Full 2010 Kia Rio Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Kia Rio gets a few styling tweaks. Depending on the trim, you'll find a new grille, black bezel headlamps, full body-color bumpers, outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, foglamps and a rear spoiler. Notable new features include cruise control and Bluetooth.
With the 2010 Kia Rio, the appeal lies mainly in the numbers. Here's a car with an MSRP that starts around $12,000, a fuel economy rating of up to 36 mpg highway and a powertrain warranty that'll keep you covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. There's a lot to like right there, though in reality the Rio ends up being a little less than the sum of its parts.
Entry-level Rios, which include the Rio sedan and the Rio5 hatchback wagon, are relatively spartan affairs, with many of the features most buyers now consider must-haves -- such as air-conditioning, power windows/locks and keyless entry -- either optional or not offered at all. Spring for a loaded version of the top SX trim level, however, and you'll get a car with enough niceties to make you feel like your decision to downsize wasn't really that big a sacrifice.
The 2010 Kia Rio also drives adequately, with performance and interior comfort that are more than acceptable for everyday driving. The Rio does have one glaring weakness, though, namely its mixed safety ratings. At times it can also come off as low-buck, whereas rivals such as the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa deliver a more satisfying experience via greater comfort and performance. We'd recommend going with either of those two models, but if price is your main concern, the 2010 Rio is probably worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Kia Rio subcompact comes in two body styles, a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback known as the Rio5. The Rio sedan is offered in three trim levels: the affordable base model, the better-equipped LX and the sporty SX. The Rio5 wagon is available in the LX and SX trims only. The standard features list for the entry-level sedan is pretty skimpy and includes 14-inch steel wheels, power mirrors, a rear defroster, cloth upholstery and a CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers and satellite radio.
The LX isn't exactly loaded, but it does come with a few more of the features you'd expect in a new car including power steering, air-conditioning, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks, a tilt steering wheel, Bluetooth and auxiliary/USB audio input jacks. The top-of-the-line SX model adds 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and metallic interior trim. Much of the SX's extra equipment can be added to the LX via the LX's Value package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Kia Rio and Rio5 are powered by a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine that puts out 110 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic is available as an option on LX and SX models.
Either way, the Rio's performance can best be described as leisurely. In our tests, a Rio5 SX fitted with the automatic transmission turned in a pokey 0-60-mph time of 11.5 seconds.
There's one bright note here, however, and that's this powertrain's great EPA fuel economy estimates. The Rio is rated at 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined with the manual transmission and 27/36/30 mpg for the automatic.
The 2010 Kia Rio comes standard with side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Antilock brakes are standard on the Rio LX and SX models. Stability control isn't offered.
In government crash tests, the Rio earned four stars (out of five) for driver protection and five stars for passenger protection in frontal impacts. For side impacts, the Rio earned four stars for front-seat occupants and three stars for rear seat passengers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Rio a score of "Acceptable" (the second highest of four) in frontal-offset crashes and a score of "Poor" (the lowest possible) in its side-impact test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Rio's cabin is pleasant enough for a car in this price range, with an attractive design featuring good quality materials, legible gauges and simple controls. Front seat passengers enjoy generous head- and legroom, but our testers found that seat comfort faded after about an hour behind the wheel. The presence of a fold-down armrest for the driver is a plus, but the lack of an enclosed center console box for storing small items out of sight is disappointing.
The Rio sedan offers a good-sized trunk with 11.9 cubic feet of cargo room. The Rio5 is much better equipped for schlepping duties, however, with a generous 49.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down.
The 2010 Kia Rio's 1.6-liter engine gets noisy at high rpm but provides decent punch, especially with the manual transmission. Precise action and a smooth clutch make shifting the manual gearbox enjoyable. Rios with the automatic aren't as peppy, although gearchanges are smooth and relatively quick.
Despite a fair amount of body roll, the Rio's handling feels solid and predictable, a quality enhanced by the unexpectedly precise steering. The ride quality is generally decent, but potholes and other major pavement flaws get transmitted directly to the occupants. The cabin also is relatively quiet, even when cruising on the freeway.