The Rio is priced from $17,395 in Canada and $17,490 in the US.
The 5-door Rio is one of two remaining subcompact hatchbacks in Canada.
I am bummed and have thoroughly been for the last half-decade. Truth be told, I’ve never been happier, but I am saddened that nearly all automakers, based on consumer wants, have abandoned small cars. One of the last remaining in the field is the Kia Rio.
Once more, our lust for SUVs and undying desire to pay more to sit 2 inches higher, is killing the car. Many have fallen over the last half decade and small subcompact cars have suffered the most. When I was a young lad, compact cars and the like were everyone’s first car. A Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Cavalier, and the like were the equivalent of cheap mobility. And they were in most regards, and they did their jobs. With the exception of the Jetta in North America, the others were eventually replaced by the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Sonic, and Spark, and they joined the Toyota Echo/Yaris, Hyundai Accent, and more. In time, the Ford Fiesta returned, as did the Nissan Micra, and now, all are gone, or nearly.
Other than the Kia Rio, the segment includes the Mitsubishi Mirage, the abovementioned Spark, and Nissan Versa. By all accounts, the last two are not long for this world, but then again, nor are the first two.
The tragedy is that the Kia Rio is reasonably reliable, well-equipped, functional, attractive, good to drive, and a bargain. One may argue that the Soul is also very affordable except it retails for $4,000 to $5,000 more (2022 and 2023 pricing). And when it comes down to it, the crossover offers some extra boot volume (530L or up to 663L over 493L) although scarcely more equipment. Your 6-foot-4-inch friends will get a tad more headroom, however. There’s more than enough space for four adults on board and, if need be, a fifth middle rear occupant.
The cabin is fitted with everything real modern necessary feature. As standard, the Rio includes an 8-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, heated front seats, and far more for $17,395 (2022). Jumping up to the 2022 EX, the car gains LED lights, a sunroof, a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, and more for $22,495.
Fit, finish, and materials are beyond acceptable for a car in this price range. In fact, I swapped out of a Mercedes-Benz EQS and into the Rio and I swear, Kia’s center console is nowhere near as cheaply conceived and built.
It does what it has to do, and well
Powering the 2022 Kia Rio is a naturally-aspirated 1.6L 4-cylinder engine. Output is rated at 120hp at 6,300 rpm and 113 lb.-ft. of torque and honestly, it’s plenty of gusto to get the 2,900lb hatchback up to speed.
The shortcomings reside mostly with the recently-introduced IVT continuously variable automatic transmission. Up until 2019, a 6-speed automatic sat between the engine and front drive wheels, and it was far more interesting as a transmitter of power. The IVT was solely added to the Rio to keep costs down (now installed in nearly small Hyundai Motor Group vehicles) and not improve fuel efficiency. In reality, Kia says that averaging 7L/100km in combined driving is what you can expect from the small car. And that’s essentially what you’ll get.
As far as the driving experience goes, the 2022 Kia Rio is surprisingly comfortable – I would go so far as to say refined. Despite the rear torsion beam across the wheels, the dampers maintain control and a decent amount of confidence. My affinity for small cars comes in part from how agile and tossable these featherweights are, and I’ll openly admit that I pushed the Rio beyond what 99.99% of owners ever will. And surprise, to you perhaps, but the small car was returned with nary a scratch.
Furthering the fun from behind the wheel, the Rio’s brakes and steering are perfectly adapted to the subcompact hatchback. Truly, this is a fun car to drive. Most SUVs and CUVs are not, especially the lesser expensive ones.
What small car?
Despite my various misgivings about Kia and Hyundai vehicles, the Rio is a more satisfying alternative to the Mirage and Versa.
Now, if the budget is about $20,000, I would consider a used Honda Fit. We briefly owned a 2014 base DX with A/C (without was impossible to find) with a 5-speed manual transmission and not one week goes by without my thinking about it and how stupid I was to give it up. Alternatively, a Toyota Yaris (aka Mazda2) or, one of my personal favorites, a Nissan Micra (ideally manual) will do a great job at being your car.