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2018 Kia Rio: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Kia Rio, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Kia Rio Review

Although the automotive market is shifting to SUVs, the 2018 Kia Rio is evidence Kia isn’t giving up on passenger cars. Far from it. In the fourth-generation Rio, Kia has bettered the outgoing version in nearly every respect. A bit larger, the 2018 model is more upscale with increased levels of technology and even improved fuel economy.

While sister carmaker Hyundai forsakes the hatchback in its just-released 2018 Hyundai Accent that’s only available as a 4-door sedan, Kia keeps the 5-door hatchback alive, offering it as an alternative to the Rio sedan, despite expecting it to account for only about 20 percent of Rio sales. And, although generally the redesigned Rio is more upmarket than the outgoing model, Kia still offers a bare-bones sedan for less than $14,000 before the factory destination fee.

Kia’s is a value story, and the reinvigorated Rio continues that narrative.

What’s New for 2018?

The Kia Rio is totally redesigned for 2018. See the 2018 Kia Rio models for sale near you

What We Like

Sporty styling of the hatchback; quality of the cabin; base grade with manual transmission; Bluetooth standard in all but entry-level grade; affordable pricing

What We Don’t

Mundane exterior color selection; manual transmission unavailable on upper trims

How Much?


Fuel Economy

Even what isn’t changed on the 2018 Kia Rio sort of is. Kia carried over the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine from last year’s Rio, but tinkered with it a bit. On the positive side, the end result is a pinch more torque delivered on the low end of the rpm range, as well as an additional 1 mile per gallon across the board. In layman’s terms, the updated Rio is a little more dynamic at lower speeds. On the downside, however, are 8 fewer horsepower and a reduction of 4 lb-ft of peak torque to 130 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque.

Overall, the engine is impressively quiet, only making itself known under hard acceleration. A 6-speed manual transmission delivers engine grunt to the front wheels in the base trim. The 6-speed automatic transmission, which comes standard in the upper grades, is a $1,000 option for the base Rio. Whether hatchback or sedan, the government estimates the manual transmission is good for 29 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. A Rio with the 6-speed automatic will get 1 mpg less in city driving.

Standard Features & Options

To keep things simple and pricing under control, Kia chose not to offer factory options on any grade of Rio, save the automatic transmission on the base trim and a leather seating package on the top EX trim. Regardless of the trim, opting for the 5-door hatchback adds $300 to the sedan prices below. Content for both configurations is the same.

The LX ($14,795) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels, auto headlight control, dual manual outboard mirrors, a tilt steering wheel, a trip computer, a 12-volt power outlet, cloth seats, a 6-way manually adjusted driver’s seat, a rear bench seat, air conditioning, power door locks, six airbags, hill-start assist and a 4-speaker audio system with a 5-in display, satellite radio capability and USB/auxiliary input jacks. A 6-speed automatic transmission is optional.

The S ($16,995) builds on the LX features with 6-speed automatic transmission, power/heated outboard mirrors, power windows, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a center console with a sliding armrest, two additional tweeter speakers, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera and remote keyless entry.

The EX ($19,295) adds to the S with 15-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a supervision meter cluster with a 3.5-in display, lighted vanity mirrors, upgraded seat cloth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 7-in audio display, a UVO3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and automatic emergency braking. The only option is the EX Launch Edition package with red-accented leather seating.


Neither the government nor IIHS has crash tested the 2018 Rio. Every Rio comes with six airbags, hill-start assist and the LATCH child-seat system. In the EX trim, the Rio also has automatic emergency forward braking.

Behind the Wheel

Kia had its eye on Europe when engineering the Rio. Although there is nothing earth-shattering in the way it performs, it does everything reasonably well. As with every car in this segment, the suspension relies on struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. It tackles twisty roads without objection. It feels well balanced, soaking up most pavement imperfections. The automatic transmission compliments the low engine output, downshifting right on cue to push the Rio past slower traffic. Acceleration from a standstill isn’t neck-snapping, but the Rio won’t be left behind when the light goes green. All in all, it performs well within the parameters of its segment.

Other Cars to Consider

 2018 Chevrolet Sonic Available as a sedan or hatchback in most grades, the Sonic stands apart from others in the segment thanks to its standard advanced infotainment system, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Every Sonic comes with built-in 4G LTE and an available Wi-Fi hotspot.

 2018 Honda Fit Honda only offers the Fit as a 5-door hatchback. Although the base trim doesn’t include many of the standard features in upper trim levels, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Honda makes available on all models driver-assist features, such as forward-collision warning and mitigation, lane-departure warning, forward emergency braking and road-departure mitigation.

2018 Toyota YarisOffered as a sedan or hatchback, the Yaris has a little less get-up-and-go than the Rio, but an array of driver-assist technologies like lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and mitigation and automatic high breams are available.

Autotrader’s Advice

The Rio is all about affordability. If all you need or all your budget will allow is the S or even the LX, you will wind up with a decent ride. Because Kia doesn’t offer any options on those two grades, to get some of today’s more popular features requires moving up to the EX. We think that adding goodies like the tilt-telescopic steering wheel, UVO3 infotainment system and automatic emergency braking is well worth the extra couple of grand. Find a Kia Rio for sale


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