The Rio competes on solid footing with the best sub-compact cars that the world has to offer; changes for 2014 are slight since the Rio is still pretty new.
A 138-horsepower four-cylinder keeps the Rio on the move; six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic; fuel-economy stats are now less optimistic, but still respectable.
The Rio has pretty much recovered from the embarrassment of having its gasoline-consumption estimates increased due to a calculation error. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that these entry-level sedan and hatchback models remain desirable fuel-sipping performers that appear more expensive than they really are. The attractive sheetmetal is interesting in that the sedan and hatchback have completely different noses. That kind of attention to detail extends to the dashboard layout that’s clearly presented and, due to a reduction of hard plastic surfaces, is far richer looking than in past Rios. The air conditioning, rear-window heat and ventilation toggle switches are a particularly nice touch. The standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque, which is decent for a 2,500-pound vehicle. All Rios come with six-speed manual transmissions or optional six-speed automatics. To help save fuel dollars, automatic-equipped cars can be ordered with what Kia calls Idle Stop and Go (ISG). This feature shuts off the engine after the Rio comes to a complete stop, then instantly fires it up again once the brake pedal is released. ISG is part of an Eco Dynamics Package that includes a special alternator that disengages under high engine load (such as when heading up hill) for reduced power loss and improved fuel performance. Kia claims overall fuel consumption is reduced by about three percent with ISG. That’s not much, but every little bit helps as the Rio is rated at 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg highway (with the automatic transmission). Those numbers aren’t at the top of the econo-class list, but they’re still decent despite being reduced after a well-publicized debacle over testing procedures. The base Rio LX with the manual gearbox is somewhat light in the content department, while the mid-range EX includes air conditioning, plus lots of power-operated and convenience accessories. The top-end SX adds fancier interior trim, 17-inch wheels (15-inchers are standard), Light Emitting Diode (LED) running lamps in place of the standard four-bulb units, and a Microsoft-based voice-activated audio/communications package with backup camera. The SX can also be outfitted with leather-covered seats, keyless start and a navigation system.
Base price (incl. destination): $14,400 (sedan, 2013), $14,600 (hatchback, 2013)
Type: Four-door sedan/hatchback
Engine (hp): 1.6-liter DOHC I4 (138)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 28/36 (AT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,430