The rise in popularity of fuel-efficient subcompacts shows no sign of letting up, and that’s good news for Kia, which has rolled out its terrific new version of the Rio5 hatchback.
This model has gotten some sporty new styling, comes with a very affordable sticker price and avoids the gas pump like a supermodel avoids the buffet line.
The Rio5 has a sibling vehicle, the Rio, that has also gotten a sporty design upgrade, in case you’re not into hatchbacks.
The engine is a 1.6-liter four cylinder that makes 138 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
The engine has direct injection and comes with an auto-stop feature as an option in the Eco Package model. That feature turns off the engine when the car is stopped, then re-starts it after the brake pedal is let up, functioning just like a hybrid.
This enables the Rio5 to get 30 mpg city, 40 highway, according to EPA. Plus, Kia says the Rio5 emits just 5.5 – 5.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
That fuel economy truly is terrific, and overall, so is the car. But it’s time for a moment of honesty.
The Rio5 is a bit underpowered.
This observer is not one to generally make that assessment. Most of the cars on the market today have adequate power, and a fair number are too powerful.
But this one truly could have used a few more biscuits for breakfast. Maybe in the next model year or two, Kia will address that, as it did with a similar complaint for the popular Soul wagon. However, this observer never thought the Soul was underpowered in the first place.
The Rio5’s front end looks like the Optima sedan’s, with its chrome-outlined grille and wraparound headlights.
You may select 15-, 16- or 17-inch wheels.
The Rio5 has some nice standard features for an economy car, including body-colored door handles, black mesh grille, power heated mirrors and a rear spoiler. Options offered are sport-tuned suspension, power folding mirrors with integrated turn signals, a power sunroof, fog lights, dual exhaust tips and wheel locks.
The inside has gotten a nice redesign as well, with a sweeping dash and well-placed controls. Interior options are many and include premium knit cloth seat trim, leather seat trim, heated front seats, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, soft-touch dash, Bluetooth connectivity, push button start, navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic and auto-on/off headlights.
Another cool option is Kia’s Uvo communication and entertainment system, powered by Microsoft. You know, the one that NBA star Blake Griffin says is a great listener in the TV ads for the Optima. It comes with a backup camera.
The Rio5 comes in three trim levels: LX, EX, and SX.
For safety, the Rio5 offers dual front airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, vehicle stability management and an electronic stability system are all standard safety equipment.
The Rio5 starts at around $14,400 and ranges to around $18,500.
For great fuel economy and cool subcompact styling, the Kia Rio5 is a very good bet.