Subcompact sedans don’t get much respect, compared to their compact and midsize cousins. Neither do mini-sized hatchbacks, except for the thrift-minded. More substantial than Rios of the past, Kia’s entry-level model still ranks as bargain-priced. In addition to refreshing the entry-level Rio inside and out for 2016, Kia has upgraded its available UVO eServices technology.
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2016 Kia Rio Overview
What's New for 2016
For 2016, new front and rear fascias provide a wider look and what Kia calls a “sporty attitude.” A revised grille insert contains the geometric pattern seen on other Kia models. New foglamp surrounds have horizontal satin-finish bezels, while rear reflectors have been redesigned and repositioned to far corners. Greater use of high-density foam in A- and B-pillars promises to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness.
Choosing Your Kia Rio
All Kia Rios are front-wheel drive. Each trim level is offered as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. Except for the lack of a separate trunk, the hatchback differs little from the sedan; but with its back seat folded down, cargo space in the hatchback expands to nearly 50 cubic feet. An available two-tone Designer Package for EX features unique black cloth with leatherette trim and gray stitching.
Kia’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is rated 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. Sedans have a standard six-speed manual transmission (automatic optional for $1,230), but hatchbacks all get the six-speed automatic. There’s no longer a manual gearbox for the Rio five-door. Expect to get about 27 mpg in city driving and 37 or 38 mpg on the highway (31 mpg combined). Automatic is only slightly less thrifty than manual shift, and the Eco package boosts the city estimate by only 1 mpg.
Three trim levels again are offered: LX, EX, and top SX for each body style.
Taking the middle ground, an EX promises the best value proposition in this category, though even the LX is fairly well equipped for a subcompact. SX isn't as sporty as Kia suggests, though the added backup camera and navigation could be worth the extra cost.
2016 Kia Rio Review
With the 2016 Rio sedan and five-door, Kia has built a legitimate subcompact contender than drives as well as most and looks better than even more.
Pricing and Equipment
Available as a sedan or five-door hatchback, all 2016 Kia Rios employ a 138-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Sedans are fitted with a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, while hatchbacks are only offered with a six-speed automatic.
Kia offers the Rio in three trim levels:
- The base LX model
offers some nice extras like Bluetooth connectivity and Sirius XM radio, but is essentially an entirely affordable no-frills transportation option. The LX Sedan starts at $14,165. An LX 5-Door with a standard automatic transmission starts at $15,495.
- The EX trim ups the ante inside and out. A touch of chrome on the grille, 15-inch alloy wheels and some projector beam fog lights dress up the exterior. Power windows, remote keyless entry, a bevy of soft touch surfaces, leather wrapped steering wheel, and upgraded upholstery make for a much more livable interior space. The LX Sedan starts at $17,755, while an LX 5-Door with a standard automatic transmission starts at $17,905.
- The sporty SX trim brings an enthusiast slant to the subcompact Rio. A sport-tuned suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels enhance driving performance. Push-button start, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, and a 7-inch Uvo touchscreen infotainment system with navigation treat the driver to extras normally unavailable on a vehicle at this price point. The SX Sedan starts at $20,755, and the SX 5-Door with a standard automatic transmission starts at $20,905.
Prices do not include an $895 destination charge.
Have you ever heard the expression, “it is more exciting to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow?” With 138-horsepower on tap in a subcompact package the Rio is a bit more fun to drive than you would expect, especially when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission.
- We find straight-line acceleration tepid at best, but handling is good -- especially in the top trim SX -- and the Rio remains composed even when pushed to the limits of the economy-oriented powertrain.
- Gas mileage is excellent at 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined.
Enthusiasts will appreciate the tighter suspension of the SX, but most will find the ride too harsh for daily driving.
The small interior is well-designed and stylish. Although the base trim LX may seem sparse by today’s standards, we like the inclusion of tech features like Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio that make it a far cry from the bare-bones econoboxes of even a few years ago.
Upper trim levels are quite satisfying with abundant soft-touch surfaces and nice contrasting designs when appropriate. The Rio doesn’t pretend to be a higher priced mid-size sedan, but rather makes the most of what it is: an affordable subcompact.
Although completely usable, rear seat adult passengers will feel cramped in short amounts of time.
Most Pleasant Surprise
The Rio's cohesive styling, both in sedan and 5-door hatchback form, is visually pleasing from the curb and the driver’s seat. Kia has done an excellent job designing a subcompact that makes an impression without looking goofy in the process.
Least Pleasant Surprise
The Rio 5-Door SX is in many ways the very definition of a “hot-hatchback.” Unfortunately, Kia has decided to limit the choice of transmissions for all 5-door units to a 6-speed automatic. Not allowing even an optional 6-speed manual in the sportiest trim seems to us like a missed opportunity for the brand.
The subcompact market is a crowded place. With the 2016 Rio Sedan and 5-Door, Kia has built a legitimate contender than drives as well as most and looks better than even more. There are subcompacts that get better miles per gallon and others that offer better driving performance, but we think few do it all as well as the Rio for its price.
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