Efficiency reigns supreme. The 2020 Kia Rio won’t win any drag races and will need a stern kick in the pants to pass someone at highway speeds, but it sure is efficient. Power for the Rio comes from a new-for-2020 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a modest 120 horsepower. Also new for the model year is a continuously variable transmission.

The Rio’s new powertrain helps the subcompact car achieve excellent fuel economy figures. The EPA rates the Rio at 33 miles per gallon city, 41 mpg highway, and 36 combined. Last year's model only got 28/37/32 mpg (city/highway/combined).

It also makes the Rio one of the most efficient vehicles on the market that doesn't have a hybrid powertrain.

Solid crash test scores. The Rio was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. It earned "Good" ratings (the best possible) in five of their six crash tests, and an "Acceptable" rating in the passenger-side small overlap front test.

While the Rio has good crash test scores, it doesn’t have a lot when it comes to standard active safety aids. The only feature that’s standard is a rearview camera. Automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning are available, but those are the only advanced features buyers will find.

Kia Rio

Good value. The most affordable Rio, the LX, costs $16,675 including destination. At that price point, you’d expect a bare-bones car, but it comes well equipped with modern-day creature comforts. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 7-inch touchscreen are standard.

The next step up, the S trim, offers the most value. It adds remote keyless entry, a rear USB port, and cruise control. The trim is also the first that can be fitted with advanced safety features.

For its price tag, the Rio offers quite a lot for your money.

Clearly a budget-oriented subcompact. Because of its size, the Rio’s interior isn’t exactly spacious. While the front seats are roomy and comfortable, taller drivers may find it difficult to find a cozy driving position because of the tilt-only steering wheel. With only 33.5 inches of rear legroom, things are tight in the back. But cramped rear seats are common for the segment.

Materials aren’t luxurious on the inside, this is an affordable car, after all. There is a fair share of rough plastics and cloth seats are the best you’ll get. Don’t look for heated seats, either. The interior’s design, though, is well thought out and easy to use.

When it comes to cargo space, things are slightly better. Sedan body styles have 13.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Hatchbacks raise that figure to 17.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and a total of 32.8 cubic feet.

Final thoughts. Subcompact vehicles aren’t that popular these days, but the 2020 Kia Rio showcases all of the strengths and weaknesses of the class. It gets excellent fuel economy, has good crash test scores, is backed by an impressive warranty, and has a comfortable ride. Thanks to a low starting price, the Rio is a good value, too.

Compared to other options in the segment, the Rio is missing a lot of modern safety features. A lack of options could be an issue for some shoppers, as Kia’s take-it-or-leave-it trim levels may not appeal to everyone.

The main option in the subcompact segment is the Honda Fit. The Fit has many more safety features, a more powerful engine, more cargo space, and it is more enjoyable to drive. The Nissan Versa is more affordable than the Rio, gets nearly the same fuel economy, and comes with more advanced safety features as standard.

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