Kia Rio UB (2011-2016): Review, Problems, and Specs

The third-generation Kia Rio subcompact (known as the Pride in Korea and K2 in China) is a global vehicle sold in three body styles: three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback, and four-door sedan. The latter two versions are available in the United States, where the Rio has garnered mostly favorable reviews ever since its introduction in 2011 as a 2012 model year. Kia has given the Rio 5-door and sedan a makeover for 2016 to sweeten the wait for the all-new 2018 model, scheduled to arrive in 2017.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • Attractive design inside and out
  • Roomy cabin
  • Extended warranty
  • Quick acceleration (1.6-liter gasoline engine)
  • Fuel-efficient diesel engines (in Europe)

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • Most rivals ride and handle better
  • Base LX model lacks telescoping steering wheel
  • Long gearing hampers flexibility
  • Unrefined 3-cylinder diesel

Stay Away From
  • Spartan LX grade (US)
  • Models fitted with the 1.1L three-cylinder diesel
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • There have been no recalls for the third-generation Kia Rio
Car Details
Powertrain

Kia offers the Rio with a single engine option in the United States - a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated gasoline engine delivering 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. On the base LX trim, the unit is mated to a standard six-speed manual gearbox. The EX and SX grades get a standard six-speed automatic transmission (optional on the LX). The engine gives the Rio quicker-than-average acceleration for a subcompact sedan or hatchback but is a bit noisy. Kia doesn't offer this engine in Europe, where customers can choose between an 88 PS 1.2-liter and a 107 PS 1.4-liter gasoline units, as well as a 75 PS 1.1-liter and an 89 PS 1.4-liter diesel units.


Handling

Compared to rivals like the Ford Fiesta or Chevrolet Sonic (known as the Aveo in Europe), the Kia Rio is not as engaging to drive. While competent around turns, the Korean subcompact lacks the handling finesse of the Ford Fiesta, and the electrically-assisted steering is too light. Furthermore, the Rio's ride is rougher and less composed. The SX grade, which features larger wheels and stiffer suspension, delivers an even firmer ride, especially over rough pavement. If you want a more comfortable ride, you should go for the EX model.


Safety

Both the IIHS and NHTSA have assessed the third-generation Kia Rio in the United States. The IIHS crash tested the Rio sedan and only gave it a "Marginal" rating for the small overlap front impact and an "Acceptable" rating for the side impact. The Rio got the top "Good" rating for moderate overlap front impact, roof strength, and head restraints & seats. As for NHTSA, the Rio received a four-star overall rating, with four stars for frontal crash, five stars for side crash, and four crash for rollover. In Euro NCAP testing, the Rio received an overall five-star rating.

Comfort

While the Rio's ride is less comfortable than some rivals', the interior is a cozy place. Finding a good driving position is easy even for tall drivers, thanks to the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel offered as standard on the Rio EX and SX. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the base LX grade, which has a tilt-only steering wheel. Some reviewers have criticized the Rio for having a rather tall driving position and uncomfortable seats. The buttons are placed within reach and are intuitive to operate. Rear visibility is good on the sedan, but the Rio 5-door's thicker C-pillars and small rear window are a hindrance during rear parking maneuvers.


Quality

The Kia Rio's cabin has a conservative yet stylish design. Materials used for the base LX trim are nothing special, which is why you would be better off with the EX or SX grades. These trims are more generously equipped and considerably more upscale than the LX, offering a soft-touch dashboard, improved seat material, and part-metal trim, among other things. The plastics are of a lower quality than those found in the Ford Fiesta, though.


Practicality

The Kia Rio is one of the roomiest models in the segment. The backseat offers generous space, thanks to the wheelbase that has grown by 70 mm compared to the previous-generation model. Interestingly, the wheelbase is 81 mm longer than the Fiesta, meaning rear-seat passengers have more space in the Rio. The cargo area offers plenty of room as well, with the Rio sedan having 13.7 cubic feet of trunk space which can expand thanks to the 60/40-split folding rear seat backs. The Rio 5-door is more practical, with 15 cubic feet of cargo space that can expand to 49.8 cubic feet with the seats folded down.


Infotainment

The base Kia Rio LX does not offer an infotainment system as standard or as an option but does come with a 4-speaker audio system with USB and auxiliary input jack. The UVO eServices infotainment system is available as an option on the EX with a 4.3-inch color touchscreen but is standard on the SX trim, adding voice-command navigation, a 7-inch color touch-screen display, HD Radio Technology and SiriusXM Traffic. The infotainment system is one of the best in the class, thanks to an intuitive interface and usability.

Efficiency

The Kia Rio's 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is not one of the most fuel-efficient units in the segment but delivers decent mileage. Both the sedan and the hatchback are EPA-rated at 31 mpg combined (either with the six-speed manual or six-speed auto). Kia also offers an Eco package for the Rio that includes an automatic stop-start system that improves fuel consumption in the city from 27 mpg to 28 mpg. In Europe, the most economical version is the Rio hatchback equipped with the 1.1-liter three-cylinder diesel engine, which is rated at 3.6 l/100 km.


Equipment

As mentioned earlier, entry-level Kia Rio LX models are under-equipped compared to rivals. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, height-adjustable driver's seat, tilt-only steering wheel, a trip computer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, 60/40-split folding rear seat backs and a four-speaker sound system. Standard features for the EX include 15-inch alloy wheels, soft-touch dash, upgraded upholstery, keyless entry, power windows, power door locks and more. SX adds 17-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, a sport-tuned suspension, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a navigation system and more.


Acquisition

The base 2016 Kia Rio LX starts at $14,165 (sedan) and $15,495 (5-door). That means the Rio sedan is roughly the same price as the 2016 Ford Fiesta sedan ($14,090) while the Rio 5-door is significantly more expensive than the 2016 Ford Fiesta hatchback ($14,390). As for the 2016 Chevrolet Sonic, the prices are similar with the Fiesta: $14,245 for the sedan and $14,345 for the hatch. The Kia Rio offers more space than those two rivals but falls short for handling and ride quality. In the end, it's a matter of personal taste. If you want even more space inside, the Honda Fit (Jazz in Europe) is a better choice.

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