Kia Rio delivers attractive styling, improved ride

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The 2018 Rio subcompact brings an exciting combination of impressive fuel efficiency, innovative technology, advanced safety features, and a real ‘fun factor’ to value-conscious consumers.

My 2018 Kia Rio tester offered an immediately attention-grabbing design while delivering an impressive list of features. This is an all-new 2018 Rio sedan (and 5-door) that makes up the latest additions to the world-class Kia Motors America model lineup.

The subcompact Rio continues to change with the times as an all-new fourth-generation sedan and five-door hatchback offer more style, better performance and more standard features than ever before.

Stylish Looks

Rio’s exterior styling features a European design theme that looks more attractive and upscale than last year’s model. I like the new look and the hatchback optics are nicer than the sedan. Plus, the hatchback offers improved versatility for carrying bulkier items when needed.

For those who prefer a sedan, the new generation four-door Rio is definitely better looking than its predecessor, benefitting from cleaner lines, shortened overhangs and the latest rendition of Kia’s tiger-nose grille.

Trim Levels

There are additional features offered for 2018, but that depends on which trim level you choose. The 2018 Kia Rio is offered in three trim levels: LX, S, and EX.

The base LX model is priced around $14,000 and it is sparsely equipped. It has crank windows and does not offer Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a backup camera or a center console. There are no options for the LX. If you want more content, you need to choose between the S ($16,100) or EX ($18,400) trim levels.

The S adds power windows, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a backup camera, a center console, power/heated outside mirrors, and remote keyless entry. The EX adds alloy wheels, fog lights, upgraded cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 3.5-inch instrument cluster display, 7-inch touchscreen audio display with Kia’s UVO3 infotainment system with voice recognition, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

Unfortunately, none of EX’s upgrades are offered as options in the other trim levels. Also, I was disappointed to find that blind spot detection is not offered in any Rio models, and navigation has been removed from Rio’s option list.

Inside the Cabin

Entering the cabin you will see that Rio feels more spacious and comfortable that it may appear on the outside. Up front, there is plenty of head and leg room for tall adults. The rear seat offers a bit more leg room than previously, but as is the case with other subcompact vehicles, there is not nearly as much leg room needed for a tall adult in the back.

Utility Space

If you have packages, Rio provides a pleasing 13.7 cubic feet of cargo space for the sedan and an impressive 17.4 cubic feet for the hatchback. With the rear seatbacks folded flat, the hatchback’s cargo area increases to a generous 32.8 cubic feet.

Kia redesigned the dashboard and it looks more modern. Plus, the cabin is quieter.

Performance Thoughts

Powering all 2018 Kia Rio models is a 130-horsepower naturally-aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. LX models can be equipped with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission for an extra $1,090. The automatic comes standard in S and EX models. Fuel economy for the LX with the manual is 29/37 mpg city/highway while Rio models with the automatic are rated at 28/37 mpg.

My 2018 Kia Rio sedan tester was a top-of-the-line EX model. Power from the four-cylinder engine was adequate when I was driving solo, but felt underpowered when loaded down with four adults. Merging onto the highway requires a little extra effort to anticipate generating enough speed to climb into traffic.

This all-new Rio offers a solid ride comfortable cabin and an impressive warranty. The 2018 Rio is worthy of consideration in the highly competitive subcompact segment.