Competes with: Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris
Looks like: A classier and sleeker and much more horizontal Rio
Drivetrains: 130-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine; six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions; front-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Later this year
Kia brought the redesigned Rio subcompact sedan and hatchback to the 2017 New York International Auto Show. It’s an important update for Kia of the current Rio, which dates to 2012. The Rio is one of its best-selling products worldwide, though value subcompacts are more of a niche vehicle in the U.S. market.
The 2018 Rio carries over its powertrain with some tweaks, but it adds design upgrades inside and out as well as updated technology. It’s also slightly bigger by about a half-inch in length, width and wheelbase. This is a U.S. debut, with versions of the car already shown in Europe and at the recent Canadian International AutoShow.
The new design is aimed at making the Rio appear lower and wider than it is, with a lower beltline and front-to-rear shoulder line, for a sportier feel. It gets a new version of Kia’s “tiger nose” grille, and the headlight units are pulled around the corners and back toward the windshield. The foglights also are pulled wider in the new bumper for a more aggressive look. In the rear, there are new taillights and a shorter overhang. The 15-inch wheels are alloy on the top EX trim.
The lower beltline offers more glass, adding to the feeling of space. Kia says there is more sound insulation that will make for a quieter interior. The interior has upgraded materials and a redesigned dash. Interior space is improved slightly by the new dash, a redone headliner, slimmer front seats and new door designs that add to headroom, legroom and shoulder room. Trunk space on the sedan is 13.7 cubic feet; the hatchback offers a flat floor with the second row folded.
Tech on the base model includes Bluetooth, a six-speaker stereo with satellite radio, and a backup camera. Upgrades for the EX include a 7-inch multimedia display powered by Kia’s UVO 3 system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
Under the Hood
The powertrain carries over from 2017, with the 130-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. However, Kia says the engine has gotten some tweaks that improve efficiency and low-speed response.
The new, lighter platform also is stiffer, says Kia, and it comes with a new suspension with struts up front and a beam axle in the rear. The brakes are discs front and rear on the up-level EX.
The new Rio will offer a front collision system with automatic emergency braking. It has not been crash-tested, but Kia says it has targeted a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.