Kia Rio 2019 Interior Speed Test

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The 2019 Kia Rio proves that simple is better when it comes to compact cars. This year, choosing a 2019 Rio is even simpler: Kia trimmed the Rio lineup in half, meaning color is the only thing most shoppers will need to pick.

The Rio earns 5.2 out of 10 on our scale for its bucks-up feel at a low price. This year’s slimmed-down lineup to LX and S trims doesn’t dilute its appeal since active safety tech is now available at a lower price than last year.

Kia Rio 2019 Interior Images

Available as a sedan or a hatchback, the Rio is offered with just one powertrain: a 130-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-4 paired to a 6-speed automatic. A 6-speed manual offered last year doesn’t return for 2019.

A low curb weight keeps the Rio from feeling too sluggish with its modest power output and helps it achieve a reasonable 32 mpg combined according to the EPA. The automatic responds quickly, but considerable throttle is needed to keep up with fast-moving traffic. Quick, well-weighted steering helps the Rio feel surprisingly athletic for a small car, although its modest tires run out of steam when pressed. Its ride is firm and composed, more akin to the mid-size used cars the Rio is priced against. READ: 2019 Kia Sorento Towing Capacity Release Date

Hatchback Rios are our favorites for their added utility, although they cost $300 more than sedans.

Kia Rio 2019 Interior Interior

Regardless of body, the Rio’s spacious interior brushes away subcompact car blues with its comfortable front seats, enough room in the back for adults, and a well-made, quality feel. Standard infotainment on the Rio LX is nothing special, but the reasonably priced Rio S adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

An inexpensive option package adds automatic emergency braking and LED headlights that help the Rio earn a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS for 2019.

At around $18,000 equipped with the active safety gear we recommend, the Rio outshines nearly every other small car.

Styling

Channeling hints of its Stinger big brother, the 2019 Kia Rio is a cut above the small car norm.

We figure it’s about average when it comes to its looks against other cars, though, so it’s a 5 out of 10 on our scale.

The 2019 Rio is available as either a sedan or a hatchback. The two share a purposeful front end, with their wide front grille and swept-back headlights. From the side, the Rio sedan is conventional, while the hatchback’s long roof gives it a sportier flair. Both tail ends are tasteful and simple and look a few bucks above their reasonable prices of entry.

One caveat: no Rio can be had with alloy wheels this year, and that’s a shame. The standard hubcaps look fine but are prone to scraping, cracking, and even disappearing entirely over time.

Inside, the Rio has a simple dashboard design with some Audi inspiration to its wide look and trio of climate control knobs. Touchscreens for infotainment on both are mounted high like tablet computers festooned to the dash. Busy upholstery designs reveal some of the monotony from an interior that’s either black or gray, depending on the exterior. Only the unadorned door panels reveal the Rio’s low base price.

Performance

The 2019 Kia Rio doesn’t try to be more than what it is: a basic, comfortable commuter car. Its honesty is refreshing, and for that it gets a 4 out of 10, with a point lost for its modest acceleration.

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Under the 2019 Rio’s hood sits a 1.6-liter inline-4 rated at 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque, figures up to moving its roughly 2,700-pound curb weight adequately. The standard 6-speed automatic is up to the task, firing off reasonably quick shifts and doing its best to keep the engine from high RPMs where the relative lack of sound deadening becomes apparent. Around town, the Rio has plenty of scoot between traffic lights, but it struggles to keep up at highway speeds on hilly roads.

We like the way the Rio rides on its standard 15-inch alloy wheels, which take bumps in stride. It’s softer and more composed than the Hyundai Accent with its available 17-inchers that sacrifice imperfection-absorbing sidewall rubber in the name of vanity.

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The Rio’s thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel is cribbed from sportier Kias and it feels good to hold. Road feel is nonexistent, but the Rio’s steering is well-weighted and precise. On a winding road at modest speeds, the Rio is composed and confidence-inspiring. Turn things up and its narrow tires reveal their modest, fuel economy-oriented intentions with considerable squeal.

Rios brake well, but the lack of rear disc brakes is a clear cost-cutting move.

10 Photos of the Kia Rio 2019 Interior Speed Test

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