2018 Kia Rio

2018 Kia Rio Review

This redesigned Rio may be small, but it has a big attitude.
7.7 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Travis Langness
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Available as a hatchback or sedan and in three, easy-to-understand trim levels, the redesigned 2018 Kia Rio is a subcompact car that is simple yet sophisticated. On the outside, it has an all-new look that is grown-up and stylish. On the inside, the Rio is well-assembled and is relatively spacious considering its size.

Under the hood, the Rio gets a reworked version of Kia's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It has slightly less power compared to last year (130 horsepower versus last year's 138), but Kia says it decided to trade peak power for more usable power, meaning that the Rio feels stronger at the lower engine speeds drivers encounter most often.

The inside also has been upgraded, and while hard plastics still abound, it feels very solidly built. The redesigned dash and gauge cluster manage to look upscale as well, so even though the Rio is a budget-priced car, it doesn't feel cheap. We think the interior presents itself better than those of cars costing thousands more.

Overall, we're impressed with this little Kia. If you're in the market for a subcompact sedan or hatchback, the 2018 Kia Rio is absolutely worth checking out.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 Kia Rio has been completely redesigned.

We recommend

While it might seem a bit counterintuitive to recommend the top trim of an entry-level car like the 2018 Kia Rio, we think the Rio EX is simply the most desirable of the bunch. The base LX and midlevel S are certainly fine, but the EX gets Kia's Uvo infotainment system, a 7-inch center screen, and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These features are worth the extra money. Additionally, the EX gets upgraded safety equipment in the form of a forward collision warning system with automatic braking.



Trim levels & features

The subcompact 2018 Kia Rio is available as either a sedan or a four-door hatchback. Both the hatchback and sedan are sold in three different trim levels: base LX, midlevel S and top-level EX.

For the base LX, standard features include a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine (130 horsepower, 119 pound-feet of torque), a six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed automatic is an available option), 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a trip computer, a rearview camera, and a four-speaker sound system with a 5-inch display, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio input jack.

The midlevel Rio S adds to the standard equipment with keyless entry, heated power mirrors, power windows, cruise control, map lights, a sliding center console armrest and storage area, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, an extra USB port (charging only), a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker audio system.

The top-of-the-line EX includes the Rio S' standard equipment and adds 15-inch alloy wheels, a chrome grille surround, foglights, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a forward collision warning system with automatic braking, upgraded cloth upholstery, dual illuminated vanity mirrors and an upgraded 7-inch center display with Kia's Uvo infotainment system (which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). The EX's Launch Edition package adds red interior trim and partial leather accents.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2018 Kia Rio EX  (1.6L inline-4 | 6-speed automatic | FWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.7 / 10

Driving

7.5 / 10

Acceleration6.5 / 10
Braking7.0 / 10
Steering8.5 / 10
Handling8.0 / 10
Drivability7.0 / 10

Comfort

8.0 / 10

Seat comfort7.0 / 10
Ride comfort7.5 / 10
Noise & vibration8.0 / 10
Climate control8.0 / 10

Interior

8.0 / 10

Ease of use9.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out6.0 / 10
Driving position8.0 / 10
Roominess6.5 / 10
Visibility7.0 / 10
Quality8.5 / 10

Utility

7.5 / 10

Small-item storage8.0 / 10
Cargo space7.5 / 10

Technology

7.0 / 10

Audio & navigation7.0 / 10
Smartphone integration8.0 / 10
Driver aids6.0 / 10
Voice control8.0 / 10

Driving7.5

The Rio delivers more sophisticated handling than its competitors and some welcome steering feedback. The economy-oriented tires and strained-sounding engine keep it from being truly fun to drive. Even though performance is average, the car feels better on the road than competitors.

Acceleration6.5

Our as-tested 0-60 mph time of 9.1 seconds is average for this segment, and that's also the best description for this powertrain. The throttle response is linear, and the Rio feels zippy enough around town but runs out of grunt quickly. When pushed, the engine is noisy and sounds strained.

Braking7.0

The brakes feel solid and responsive and are easy to modulate. Under hard braking the car tracks straight, but the brakes are let down by the economy-oriented tires. In our testing the Rio went from 60 to 0 mph in 126 feet, which isn't bad for the class, but it feels as if the Rio could do better.

Steering8.5

The steering effort is relatively light and builds naturally. There's even some welcome feedback from the front wheels, which sets the Rio apart from most competitors. But it is a bit darty, so you wind up making more corrections during turns and even while driving straight.

Handling8.0

Body roll is a bit loose on initial turn-in, but the Rio settles and feels controlled through most of its range. Handling is predictable, but the economy tires protest loudly and understeer shows up early. Still, the car's predictability and steering feel make you feel confident.

Drivability7.0

The shifts are smooth, but the six-speed automatic has its work cut out for it. Unlike some CVT-fettled competitors, it has to shift frequently. It will hold gears but upshifts when you let off the throttle. It does match revs for smoother downshifts but doesn't execute them particularly quickly.

Comfort8.0

The manually adjustable seats are firm but supportive. Climate controls are straightforward, and the system is more than up to the task of regulating the temp in the cabin. The Rio is quieter than many rivals, and the ride is more refined, if a bit firmer than subcompact buyers are accustomed to.

Seat comfort7.0

The seats are firm but well-formed and supportive, with some bolstering. The lack of lumbar adjustment makes the seat a little less comfortable on longer drives. The headrest is aggressively forward, but it has enough vertical adjustability that most drivers will be able to work around it.

Ride comfort7.5

The Rio's best trick is smoothing out smaller road imperfections that make most cars in this class feel busy. The suspension feels sophisticated, but this is a firmer ride than most, and while it takes the edges off bigger bumps, it's buttoned-down and you definitely feel more of the road.

Noise & vibration8.0

Outside of engine noise, the Rio is quite quiet around town. In most road conditions, road and tire noise sounds more distant than in competitors. But wind noise is noticeable on the freeway, and some conditions bring the tire noise up. Even cruising, you can still hear the engine.

Climate control8.0

The Rio uses a simple three-dial system that's very easy to read and understand. It's capable of blowing very cold and very warm, so it should keep up with any climate. The rear defrosters are a bit slow, but otherwise this is a very functional, basic climate system.

Interior8.0

The solidly built interior looks more mature and upscale than those of rivals. The range of driving position adjustability gives the feel of a larger sedan. Still, the backseat is cramped, and entry can be tricky. The excellent touchscreen interface and straightforward controls are a pleasure.

Ease of use9.0

The buttons are clearly labeled and controls are easy to find. We especially like the dedicated hard buttons for infotainment features and menus that let you bypass navigating the touchscreen system. That said, this is a well-thought-out touchscreen interface that outclasses competitors.

Getting in/getting out6.0

The Rio's relatively low roof means you have to duck a bit even to get in the front. Limited rear-seat head- and kneeroom combined with a small rear door opening make the back seat require some contortion for adults. It's nearly impossible to enter in tight spaces where the door can't be opened wide.

Driving position8.0

The Rio has a lower, more sophisticated midsize-car seating position compared to the very upright position in most subcompacts. There's plenty of seat adjustment both forward and back and for height, and the steering wheel telescopes quite far, which taller drivers will appreciate.

Roominess6.5

The front seat offers good head- and kneeroom, and it feels pretty open. The rear seat is tight in almost every dimension, with less kneeroom and toe room behind taller drivers than something like the Honda Fit. The headroom in our sedan tester was also limited.

Visibility7.0

The roof pillars are thick all around, but they are positioned in front so they don't create problematic blind spots. The good side mirrors help with the side view. Rear visibility is quite good, but the beefy rear roof pillars create a big blind spot when you're looking over your shoulder.

Quality8.5

Plastics abound, but they're handled well: Many are textured and they all feel solidly built. This isn't a hollow or tinny interior, and the overall design makes it look mature, especially for this class.

Utility7.5

A decently sized trunk with a wide, flat floor and quite a few interior storage options for small items make the Kia a practical little car. It can't really touch the class-leading Honda Fit, but its strengths lie elsewhere.

Small-item storage8.0

Again, the Honda Fit is king in this category, but the Rio incorporates several cubbies in the center console, a small armrest box, a good-size glovebox, and door pockets that can hold water bottles in both the front and rear. You shouldn't have any trouble finding places to stash your stuff.

Cargo space7.5

The 13.7-cubic-foot sedan trunk is average, but Kia worked hard to create a wide, flat load floor so it's very usable. The seats fold down for longer items. The hatchback's 32.8 cubic feet (with the seats folded) can't touch space in the Honda Fit, but in practice it's quite accommodating.

Child safety seat accommodation6.0

The LATCH points are clearly marked, but they are stuck between the cushions. They're close to the surface, so you don't have to dig around to find them, but they're still less easy to get at than in cars with ports or flaps.

Technology7.0

What technology the Kia has is well-thought-out, with an excellent touchscreen infotainment system, a surprisingly good stereo, and competent voice controls. Still, competitors offer more active safety features and driver aids across more of their range.

Audio & navigation7.0

Kia figured drivers would rather use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto than pay for a nav subscription, so nav isn't available. Audio quality is better than most of the class, with good clarity and depth but not much bass response. You can specify which sources the Mode button will cycle through.

Smartphone integration8.0

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay work smoothly but are only available on the top trim level. The infotainment hard buttons make switching in and out of either easy. Below that it's just Bluetooth. Our tester came with front and rear seat USB ports, and a 12-volt outlet and aux port up front.

Driver aids6.0

Forward collision alert is unobtrusive and returned no false alarms in our time with the car. We also appreciated the animated guidelines in the rearview camera. That said, competitors offer more active safety features and driver aids.

Voice control8.0

The range of controls is relatively limited, but they work well with minimal misunderstandings when changing radio stations or dialing phone numbers. There are guides on screen and voice prompts, and you can switch to shorter voice prompts once you get the hang of the system.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.