2018 Kia Rio Review

2018 Kia Rio - The Kia Rio has significant changes for 2018.


Prices: $13,900-$18,700

The redesigned 2018 fourth-generation Kia Rio sedan and hatchback delivers more than you might expect from a subcompact economy car.

The fourth-generation 2018 Kia has an all-new platform and sharper styling. It's also longer, lower and wider. One wonders if automakers will ever get away from the "longer, lower, wider" theme, which was a big auto selling point starting in the 1950s?

Not that Kia went overboard with that theme because the new $13,900-$18,700 Rio's wheelbase is just up to 101.6 inches from 101.2 inches, and it's 160 inches long, only up from 159.4 inches. Still, it's a little lower and wider to give it, as Kia puts it, "a more balanced and athletic stance." A well-creased shoulder line runs from front to back, stretching the car's appearance to give it a sleeker and more substance look than, as Kia says, "what's currently found in the subcompact segment."

The point is, you don't look as if you're pulling a hair-shirt, poor-boy economy car up to a restaurant. You can even get optional $195 Black Pearl paint.

The interior is more modern and upscale with an improved instrument panel and upgraded materials. I found my test top-line Rio EX hatchback's 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system easy to use, and there are handy large manual dashboard climate controls.

The redesigned front seats have more cushion and padding but should provide more side support. And a passenger behind a tall driver will want more knee room. Moreover the rear seat should provide more thigh support. Cabin storage areas are average, but the console has a bi-level tray to better accommodate portable devices such as smartphones and small tablets.

My test EX's interior looked especially good because it had the $500 optional "Launch Edition" package that contains red accent leather seat and interior trim.

Standard EX features include air conditioning, power window, door locks and outside mirrors, telescopic steering column, multi-adjustable driver's seat, remote keyless entry, split/folding 60/40 rear seats, AM/FM/MP3, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Safety features include lots of air bags, a rear camera, autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning system.  

The front-drive Kia Rio has the mechanical goods to back up its new look. Powering the car is a 1.6-liter, 130-horsepower four-cylinder with 119 pound/feet of torque. It's advanced, featuring a high-pressure fuel system with direct injection, variable intake system, low-friction oil seals and even piston cooling-jets, which once were found only in very high-performance cars. Moreover, it only emits a mild drone under hard acceleration.

Estimated fuel economy is 29 in the city and 37 on highways with the manual transmission and 28 and 37 with the efficient automatic, which has a responsive manual-shift feature via the console-shift lever. Only 87-octane gasoline is needed. Fuel tank capacity is 11.9 gallons with either transmission.  

The new Rio comes as a four-door sedan and roomier four-door hatchback and is lively, with good city and highway acceleration. That's partly because the base $13,900 Rio LX only weighs 2,648 pounds with a six-speed manual transmission, which gives it sporty flair but is only offered for the LX. An LX with the six-speed automatic is $14,990. Rio models with the automatic weigh 2,714 pounds. There's also a $16,100 mid-range S model and the $18,400 EX model I drove.

The sedan has 13.7 cubic feet of cargo room, and the hatchback has 17.4 cubic feet feet of such space. With the 60/40 split-folding rear seats down, the hatchback provides an impressive 32.8 cubic feet with a low, flat cargo floor. The hatch has a deep indented area to help close it without getting hands dirty on outside hatch.

My test car handled curves with good stability, thanks party to traction and electronic stability controls and a vehicle stability management system. The steering was quick but a little heavy. Tire pressures on the low side may have partly accounted for that. (Below-zero Chicago weather prevented me from getting pressures just right.) The ride was supple, thanks partly to a revised spring and damper setup for a more complaint and comfortable ride, although rough pavement brought out slight body bounce

The brake pedal had a progressive feel, and the anti-lock brakes stopped the car with no drama, even on icy pavement. Brakes are all disc for the EX, but they are front disc/rear drum for the other Rio versions.

The hatch swings open on struts, but the hood is held up with a prop rod.

My test Kia Rio had solid construction and nice paint, although I wished the car's rather neutral "Urban Gray" paint had been replaced by the more elegant "Black Pearl."

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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