By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.6
Small and inexpensive, the new 2017 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 everything else on your wish list. These subcompacts offer great design, high style, and a long list of comfort and convenience features once found only on high-end luxury cars. That impressive list of standard and available features, which includes Kia’s UVO infotainment system, power-folding side mirrors and navigation, makes the new Rio a real standout in its segment against such rivals as the Nissan Versa and Chevy Sonic. Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is also standard, and it’s nearly double what is offered by the Honda Fit, Scion iA or Ford Fiesta.
You don’t have to settle just because you’re on a tight budget. Choose Kia’s 2017 Rio or Rio 5-door if you want a great-looking little car that performs well, gets great gas mileage and offers an extreme amount of value.
If sports-car intentions are on your wish list, the Ford Fiesta or Scion iA can be more fun to drive than the Rio. And while the 2017 Kia Rio’s fuel economy is impressive, the Chevy Sonic, Nissan Versa Note and Honda Fit all meet or surpass 40 mpg on the highway.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2017 Kia Rio and Rio 5-door receive few changes this year. Last year’s revised front and rear styling can now be sprayed in some zazzy new colors, including Red and Black on the LX trim. Digital Yellow is off the palette and the 4-door SX trim level has been discontinued.
Around town the new Rio easily handles city traffic and it’s able to squeeze into the smallest parking spaces. But that’s to be expected. Most subcompact cars perform well in...
... the crowded confines of the city. What surprised us about the new 2017 Rio is how solid and substantial it feels, despite being Kia’s smallest and least expensive model. Even those extra-large urban potholes couldn’t rattle its cage. And the story is just as sweet out on the highway, where many small cars can struggle. Not the new Rio. Acceleration/merging is no problem thanks to the 1.6-liter engine’s 138 horsepower. It doesn’t sound like much, but the Rio can get up and go around that big trucker with ease. Out on the open road the ride is smooth and stable, even luxurious for a car in this class. The steering is nicely weighted and responsive, and the brakes are strong.
LEATHER INTERIOR WITH HEATED FRONT SEATS
Leather seating in subcompact cars is becoming more common, but the Rio’s available leather interior is backed by a handsome sew pattern and, to keep your backside warm, built-in seat heaters. The combination gives the car an upscale feel and cranks the comfort level to 11.
We’ve tested plenty of base-model navigation setups but the 7-inch touch-screen navigation unit offered in the 2017 Kia Rio sedan and hatchback is among the best. When coupled with the UVO infotainment and eServices package it’s almost as useful as a smartphone plus it includes traffic information and rearview camera display.
Comfortable, attractive and assembled with a feeling of quality, the interior of the 5-passenger Rio never feels cheap or too plastic. However, in entry-level models that start under $15,000, you'll be cranking your own windows and forgoing a telescoping steering wheel. Higher-end trim levels, however, look and feel premium thanks to a slick 7-inch touch-screen command system, leather trim and a power sunroof. Rear legroom can be tight, but every new 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 2017 Kia Rio is offered in two body styles: a 4-door sedan or a sporty 5-door hatchback, which is over a foot shorter despite sharing the sedan’s 101.2-inch wheelbase. Both are extremely attractive, which has become a signature of recent Kia vehicles. The new Kia Rio sedan resembles the brand’s larger and trendsetting Optima, and the Rio hatch has taken on the lines of Kia’s gorgeous 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.
Two trim levels, LX and EX, are available on the 2017 Kia Rio sedan; the new Rio 5-door comes in three: LX, EX and SX. The LX sedan has manual windows, manual transmission (an automatic is standard on the 5-door), tilt steering wheel, air conditioning, 4-speaker stereo with USB, Satellite radio, power/heated side mirrors and 6-way-adjustable driver's seat. Step up to the EX for a standard automatic transmission, power windows/door locks, Bluetooth, telescoping steering wheel and cruise control. Top-line 5-door SX models offer a 7-inch color touch-screen, UVO infotainment and navigation, rearview camera, sport-tuned suspension, heated leather seats, power moonroof and 17-inch wheels.
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 smooth and likable 138-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Base sedan models come with a 6-speed manual transmission, while the two higher trims and all hatchback models are fitted with the more popular 6-speed automatic, which is the one to get. All Kia Rio models are front-wheel drive and run on regular unleaded gasoline. At 27-mpg city/36-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 it’s an expensive $1,200 option and surprisingly Kia claims only a small single-mpg benefit with the system in combined driving.
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
123 lb-ft of torque @ 4,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/36 mpg (manual), 27/36 mpg (automatic), 27/36 mpg (Eco model with Idle Stop & Go)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The base 2017 Kia Rio sedan LX has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $15,015 and the Rio 5-door LX at $16,345. The EX sedan pushes the price to $18,605, while the EX hatchback lists for $18,755. A loaded SX hatchback comes in just over $21,750. Among rivals, 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, but it’s much less car than the new Rio. 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.