The redesigned 2018 Kia Rio and 2018 Hyundai Accent subcompact sedans have substantially improved their Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashworthiness ratings over 2017 and earlier versions. That's good news for shoppers looking for the most budget-friendly way into a new vehicle.
Related: 2018 Kia Rio: Our View
The Rio and Accent earned the top good rating in the tough driver-side small overlap front crash test, which mimics a partial head-on or hitting a barrier or pole. And both scored just one step down at acceptable in the similar test on the passenger side. The last generation of these cars bricked the driver-side small overlap crash test: The 2012-17 Accent got the bottom score of poor for its occupant protection, while the last-gen Rio was just one step up at marginal. Those were tested before the introduction of the passenger small overlap side test.
IIHS said that in the driver-side small overlap test of the 2018 Rio, the car's structure "was maintained well, and the safety belt and airbags did a good job controlling the dummy's movement." The Accent is built on the same platform and the test results apply to both. IIHS said that in the passenger-side version of that test, "The front airbag didn't work quite as well, resulting in the lower rating."
The two small cars also bettered their ratings in the side impact crash test from acceptable to the top score of good. And they repeated with good scores in the moderate overlap front, roof strength and head restraint and seats tests. Meanwhile the available front crash prevention system with automatic emergency braking earned the top score of superior.
The front crash system is included on the top trim level of both cars but is not offered on the base and mid-level models. So, if you want the top level of safety in the Rio, the top EX model sedan, which adds the safety tech along with many other features, starts at $19,295 with destination versus $15,885 for the base model with automatic transmission. The Accent is $19,780 for the top Limited model versus $16,880 for the base SE with automatic. The Accent is only a sedan; the Rio also offers a hatchback version. Compare the Rio and Accent top models here.
With those crashworthiness scores and that available front crash tech, the cars could have qualified for an IIHS Top Safety Pick award were it not for a score of poor for their headlights. That newly required headlight test has proved to be a difficult hurdle for automakers, and cars must have at least an acceptable rating for their best available headlights to be a Top Safety Pick.
The Rio and Accent now join the leaders in their subcompact class for crash protection, equaling the available scores for the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris iA (not all the cars have had all of the tests this year). Only the Mini Hardtop is a Top Safety Pick in this IIHS size class thanks to an acceptable rating for some of its headlight options.
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