Essentially mimicking the Rio5 SX hatchback, the SX sedan includes larger wheels and a sportier interior. The Rio sedan competes with other small cars, including the Chevrolet Aveo and Toyota Yaris. In addition to the new front-wheel-drive platform, the ’06 Rio’s engine produced slightly more horsepower than the outgoing car’s. Changes for 2008 include mostly modest interior changes.
The SX functions as the top trim level for the Rio, while base and LX sedans are also available. Each Rio has six standard airbags, including the usual frontal-impact devices, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags.
Kia’s Rio5 hatchback is covered separately in the Cars.com Research section.
The Rio rides on a 98.4-inch wheelbase and is 166.9 inches long overall. Kia says the only exterior change for 2008 is a redesigned wheel cover for the LX.
Created with a European-inspired exterior, the Rio features a black mesh grille and swept-back headlights. The bumpers contain black inserts, and black bodyside moldings are installed. The Rio’s profile exhibits what Kia calls a subtle wedge shape, with sculpted arches at each fender.
Body-colored mirrors and standard 14-inch tires are installed. Options include 15-inch wheels, all-disc brakes, fog lamps and a rear spoiler. On the Rio SX, 16-inch alloy wheels can be installed. Mudguards, a front mask, a hood protector and wheel locks are among the available accessories. Power steering is standard only on the LX.
Increased exterior dimensions translate to more interior capacity in the five-passenger Rio. In fact, Kia claims the Rio has greater interior space than the larger Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla (though it competes more directly with the cheaper Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris). The Rio has 11.9 cubic feet of cargo space. The Fit, a hatchback, has 21.3 cubic feet of cargo space (with all seats in the upright position), while the Yaris sedan has 12.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
For 2008, Kia has added an auxiliary input jack for MP3 players in the LX and SX. The cupholder design has also been revised, and there’s a new center gauge cluster and redesigned shift knobs for both the automatic and manual transmissions.
Standard equipment includes variable intermittent wipers and a rear-window defroster. Additional features in the LX sedan include air conditioning, a CD stereo with four speakers, a tilt steering column and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. An optional Power Package for the LX adds power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors and door-mounted tweeter speakers.
The Rio SX also includes chrome dashboard accents, unique sport seat fabric and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob with red stitching.
The Rio’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder features variable valve timing and produces 110 horsepower and 107 pounds-feet of torque. Either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic transmission can be installed. Base models are available only with the manual transmission.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and front seat belt pretensioners are standard. All five seating positions get three-point belts. All-disc antilock brakes are optional on all but the base model. The standard brake setup includes front discs and rear drums.
Adding a few horsepower can make quite a difference in a small sedan. The prior Rio’s performance was decidedly modest, but this recently redesigned version is easily adequate, even with the automatic transmission. Although the engine emits considerable buzz and blare when pushed hard, it’s pleasantly quiet most of the time. Automatic-transmission reactions occur promptly and without any lurching or awkward gear changes. The manual transmission makes the Rio even more appealing for lively motoring.
Ride comfort is another plus. Even when the road surface gets rough, the Rio’s suspension absorbs many imperfections.
Space is another story, at least in the backseat. Legroom even in the outer positions is marginal when the front seat is moved appreciably rearward. Additionally, the hard rear seatback is reclined too far for true comfort. Still, headroom is passable and foot room adequate, and getting into the backseat isn’t too difficult. Despite short seat bottoms, the front seats are rather comfortable. Visibility is unobstructed.