Full 2014 Kia Rio Review
What's New for 2014
Aside from a few minor changes to improve aerodynamics under the vehicle and revisions to the key fob and the leather-wrapped steering wheel, the 2014 Kia Rio is unchanged.
Gone are the days when subcompact cars like the 2014 Kia Rio represented basic, cheap transportation and nothing more. On the contrary, these small sedans and hatchbacks can now satisfy a range of needs and wants. They're great in big cities where garages are small (or nonexistent) and parking space is limited, and just as useful on long trips where their modest fuel consumption leaves a little more money in your pocket. Within this class, the Rio stands out for its handsome styling, impressive equipment list and energetic acceleration.
Perhaps you never expected a subcompact car to wow you with its upscale ambience or spirited performance, but this entry-level Kia delivers in more ways than one. Inside, the Rio is well trimmed, with nice-quality surfaces and a livable level of standard equipment, even in the base model. When you start adding on options like a keyless ignition, leather upholstery and a voice control interface, the Rio really begins to take on a premium vibe. It's also a roomy car, especially if you choose the hatchback. On the move, the Rio feels quick for a subcompact, and it's fully capable of keeping up in expressway traffic.
If there's a reason not to put your money on the 2014 Kia Rio, it's the car's lack of ride and handling sophistication. The ride is busy and can be downright uncomfortable over broken pavement, and that, combined with excessive tire and wind noise, can be annoying on longer drives. Handling is competent but not a bit sporty, so if entertainment value is a priority, the Rio may disappoint you there as well.
Although we think most shoppers will easily overlook these drawbacks, there are plenty of excellent alternatives in this class. The 2014 Ford Fiesta is one of our favorite subcompacts thanks to its impressive fuel economy, refined ride and sporty driving dynamics. It also offers interior build and materials quality on par with the Rio. The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic blends solid acceleration, comfort and similar feature content, plus it's also more fun to drive than the Kia. Although most subcompact cars return respectable fuel economy, if you're a hypermiler on a mission you may want to consider the pricier 2014 Toyota Prius C, which earns a 50 mpg combined rating. Another solid option is the Rio's mechanical twin, the 2014 Hyundai Accent, which provides similarly strong value.
All of these cars are fine choices, but if you're drawn to the 2014 Kia Rio's styling and amenities, you'll likely be content with the rest of the package.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Kia Rio is a five-passenger, subcompact car available as a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback. Trim levels are LX, EX and SX.
The base LX comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a trip computer and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. If you have the automatic transmission for the LX, the available Power package adds power windows, power locks and keyless entry.
The EX trim level includes the above equipment and adds cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, a sliding front armrest, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system. The Convenience package adds 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, power-folding mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, map lights, upgraded interior materials, a rearview camera, a small touchscreen interface, Bluetooth audio connectivity and the Uvo voice control interface. To that you can add the Eco package, which equips an automatic stop-start system that shuts down the engine when stopped to save fuel.
The SX trim level includes the Convenience and Eco package items, plus 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, LED running lights and taillights, dual exhaust tips and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The optional Premium package adds a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system and a larger touchscreen interface. A stand-alone option for all trim levels is an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Kia Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the LX, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional on the LX and standard on the other trim levels.
In Edmunds testing, the Kia Rio SX hatchback went from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, while an SX sedan reached 60 in 9.4 seconds -- about a second quicker than the class average in either case.
Fuel economy is average for the class, with the Rio earning an EPA estimated 31 mpg combined (27 city/37 highway) with both the manual and automatic transmission. With the aid of their automatic stop-start feature, Rio EX models with the Eco package and all SX models earn a 28 mpg city estimate, while combined and highway mileage estimates are identical.
Every 2014 Kia Rio comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is optional on the EX and standard on the SX.
In government crash testing, the Rio received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for frontal protection and five stars for side protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Rio received the highest possible rating (out of four) of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal offset and roof strength tests. In the side impact test, it received a second-highest rating of "Acceptable." In that agency's small-overlap frontal offset test, the Rio scored a second-lowest "Marginal" rating. The Rio's seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Rio SX hatchback came to a stop from 60 mph in just 119 feet, while the SX sedan needed 124 feet. Both are better than average numbers for the class.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Kia Rio's cabin boasts a restrained yet stylish design, with a European flavor. The materials quality is nothing special in the base LX, but the added soft-touch surfaces, armrest cushioning and tasteful metallic accents found in the upper trims make the Rio's cabin one of the finest in the subcompact segment. We highly encourage you to go that extra mile to get an EX or SX, especially since they come with a truly impressive amount of equipment.
The climate and audio controls are easy to use, while the available Uvo voice-activated electronics interface is another nice bonus. Although we've found its voice recognition abilities aren't quite to the level of Ford's Sync interface (both Uvo and Sync are Microsoft-based), its accompanying touchscreen interfaces are more user-friendly than most. Note that equipping the navigation system (via the Premium package) deletes the Uvo interface. Although the nav system has voice controls of its own, it doesn't include all of Uvo's audio system commands.
The Rio scores well in the areas of space and comfort. Even tall drivers should be comfortable behind the tilt-and-telescoping wheel (EX and SX models), while the backseat offers a competitive amount of space. Count this as another subcompact that doesn't feel all that subcompact. When it comes time to carry cargo, the sedan has a generous 13.7-cubic-foot trunk, while the hatchback has 14.9 cubic feet -- a small luggage hold for this class. For maximum hauling potential, though, the hatchback is still a good bet, since folding the rear seats opens up 49.8 cubic feet of capacity, a good number for this class. Notably, the rear seats fold completely flat in all Kia Rios.
As we've only tested SX versions of the Kia Rio, these impressions pertain mostly to that trim, which provides larger wheels and tires, and firmer suspension tuning than the LX and EX models. The Rio SX is competent around turns, but it's definitely not the best handling car in this class. In addition, the Kia's ride is choppy bordering on harsh, depending on the condition of the pavement. If a softer ride is important to you, the EX is likely a better bet. If you're looking for a small car that feels a little more sophisticated in the way it rides and handles, the Sonic and Fiesta are worth a test-drive.
Meanwhile, the 2014 Kia Rio's 1.6-liter four-cylinder is one of the more powerful engines in this class, and overall, acceleration is impressive for a subcompact. The engine gets a bit noisy during hard acceleration, and that, along with considerable amounts of wind and tire noise (with the SX's 17-inch wheels and tires), keeps the cabin from feeling serene.