Kia Rio vs. Nissan Versa

January 27, 2015

Like the mythical Phoenix, the Kia Rio rose from the ashes of its bad reputation to become the cool subcompact hipsters want to be seen in. The Nissan Versa, meanwhile, has always enjoyed strong sales success -- a recent redesign has received mixed reviews, though.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Rio & Versa >>

Is a weaker Versa still better than a stronger Rio?

What the Rio Gets Right

Kia design has gone from pedestrian to eye-catching in the last few years. But improvements are more than skin deep. The Rio is a subcompact packed with innovative features and excellent performance. The beefy 1.6-liter inline-four yields 138 horsepower; with an 11.5-gallon gas tank, Rio drivers can travel 410 highway miles between fill-ups. Eco models enhance fuel efficiency with a feature that shut the engine down when the car is at a standstill.

The base LX has many standard features that cost extra on many competitors. They include: heated power mirrors, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilting steering wheel, and a four-speaker sound system with a satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and iPod/USB audio interface.

What the Nissan Versa Gets Right

No one can beat the Versa's base price -- it's the lowest in the country. Running costs are low, too. With the help of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), drivers can expect to reach 40 mpg on the highway. The Versa's suspension is tuned for comfort, and the result is a smooth ride that many subcompact models just can't equal.

Outward visibility is good, two adults can sit comfortably in the spacious rear seat, and the large trunk holds 14.8 cubic feet of cargo. The Versa received a top rating of "Good" in frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; in braking tests, an SL sedan stopped from 60 mph in a respectable 128 feet.

Has the Rio Overtaken the Versa?

In a word, yes. Nissan gets praise for creating a vehicle that is economical and roomy, but it's hard to overlook a seriously underpowered engine. The tall sedan is also buffeted in high wind conditions.

The Rio, on the other hand, has overcome its past reputation as a cheap and unreliable subcompact. Its owners can also expect good fuel efficiency without giving up performance.

Our Verdict: Kia Rio

There's no question about it -- the excellent Kia Rio has leaped right past the Nissan Versa.

Take a closer look at the Kia Rio >>

Take a closer look at the Nissan Versa >>

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!