New Car Review

2016 Kia Rio: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader October 2015

Just because the 2016 Kia Rio and Rio 5-door have bargain basement pricing doesn't mean you're going to get stuck with a boring, no-frills econobox. The Rio's strength is its ability to deliver the styling, ride and handling expected of a larger, more expensive import in a vehicle that starts under $15,000. Loaded with standard and optional features, the Rio and Rio 5-door offer horsepower and fuel economy near the top of their class and come with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty at no charge. The Rio is a 4-door sedan and the Rio 5-door is a 5-door hatchback, and even the most basic trims include cool features such as a 4-speaker stereo with a USB/iPod port, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, air conditioning and a 6-way adjustable driver's seat.

Even more impressive than the Rio's low price is the technology packed under the hood. Kia has equipped the Rio with a gasoline direct-injection engine and an advanced 6-speed automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual is standard). The Rio and Rio 5-door's advanced designs, impressive fuel economy and low prices aren't just getting attention from us. The resale value guidebooks have noticed too, elevating the Rio's resale values to fairly respectable levels (they're still not as good as those for the Honda Fit or Ford Fiesta, however).

What's New for 2016?

For 2016, the Kia Rio and Rio 5-door get freshened front and rear styling, some interior enhancements and an upgraded UVO eServices package. The 6-speed manual transmission is no longer offered on the Rio 5-door, while the contents of last year's Premium package are made standard on the SX trim.

What We Like

Impressive standard and optional equipment; good on gas; reasonable sticker price; advanced engine technology; long standard warranty

What We Don't

Only base model offers manual transmission; not very quick; resale value getting better but still not at the Honda or Toyota level

How Much?


Fuel Economy

Both the Kia Rio and Rio 5-door are powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline direct-injection 4-cylinder engine that makes 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. The engine is very willing, but it's also loud at full throttle. The Rio with the automatic transmission gets 37 miles per gallon, with around-town figures slightly lower at around 27 mpg. The manual gets 27 mpg city/38 mpg highway. With the Eco package, Kia's Idle, Stop & Go technology is standard equipment; this feature shuts the engine off at idle and restarts it when the accelerator is depressed, helping to raise the fuel economy to 28 mpg city/37 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

Both the 2016 Kia Rio and Rio 5-door come in three trims: LX, EX and SX. Only the LX sedan offers a choice between a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The Rio LX ($14,990 sedan; $16,320 5-door) includes a 6-speed manual transmission (sedan), 15-inch steel wheels with covers, heated power side mirrors, a rear defroster, a rear wiper/washer (on the 5-door), an AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with satellite radio and USB/auxiliary inputs, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a tilt steering column, air conditioning, a 60/40-split folding rear seat and cloth seating. The Rio 5-door LX comes standard with a 6-speed automatic.

The Rio EX ($18,580 sedan; $18,730 5-door) gains a 6-speed automatic transmission, power windows, power locks, keyless remote entry, Bluetooth, cruise control, A-pillar-mounted tweeters, a tilt-telescopic steering column and premium cloth seats.

The Rio SX ($21,580 sedan; $21,730 5-door) adds a sport-tuned suspension, navigation with SiriusXM Traffic, push-button starting with a smart key, a power moonroof, heated front seats and leather seating surfaces. Also standard are ventilated front disc brakes, 17-in alloy wheels, power-folding side mirrors with turn-signal indicators, fog lights, LED taillights, UVO eServices, a rear backup camera, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, auto on/off headlights and a soft-touch dash pad.

Options for the LX are limited to a 6-speed automatic transmission, power windows, power locks and keyless entry. The EX Eco Package adds Idle Stop/Go, UVO, a rear backup camera and auto headlights. The Designer Package adds black and grey cloth and leather seating with contrasting stitching, a rearview camera, a 4.3-inch color touchscreen and automatic headlights.


Every Rio and Rio 5-door comes standard with front, front side-impact, and front and rear side-curtain airbags. Also standard are a 4-wheel anti-lock braking system, electronic traction control and stability control. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates both the Rio and Rio 5-door with a 4-star safety rating. It's important to note, however, that while the Rio earned five stars in its side-impact test, the rear-seat passenger dummy suffered what would be considered a high lower-spine acceleration event, causing NHTSA to place a warning for possible thoracic rib injury to the rear-seat occupant.

Behind the Wheel

Keeping in mind that the Rio is a small commuter car, we're impressed by the way it rides and handles. The LX and EX versions have smaller 15-in wheel and tire packages that help keep the cabin quieter and certainly deliver a softer ride than the SX trim's 17-in wheels, but the smaller wheel-and-tire combo also delivers only average cornering ability, with lots of squealing when the tires are pushed hard and an almost constant need for stability control. The SX does better, delivering more grip and a more stable driving experience. No Rio is particularly quick, but we do like the LX's 6-speed manual and wish it was available on the sporty SX. Since it's not, most will find the 6-speed automatic with manual shift control to be almost as fun and certainly as efficient, since both manual and automatic versions achieve identical fuel economy ratings.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Sonic -- The Sonic is about the same size as the Rio and Rio 5-door, gets slightly better fuel economy and can be equipped with a turbocharged engine that makes it much more fun to drive. The Rio, on the other hand, has a better warranty and offers more advanced technology and audio options.

2016 Honda Fit -- The Fit offers more interior room, but its boxy hatchback styling isn't as handsome as the Rio 5-door's, and its warranty isn't as long. The new Fit's resale value is superior to the Rio's, and it gets better fuel economy with a little less hp.

2016 Nissan Versa -- The Versa may not win any beauty contests, but it could walk away with a best-in-class award for interior room and comfort, lowest base price and best fuel economy. The Rio may not have as big a back seat, but it does have more features and a longer standard warranty.

Used Honda Civic -- A used 2012-2014 Honda Civic will give you more interior room, more power and a much better manual transmission. A Civic DX or LX won't be as technologically equipped as a Rio SX, but you can always upgrade to a nice aftermarket navigation radio, if need be.

Autotrader's Advice

The choice between the Rio sedan and Rio 5-door hatchback is up to you. Visually, we like the sedan's proportions, but for functionality, the 5-door hatchback is the more logical choice. Whichever model you pick, we'd opt for the EX trim, which has all the features you'll need. With the $1,000 Convenience package, which adds the SX's UVO eServices, power-folding mirrors and a backup camera, the price is still well under $20,000.

Find a Kia Rio for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Kia Rio: New Car Review - Autotrader