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2017 Kia Rio: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2016

The 2017 Kia Rio sedan and Kia Rio 5-door are two economy-minded compacts offering styling, features and resale value that belie their bargain-basement pricing. In the Rio, Kia has created a small car that offers the ride and handling of a larger sedan but with a price tag starting just a hair over $15,000. Loaded with standard and optional features, the Rio and the Rio 5-door offer power and fuel economy near the top of their class and come with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty at no charge. Even in its most basic LX trim, the Rio includes cool features such as a 4-speaker stereo with a USB/iPod port, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, air conditioning and a 6-way manually 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.

What's New for 2017?

The 2017 Kia Rio carries over with only minor changes. The SX sedan is dropped, while red and black paint colors are added to the LX trim's color choices.

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?

$15,015-$22,000

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 horsepower 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 returns 27 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The manual gets the same estimate of 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy. With the Eco package, Kia's Idle Stop and Go technology is standard equipment; this feature shuts the engine off at idle and restarts it when the accelerator is depressed. Although the system may cut down on emissions, it doesn't change the fuel-economy figures, earning the same 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Rio 5-door come in three trims: LX, EX and SX. The Rio sedan is offered only in LX and EX. Only the LX sedan offers a choice between a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The Rio LX ($15,015 sedan, $16,345 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 ($18,605 sedan, $18,755 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 ($21,755 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, UVO2 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 and Go, UVO2, a rearview camera and auto headlights. The Designer Package adds black-and-grey cloth and leather seating with contrasting stitching, a rearview camera, a 4.3-in color touchscreen and automatic headlights.

Safety

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) gives both the Rio and the Rio 5-door with a 4-star safety rating. However, while the Rio earned five stars in the side-impact crash test, the rear-seat passenger dummy suffered what would be considered a high lower-spine acceleration event, causing the 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 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

2017 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.

2017 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 Fit's resale value is superior to the Rio's, and it gets better fuel economy with a little less power.

2017 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 2012-2015 Honda Civic will give you more interior room, more power and a much better manual transmission. Find an SE, and you'll gain Honda's LaneWatch, automatic climate control and touchscreen audio, while the Si adds a sport-tuned suspension, a more powerful engine and a 6-speed manual.

Autotrader's Advice

The choice between the Rio sedan and the 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. Add the Designer and Eco packages, and you'll come away with a very well-equipped car for well under $21,000.

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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.
2017 Kia Rio: New Car Review - Autotrader