Fuel efficiency and value is in these days, which is why the 2019 Kia Rio proves to be such a resilient player. Offered as a sedan or a more versatile 5-door hatchback, the fourth-generation Kia Rio delivers value, economy and style, all at a very reasonable price starting just over $16,000, including destination. The Rio is larger and more comfortable than the Toyota Yaris, although it doesn’t come standard with driver-assist features. The Rio is newer and more enjoyable to drive than the Nissan Versa, and it comes with a better standard warranty than both the Nissan and the Toyota. However, in the all important fuel economy battle, both the Versa and Yaris can travel further on a gallon of gasoline.
What’s New for 2019?
For 2019, the 6-speed manual is dropped from the base car and the top-line EX trim is deleted. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are added to the S trim, while two new packages are offered this year. The Tech package adds forward-collision avoidance, LED headlights, a 3.5-in LCD meter cluster display and UVO3 eServices, while the Sirius Satellite Radio package adds satellite radio but deletes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and the 7-in touchscreen radio.
What We Like
Sporty styling of the hatchback; quality of the cabin; Bluetooth standard; affordable pricing
What We Don’t
Mundane exterior color selection; limited optional driver assist and collision avoidance systems; lacking telescoping steering wheel
The Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. Overall, the engine is impressively quiet, only making itself known under hard acceleration. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard on all trims. EPA fuel economy estimates for both the sedan and 5-door is 28 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Kia Rio Sedan is offered in LX and S trim, while the 5-door hatchback comes only in S grade.
The LX ($16,195) includes a 6-speed automatic transmission, 15-in 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, Bluetooth, satellite radio capability and USB/auxiliary input jacks.
The S ($16,995, sedan), ($17,295, 5-door) builds on the LX features with 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, 7-in touchscreen audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and remote keyless entry.
Optional on the S trim is the Tech package that adds forward collision avoidance, LED headlights, a 3.5-in LCD meter cluster display, a tire pressure monitor and UVO3 eServices
In crash testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Kia Rio sedan attained the highest score of "good" in every test save for the passenger side small overlap test, which earned an "acceptable" grade. The IIHS named the Kia Rio as a Top Safety Pick+.
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
2019 Chevrolet Sonic — Available as a sedan or a 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 hot spot.
2019 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.
2019 Toyota Yaris — Offered 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.
The Rio is all about affordability. If all you need or all your budget will allow is the LX, you will wind up with a decent ride. But for about $1,000 more, the S is the better buy, plus opens the door the Tech package.