Overall: Kia’s surprisingly roomy sub-compact sedan and hatchback receive makeovers than bring both visually in line with the rest of the automaker’s lineup.
Drivetrain: A 138-horsepower four-cylinder continues as the Rio’s power supply; a six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic, it’s your call.
The art of creating a small car is to have it look, drive and ride as if it were a larger, more expensive automobile. The Kia Rio has mastered this process and for 2016 expands on the theme with fresh front and rear styling and a richer looking and feeling cabin. Unchanged is the Rio’s standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque, which works out just fine in a light 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 Idle Stop and Go (ISG) that shuts off the engine after the Rio comes to a complete stop, then instantly fires it up 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 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg highway compared to 27/38 for ISG-equipped models. The base LX with the manual gearbox is somewhat light in the content department, but 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), LED running lamps in place of the standard four-bulb units, and a voice-activated audio/communications package with backup camera. The SX can also be outfitted with leather-covered seats, keyless start and a navigation system.