The 2018 Kia Rio marks the introduction of the fourth generation of Kia’s entry-level subcompact. While the previous generations have been packed with features, the fourth-generation is the most grown up Rio yet. Its styling may be bit more conservative than the last generation, but the package feels and looks more upscale than before.
The Kia Rio continues to be offered in sedan and 5-door versions, unlike its Hyundai Accent cousin that is now only offered as a sedan. The swoopy styling of the third generation has been swapped out with a more refined exterior, which doesn’t quite stand out as much as the last generation, but it does look more upscale. The differences are more apparent when you compare the 5-door versions. The cute, quirky styling of the third generation looked a bit more exciting than the new fourth generation, which disappears in the crowd.
Move inside and you’ll notice the interior is more upscale than before. While the exterior may look a tad more boring than before, the 2018 Rio’s interior is a stand out. The interior feels and looks like it belongs at least a class above the Rio’s price range. A five-inch touchscreen comes standard, but if you opt for the top EX trim level, you’ll get a 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The dash is covered in higher quality materials and you can even get leather seats as an option.
Under the hood the Rio is powered by a 1.6L four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft. of torque that can be mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The manual equipped Rio is rated at 29/37 mpg, while the automatic version is rated at 28/37 mpg. The manual version is on par with the popular manual Honda Fit, but the CVT-equipped Fit is more efficient at 33/40 mpg.
On the road our 2018 Rio 5-door feels planted and more refined than anything else that’s ever had a Rio badge. The steering provides good feedback and the lack of unwanted motions from the suspension make the Rio feel even a bit sporty. With only 130 horsepower under the hood the four-cylinder engine isn’t going to inspire any drag races on your daily commute, but it never really feels under powered – at least compared to its rivals. On the highway the interior is also quieter than you might expect considering the Rio’s $14k starting price.
The 2018 Kia Rio starts at $13,900 for the sedan and $14,200 for the 5-door. Those entry prices are easy to swallow, but the base LX models do have a lack of features, like power windows, Bluetooth, or cruise control. Even a rear camera is optional on the base model. Step up to the S models and you’ll get more features, but at a $16k starting price. The top Rio EX starts at just over $18k and adds features like, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, automatic emergency braking and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Kia has scored a big win with the fourth generation Rio. The 2018 Rio has gone to finishing school and re-emerged as a more upscale and refined subcompact. The interior now feels less like basic transportation and on the road the Rio’s driving dynamics are impressive.