The 2023 Kia Rio is One of the Last Sub-$20,000 Cars Standing

(Images: Kia)
  • The Hyundai Accent may be on its way out for 2023, but the Kia Rio is sticking around for another model year.
  • Updated pricing still pegs the 2023 Kia Rio under $20,000.
    • This year’s MSRP starts at $17,505 for the base LX sedan.
  • Once again, the Kia Rio sedan is available in two trims, while the hatchback only comes in a single trim level.

If you’re looking for an affordable car to get you from A to B, you pretty much have three options at this point. You can get a Nissan Versa, a Mitsubishi Mirage, or this: the 2023 Kia Rio.

Gee, those all sound like fantastically fun options…

In a world where crossovers are king and cars of all ages and types have gotten stupidly expensive, this segment is an (admittedly brief) breath of fresh air. This is a shrinking market, as both the Chevrolet Spark and the Rio’s Hyundai Accent cousin are officially dead for 2023. but provided you can find one on a dealer lot, these all do their duty perfectly well for anyone needing transportation that won’t break the bank.

Consider this: Short of spending way more money on a hybrid, you can game some truly remarkable fuel economy from these little cars. In both the Rio’s case and the Nissan Versa’s, I’ve managed to get into the mid-50 mpg region on longer highway drives. Officially, the 2023 Kia Rio manages up to 41 mpg on the highway. You achieve that by way of a 1.6-liter “Gamma II” engine making a stratospheric 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque, sending power to the front wheels through Kia’s “IVT” continuously variable transmission.

Yeah, it’s definitely no sports car. But hey, at least it’s cheap to buy, cheap to run and (relatively) cheap to insure.

The 2023 Kia Rio does have a “trim walk”, but it’s short one

You know you’re in economy car territory when you see “Electronic Stability Control” headlining the list of standard features. Joking aside, though, the base model does get a reasonably sized 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display. You even get heated side mirrors, which is a feature that some far more expensive cars don’t have (at least as standard equipment). One weird but useful addition on the 2023 Kia Rio is an engine oil level sensor. So, you’ll now have a visual indication of when you need to top up.

Now, you’ll get those features on the base LX sedan, for $17,505. To get some more techy features, though, you will have to upgrade to the dizzyingly expensive $18,135 S trim. If you opt for the Rio hatchback (at least you can get it as a hatchback, unlike the Versa), you’ll spend $300 more, or $18,435.

Stepping up to the S gives you cruise control, which you unfortunately don’t get with the LX. You also get a rear USB charging port, remote keyless entry and trunk release on the sedan, and a sliding armrest with a storage bin. On the LX, you just get a little cubbie where the center console would be, as well as two small cupholders.

2023 Kia Rio

The 2023 Kia Rio S offers more options

As part of the S Tech Package, you’ll get more safety and tech features available on the Rio’s larger siblings. That includes adding SiriusXM and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity for that 8-inch touchscreen. You also get forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist and lane following assist. You also get LED headlights with automatic high-beam assist, as well as a driver attention warning and lane departure warning. Remote start is on the feature list too, as is automatic climate control; remote lock/unlock and a “find my car” feature are available through the Kia Connect app.

Another weird addition to the tech package? Rear disc brakes. Yep, stick with the base model or even the base S and you’ll get drum brakes at the rear. Admittedly, that’s fairly common throughout the cheap car world. But still, for a bit of extra “performance”, not to mention all the other upgrades, you’ll probably want to spring for the $1,800 Tech Package.

A word of warning you likely expected

Even with a few positive signs, pricing on the 2023 Kia Rio is academic thanks to two painful words: dealer and markup. Again, if you can find a 2023 Kia Rio at MSRP, this is one of the most affordable cars around. And it’s a good car with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

It’s not the cheapest car, as that title still goes to the $15,975 Mitsubishi Mirage (at least by 2022 pricing). Dollar for dollar, though, the two cars end up about even when you spec out the Mirage as far as it will go, plus the Kia Rio has a staggering 42 more horsepower to play with. So maybe it is a bit of a sports car, when you compare it like that.