2018 Kia Rio 5-Door Hatch EX: A Stylish, Feature-Rich Subcompact [Review]

More bling for less. That’s the new Kia Rio. [photo: Arv Voss]
It’s true that good, even great things can come in small packages. The Kia Rio for 2018 provides a stellar example. This latest fourth generation Rio is available in the U.S. in two body configurations: the 4-door Kia Rio sedan; and 5-door Kia Rio 5-Door hatchback. There will be three levels of trim: the LX continues as the base, a new S model has been added and the upscale model EX replaces the SX.

During the national press launch, my driving partner and I drew a 5-Door Rio in EX trim with the six-speed automatic (no paddle shifters). At the time of this writing, official pricing had yet to be announced but it’s estimated that the base price will come in at just under $14,000, and that a fully loaded EX 5-Door Hatch will be in the $18,000 to $19,000 range, adding $895 for Destination and Handling charges.

[photo: Arv Voss]


Trim levels have also been slightly altered. The base model remains the LX, but a new S trim sits in the middle, and the EX is now the top trim. The previous top hatchback model, the SX, is no more.

The Kia Rio has advanced from a “Plain Jane” persona to a European influenced design language, now somewhat resembling an unsanforized Kia Optima in some of its styling cues. The entry-level subcompact has some positive issues going for it: the enhanced and more attractive design modifications; an increase in technology and feature content; and an affordable price point. “Value has always been a core tenet for the Kia brand and the all-new Rio sedan and 5-door continue to underscore our commitment to buyers looking for an entry-level vehicle but desire more than what the subcompact segment offers,” stated Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning, KMA. “This fourth-generation Rio makes significant improvements over its predecessor in design, technology and passenger comfort, resulting in an even better value proposition, while raising the bar in the small-car segment.”

The Rio 5-door now measures 160.0 inches in length (from 159.4 inches), and features a longer wheelbase of 101.6 inches (from 101.2 inches) and more upright A-pillars. It is minimally larger than before.

[photo: Arv Voss]


The cabin’s execution is completely new, emphasizing width for a more spacious feel, in accord with the exterior updates. The 5-door hatchback’s passenger space measures 90.5 cubic feet. Front occupants get more headroom, legroom and shoulder room while second row occupants benefit from increased leg- and shoulder room. The steering wheel and shift knob are new, door trims have been re-profiled, there’s new headliner material and the dashboard has been reshaped. The 5-door hatchback’s cargo room is now 17.4 cubic feet. With the seats folded down, the hatchback serves up 32.8 cubic feet with a low and flat cargo floor. The front seats have been redesigned to enhance comfort, featuring a slimmer design while adding more cushion and padding to reduce travel fatigue.

A new tablet-style infotainment screen now floats high in the center rather than being sunken into the dash. The 7.0-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and UVO3 voice recognition, but that feature is only available on EX trim Rios. A 5.0-inch display is standard on other models. A backup camera and Bluetooth connectivity both come as standard fare.

Standard safety features include: six airbags, side-impact door beams, Electronic Stability Control, a four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System, Hill-start Assist Control and Vehicle Stability Management.

[photo: Arv Voss]


Motive force drives the front wheels and is provided by Kia’s retuned Gamma 1.6-liter, DOHC, 16-valve in-line 4-cylinder engine with Gasoline Direct Injection that produces 130 horsepower at 6,300 rpm (8 less than before) while developing 119 pound feet of torque at 4,850 rpm (down 4 lb-ft.). The engine may be mated to either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed automatic.

In terms of suspension componentry, the front MacPherson strut with strut type shocks and rear – coupled Torsion Beam Axle with twin tube shocks, carry over to the new models, though the geometry has been modified to enhance ride quality and handling characteristics.

Braking power comes from 11-inch disc brakes forward and drum brakes aft, while the EX model is outfitted with 11-inch disc brakes up front and 10.3-inch rear disc brakes. Autonomous Emergency Braking is offered for the first time on new Rios.

There were no Kia Rio Sedans available at the launch for testing – only pre-volume production 5-Door Hatch models. No worries – my preference is for 5-door hatches anyway.Slide in behind the three spoke steering wheel of the 2018 Kia Rio 5-Door EX, and the feeling that one gets is that they’re in a much more expensive vehicle. Drive the new Rio Hatch and that feeling is exemplified. Acceleration is not blistering mind you, but it is certainly adequate and the transmission shifts smoothly and precisely, with a manual shift mode accessible via the gear selection stalk.

The ride quality is on the firm side, but not at all harsh, and the seats are quite comfortable and supportive. Handling characteristics have been improved drastically and lean to nimble if not totally sporty in exaggerated or spirited maneuvers.

TFLCAR’s TAKE: The 2018 Kia Rio 5-door Hatch has definitely come into its own with a highly desirable package in terms of styling, feature content and value, considering estimated prices.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Kia Rio 5-door Hatchback EX

  • Base Price: $Official pricing not yet available, price as Tested: $18,000-$20,000 estimated fully loaded w/ Destination included
  • Engine Type and Size: 1.6-liter, DOHC, 16-valve in-line 4-cylinder with Gasoline Direct Injection
  • Horsepower (bhp): 130 @ 6,300 rpm
  • Torque (ft./ lbs.): 119 @ 4,850 rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
  • Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine / FWD
  • Suspension: Front – MacPherson strut with strut type shocks
  • Suspension Rear – Coupled Torsion Beam Axle with twin tube shocks
  • Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, ESC, HAS and VSM.
  • Tires: Continental ContiPro Contact P185/65 R15 88H mounted on alloy wheels
  • Wheelbase: 101.6 inches
  • Length Overall: 160.0 inches
  • Width: 67.9 inches
  • Height: 57.1 inches
  • Curb Weight: 2,714 lbs.
  • Turning Circle: 33.46 ft.
  • Fuel Capacity: 11.9 gallons
  • EPA Mileage Estimates: 28 mpg city / 37 mpg highway