.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2016 Kia Rio and Rio 5-door subcompacts receive revised front and rear styling, minor interior enhancements and an upgraded UVO eServices package. The 6-speed manual transmission is no longer offered on the Rio 5-door, while the SX trim gains the contents of last year’s Premium package.
Most subcompact cars perform well in the crowded confines of city streets, but on the highway they sometimes struggle to keep up. With Kia’s Rio for 2016, however, we didn’t...
... find this to be the case. Acceleration from the 1.6-liter engine was swift and steady, impressive considering the engine puts out only 138 horsepower. On the highway we found the Rio’s ride to be stable and surprisingly smooth. The steering is nicely weighted and responsive to sudden inputs, and the brakes are strong with firm pedal feel. Zipping in and out of traffic was no problem in our Rio, although we did find the manual transmission to be subpar for this class; the 6-speed automatic is a much better choice. In town, the Rio is king of the road, easily handling crowded city traffic and able to squeeze into the smallest parking paces.
LEATHER INTERIOR WITH HEATED FRONT SEATS
Leather seating in subcompact cars is becoming more common, but the Rio’s available leather interior is backed up by a handsome sew pattern and, to keep your backside warm, built-in seat heaters.
We’ve tested plenty of base-model navigation setups but never one as good as what is offered in the 2016 Kia Rio subcompact sedan and hatchback. When coupled with the UVO infotainment and eServices package, the 7-inch touch-screen navigation unit is almost as useful as a smartphone.
Not surprising for an entry-level sedan and hatchback whose price ranges from under $15,000 to over $20,000, the Rio's 5-passenger cabin varies from rather plain to rather impressive. In the least expensive models, you'll be cranking your own windows and forgoing a telescoping steering wheel. Higher-end models, though, look the part of a premium vehicle thanks to a slick 7-inch touch-screen command system, leather trim and a power sunroof. Rear legroom is tight, but every Rio has a 60/40-split-folding rear seat for extra cargo. This really helps in the 5-door hatchback, which boasts nearly 50 cubic feet of space with seats folded.
The 2016 Kia Rio comes in two forms: 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback. Both are small cars, but the hatchback is the smaller at over a foot shorter (wheelbase remains the same at 101.2 inches). Both are pleasing to the eye, with the Kia Rio sedan looking like a smaller version of the stylish Optima, and the Rio hatch more like a baby sibling to the Sportage crossover SUV. Wheels range from 15 to 17 inches, and top-line SX models feature dual exhaust outlets and a surprise: power-folding side mirrors that tuck into the car when it's parked and locked.
The Kia Rio comes in three trims: LX, EX and SX. The LX sedan has manual windows, a manual transmission and tilt-only steering wheel. It also includes air conditioning, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with USB input, power heated side mirrors and 6-way-adjustable driver's seat. The EX trim adds power windows/doorlocks, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a telescoping steering wheel and cruise control. Top-line SX models come loaded with the 7-inch color touch-screen UVO infotainment and navigation system, a rearview camera, a sport-tuned suspension, heated leather seats, a power moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, paddle shifters and LED positioning lights.
Major upgrades for this subcompact Kia sedan and hatchback come in the form of packages for the LX and EX. The LX can be equipped with the Power package that adds power windows, power locks and keyless entry. The EX trim offers the Eco package bringing Idle Stop & Go, UVO, a rearview camera and auto headlights. The Designer package adds black and gray leather and cloth seating with contrasting stitching, a 4.3-inch color touch screen, rearview camera and auto headlights. Individual options for all trims include an auto-dimming rearview mirror and, on sedans, a rear spoiler.
All versions of Kia’s 2016 Rio subcompact sedan and hatchback are powered by a 138-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Base sedan models come with a 6-speed manual transmission, while the two higher trims and hatchback models are all fitted with the more popular 6-speed automatic. All Kia Rio models are front-wheel drive and run on regular unleaded gasoline. At 27 mpg city/37 mpg highway, the Rio's fuel economy is good but not the best in this segment. EX models can be had with the Idle Stop & Go feature that cuts the engine at stoplights, but at a price of $1,200 and an improvement of only one mpg in city driving, it would take many miles to pencil out, if ever.
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
123 lb-ft of torque @ 4,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/38 mpg (manual), 27/37 mpg (automatic), 28/37 mpg (Eco model with Idle Stop & Go)
The 2016 Kia Rio sedan has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at an appealing $14,990. The Rio 5-door starts at $16,320. The EX sedan pushes the price to $18,580, while the EX hatchback lists for $18,730. A loaded SX pushes the price tag just shy of $21,500. Among rivals, only the Nissan Versa Note, Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic have starting prices near the $15,500 mark, and for the Fiesta and Sonic, they’re sedan versions only. The Nissan Versa sedan, however, has a sub-$13,000 price tag, while the Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback starts just under $14,000. As you climb trims, the Rio's price is comparable to most rivals. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying. On the resale front, the Rio is expected to be on par with the Sonic and Accent, but trail the Versa Note, Toyota Yaris and Scion iA.