Last redesigned back in 2012, the Kia Rio sports a handful of interior and exterior changes that help it remain a relevant option in the subcompact car class. Even without the upgrades, though, there’s plenty to like about the 2016 Rio.
Already one of the more handsome vehicles in this segment, the Rio, now with some subtle front and rear restyling, manages to avoid the awkward proportions that plague a number of subcompact competitors. It’s also a standout in terms of interior space, offering a roomy backseat and a trunk to match. Like most other Kia models, the 2016 Rio’s long list of available features and competitive price make it one of the value leaders in its class. Although the base Rio LX is rather spartan, the higher-end EX and SX trims pack respectable rosters of technology features and creature comforts.
The 2016 Kia Rio has been restyled up front, but the differences are very subtle.
No matter the trim, the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine powers every 2016 Rio. With 138 horsepower, it makes the Rio one of the quicker subcompact cars available. Fuel economy is a bit less impressive at 31 mpg in mixed driving, according to the EPA, but it’s good enough to be competitive. Our primary complaint is that the Rio lacks the suspension refinement found in some rivals, and its ride and handling characteristics suffer as a result.
Subcompact competitors like the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and the new Scion iA provide a smoother ride over rough roads and offer more engaging handling. In addition, the cavernous Honda Fit bests the Rio (and just about every other subcompact car) in the areas of available cargo space and hauling versatility. But the 2016 Kia Rio is still a stylish and spacious runabout with numerous desirable features. Take one for a spin and it could very well win you over.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The subcompact 2016 Kia Rio is available as either a sedan or a hatchback (“Five-Door”). Both are offered in LX, EX and SX trim levels.
Standard features on the base Rio LX include 15-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, air-conditioning, a tilt-only steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a trip computer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack. An available Power package adds keyless entry and power windows and door locks. Opting for the Power package requires sedan buyers to order the optional automatic transmission, which also includes Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity (hatchbacks come standard with both the automatic transmission and Bluetooth).
The Kia Rio EX includes the Power package’s features and also adds 15-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a chrome grille surround, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a six-speaker audio system, cruise control, map lights, dual illuminated visor-mounted vanity mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery, a soft-touch dash, padded armrests on the front doors and a sliding center console armrest and storage area.
The 2016 Kia Rio has a roomy cabin, and the EX and SX are pretty upscale for a subcompact.
Choosing the Rio EX’s optional Eco package results in the loss of the EX’s standard 15-inch alloy wheels, foglights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, soft-touch dash, map lights and vanity mirrors. Instead, it adds a fuel-saving automatic stop-start system, automatic headlights, Kia’s Uvo 7-inch touchscreen interface and a rearview camera. The EX Designer package includes two-tone black and gray cloth and leather seating with gray accent stitching on the seats, steering wheel, shift knob and armrest.
The top-of-the-line SX starts with the Rio EX’s standard equipment and adds the Eco package’s Uvo infotainment system, rearview camera and automatic headlights. The SX also gets you 17-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, a sport-tuned suspension, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, an upgraded gauge cluster, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2016 Kia Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 138 hp and 123 pound-feet of torque. For the LX sedan, it drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, with a six-speed automatic being optional. All other Rios come with the automatic as standard. In Edmunds testing, a Rio SX sedan went from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, which is a quicker than average time for a subcompact.
All Rios manage an EPA-estimated fuel economy figure of 31 mpg combined. Both manual and automatic Rios earn an EPA-estimated city fuel economy figure of 27 mpg; however, the manual is incrementally better on the highway, yielding 38 mpg to the automatic’s 37 mpg. This is roughly average fuel economy for the segment, but some competitors are even thriftier.
An Eco package is available on the 2016 Kia Rio EX and brings with it an automatic stop-start system that shuts the engine down when the car comes to a halt and restarts it when the brake pedal is released. Rios so equipped achieve 28 mpg city, but the same 37 mpg highway as other automatic-transmission models.
The 2016 Kia Rio comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, a hill-start assist system, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Additionally, a rearview camera is available on the Rio EX (via the Eco package) and standard on the Rio SX.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Rio SX came to a halt from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is an average distance for this class of car.
Both the Rio sedan and hatchback received a four-star rating (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection in government testing, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Kia Rio sedan its top rating of “Good” in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test, roof-strength test, head restraint and seat protection tests. In side-impact crash testing, the Rio received the IIHS’s second-highest rating of “Acceptable.” In the small-overlap frontal offset test, the Rio scored the second-worst rating of “Marginal.”
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2016 Kia Rio has a restrained yet stylish interior design. Materials quality is nothing special in the base Rio LX; however, the Rio EX (sans the Eco package) and SX get classed up with a soft-touch dash, improved seat material and metal-paint trim. We encourage shoppers to give strong consideration to the more generously equipped EX and SX trims, budget permitting, as they’re considerably more upscale than their entry-level counterparts.
The Rio scores well in the areas of space and comfort. Even tall drivers will be comfortable behind the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel of Rio EX and SX trims (though the same can’t be said of the base LX’s tilt-only wheel), while the backseat offers generous passenger space for the segment.
It’s the same story in the cargo bay, where the sedan has a generous 13.7 cubic feet of trunk space, which can be expanded courtesy of 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks. With the hatchback’s rear seats up, there are 15.0 cubic feet of cargo space, which can expand to a healthy 49.8 cubic feet of space with the seats folded down.
The 2016 Kia Rio’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder is one of the more powerful engines in the subcompact car class, so acceleration is a relative strength. Unfortunately, the Rio’s engine can get a bit noisy during hard acceleration. Still, this little Kia feels sprightly enough when you goose it. Few drivers will complain that it’s underpowered.
The 2016 Kia Rio’s 138-hp engine provides quicker-than-average acceleration for a subcompact sedan or hatchback.
We’ve mainly driven the Rio SX, whose larger wheels and tires and firmer suspension tuning separate it from the LX and EX. Competent around turns, the Rio SX nonetheless lacks the handling finesse of class leaders. In addition, the Rio SX’s ride can be choppy and even harsh over rough pavement. If ride comfort is important to you, the EX is likely a better bet.