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The Kia Rio is a front-wheel-drive subcompact that comes in Rio Sedan four-door and Rio 5-Door hatchback versions. The Rio offers good looks, smooth operation, and is equipped well. The current-generation Rio was redesigned for the 2012 model year and has been updated for 2016.
The 2016 Kia Rio Sedan and 2016 Rio 5-Door get revised front and rear fascia that make these little cars look wider. The new grille adopts a geometric pattern, familiar from other Kia models. Foglamps gain satin-finish bezels for 2016, and the rear reflectors have moved to the far corners. Greater use of high-density foam promises to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness on 2016 Rio models. A rearview camera and UVO telematics are now part of the Eco package.
All 2016 Kia Rio models have a 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard for the sedan, with 6-speed automatic optional. All Rio 5-Door models come with the automatic. These cars run smoothly, but the driver should not expect swift reactions when it’s time to pass or merge.
Fuel economy is average. Both powertrains get a 31-mpg Combined (city/highway) estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Eco model scored 1 mpg higher in city driving.
Because the rakishly styled Rio is among the smallest subcompacts on the market, a snug back seat isn’t a surprise. Partially offsetting that shortage of space is the high quality of the materials in the cabin, which convey a premium feeling that’s uncommon in the subcompact field. Some interior details, such as the use of toggle switches for climate control, seem like relics of the past, but upper trim levels get a big touchscreen.
Safety scores are middling. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives Rio a four-star rating overall. But several cautionary notes were added, because of intrusion into the vehicle during crash-testing. Rio was rated Good, its highest praise, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in moderate frontal-impact, rear-impact and roof strength but only Acceptable for side-impact and only Marginal in the new small-overlap test, not great scores.