2015 Kia Rio Expert Review

4.4 Overall Score
Performance 4.1Comfort 4.3Styling 4.0Value 4.4

Editor's Overview

The Rio sedan and its hatchback sibling, the Rio 5-door, are Kia's smallest and least-expensive vehicles. Yet like every new car from the Korean automaker, the 2015 Rio packs style, features and value, not to mention a warranty that covers 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain.

You'll Like The 2015 Kia Rio If...

If you're looking for a small and inexpensive sedan or hatchback that is efficient, practical and offers long-term peace of mind thanks to a stellar warranty, put the Rio on your shopping list. Want all that plus leather interior and a slick infotainment system? This little Kia offers that, too.

You May Not Like The 2015 Kia Rio If...

If you're seeking fuel economy that reaches 40 mpg or more, look to the Chevy Sonic, Nissan Versa Note, Ford Fiesta EcoBoost, or the Honda Fit, which also has a larger, more flexible cargo bay. If nimble driving manners top your wish list, check out the Sonic or Mazda Mazda2.

What's New

The Kia Rio sedan and Rio 5-door hatchback carry over unchanged for the 2015 model year. In welcome news, so do their price tags.

Interior Features

Not surprising for an entry-level sedan and hatchback whose price ranges from under $15,000 to over $20,000, the Rio's 5-passenger cabin varies from rather plain to rather impressive. The least-expensive models are that way because you'll still be cranking your own windows and foregoing a telescoping steering wheel. Higher-end models, though, look the part of a premium vehicle thanks to a slick 7-inch touch-screen command system, leather trim and a power sunroof. Rear legroom is tight, but every Rio has a 60/40-split folding rear seat for extra cargo. This really helps in the Rio 5-door hatchback, which boasts nearly 50 cubic feet of space with seats folded.

Exterior Features

The 2015 Kia Rio comes in two forms: 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback. Both are small cars, but the hatchback is the smaller of the pair at over a foot shorter (wheelbase remains the same at 101.2 inches). Both are pleasing to the eye, with the Kia Rio sedan looking like a smaller version of the stylish Optima and the Rio hatch more like a baby sibling to the Sportage crossover SUV. Wheels range from 15 to 17 inches, and top-line SX models feature dual exhaust outlets and a surprise: power-folding side mirrors that tuck into the car when it's parked and locked.

Driving Impressions

Economy cars are a natural in the city but don't usually perform all that well on long highway expanses, but in testing the Kia Rio on such roads it surprised us with peppy acceleration, a stable ride and a quiet interior. Steering feel hasn't traditionally been a strong point in Kia vehicles, even the more expensive models with the adjustable Flex Steer system. But in the Rio, the steering is nicely weighted, making it easy to keep this subcompact car stable between the lines even as semi-trucks rolled by. We also must give kudos to the little 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, which is eager to put its 138 horsepower to good use and plays exceedingly well when paired with the 6-speed automatic transmission. The Rio especially excels around town, where its small size makes it easy to park and maneuver. In spirited driving, the Rio is fairly agile, but not as fun as a Mazda2 or Fiesta.

Pricing Notes

The 2015 Kia Rio sedan and 5-door hatchback have a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at an appealing $14,700 – lower than its cousin, the Hyundai Accent. An automatic transmission in a base Rio lifts the price to just under $16,000, which makes the $17,740 Rio EX even more tempting since the car includes so much more (see Notable Standard Equipment). Top-trim SX models begin just under $19,000 and top $21,000 with options. Among rivals, only the Nissan Versa Note, Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic have sub-$15,000 starting prices, and for the Fiesta and Sonic, that's the sedan versions only. As you climb trims, the Rio's price is comparable to rivals. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying. On the resale front, the Rio is expected to be on par with the Sonic and Accent, but trail the Versa Note, Toyota Yaris and Scion xD.

Notable Equipment

The Kia Rio comes in three trims: LX, EX and SX. The LX has an appealing sub-$15,000 price, but part of the cost cutting means you're stuck with manual windows, a manual transmission (the optional automatic costs $1,240), and only a tilt-adjust steering wheel. It does include air conditioning, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with USB input and 6-way adjustable driver's seat. If your budget allows, we recommend stepping up to the EX trim, which adds power windows/doorlocks, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a telescoping steering wheel and cruise control. Top-line SX models come with the 7-inch touch screen UVO infotainment system, a rearview camera, a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, and LED positioning lights.

Notable Options

Major upgrades for this subcompact Kia sedan and hatchback come in the form of packages for the EX and SX models. The EX offers the Convenience Package with a rearview camera, the UVO infotainment system and power-folding exterior mirrors, as well as an Eco Package offering Idle Stop & Go, which idles the engine when the car is not moving to save fuel. Top-line SX models can be further upgraded with the Premium Package that bundles leather seating (heated in front), a power sunroof, and push-button start. Individual options for all trims include an auto-dimming rearview and, on sedans, a rear spoiler.

Favorite Features

Remember when leather was reserved for upscale cars? Now it can be had in entry-level vehicles like this least-expensive of Kias. In addition to being suppler than cloth, these optional seats can also warm your tush on those cold winter mornings with their heated functionality.

Good luck finding a base-model, factory-installed navigation unit as good as this one, if you can find one at all. The Rio's nav system is just another positive aspect of Kia's impressive UVO infotainment system.

Under the Hood

All versions of the 2015 Kia Rio are powered by a 138-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Base models come with a 6-speed manual transmission, while the two higher trims are fitted with the more popular 6-speed automatic. All Kia Rio models are front-wheel drive and run on regular unleaded gasoline. At 27 mpg city/37 mpg highway, the Rio's fuel economy is good but not the best in this segment. EX models can be had with the Idle Stop & Go feature that cuts the engine at stoplights, but at a price of $1,200 and an improvement of only one mpg in city driving, it would take many miles to pencil out, if ever.

1.6-liter inline-4
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
123 lb-ft of torque @ 4,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/37 mpg, 28/37 mpg (Eco model with Idle Stop & Go)

Editors' Notes

The Rio sedan and its hatchback sibling, the Rio 5-door, are Kia's smallest and least-expensive vehicles. Yet like every new car from the Korean automaker, the 2015 Kia Rio packs style, features and value. This 5-passenger subcompact starts under $15,000 and boasts fuel economy up to 37 mpg, which makes it attractive to younger drivers and buyers on a budget. Equally impressive is that, like every other new Kia, the Rio includes a powertrain warranty good for 10 years/100,000 miles. The 2015 Kia Rio continues to remind us that subcompacts have come a long way from their "econobox" days. The Rio remains an impressive entry among subcompacts, but new competition has arrived in the Nissan Versa Note and revamped Honda Fit, which boast even better fuel efficiency.

Video Reviews

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