2020 Kia Rio

By April 24, 2020

The 2020 Kia Rio is a compact sedan with a comfortable ride, fairly precise handling, an excellent warranty, and for 2020, world-beating economy.

The sedan is just 173 inches long and the Rio hatchback is shorter than that, only 160 inches, but it actually has more room inside.

For 2020 the engine has been re-tuned to increase gas mileage, the trade-off being that it makes less power. The 1.6-liter inline-4 now makes 120 horsepower (down 10 hp) and 112 pound-feet of torque (down 7 lb-ft). It’s mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

The EPA rates the Rio at 33 mpg city, 41 highway, 36 combined using regular fuel. That’s an increase of 4 mpg over last year, which is a big jump. It’s hard to find a non-hybrid car that can match this fuel economy.

The IIHS has rated the Rio a Top Safety Pick, although with only an “Acceptable” score in the passenger-side small overlap test that mimics impact with a stationary object or an oncoming car. The optional LED headlights in the Technology package earned a “Good” rating.

Automatic emergency braking is bundled with a few other features on an affordable Technology package for the S trim level.

Model Lineup

There are just two trim levels of Kia Rio, the LX sedan ($16,675) and S sedan or hatchback ($17,315 for the four-door, and just $300 more for the hatchback).

The LX sedan comes with power features, a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a USB port, Bluetooth, air conditioning, and a few other features not usually seen on cars with a price this low.

The Rio S sedan or hatchback includes keyless entry, a folding rear seat, and an armrest, and it’s the gateway to the $800 Technology package that adds upgraded infotainment software, automatic emergency braking, adaptive headlights, and a 3.5-inch display in the instrument cluster.

The Rio is backed by a 5-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty plus up to 10 years of powertrain coverage.

Exterior

The 2020 Rio stands out for a small car. Its sharp and purposeful styling elevates it above what’s normally expected for such a car.

The sedan and hatchback have the same wide, pinched grille and a thin line of chrome flanked by big headlights. But from the profile and from the back, the hatchback has a pert and sporty look, compared to the prosaic sedan.

Interior

The cabin is simple and handsome, with a high-mounted 7.0-inch touchscreen and convenient control knobs. Don’t look for leather or expressive interior tones, as the only offering is black or gray cloth upholstery and trim inside.

The comfortable front seats and decent rear-seat room make it viable as a small-family car. Front passengers have supportive seats, while rear passengers have 33.5 inches of leg room, not a big number but it feels like more, thanks to the contoured bench seat.

Even though the hatchback is 13 inches shorter than the sedan, it has about 17 cubic feet of cargo space, compared to 13.7 cubic feet in the sedan. Fold the hatchback’s rear seats and the cargo space expands to a quite useful 32.8 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

We haven’t driven the 2020 Kia Rio with the new powertrain yet, although we have sampled the same engine and transmission in the similar Hyundai Accent.

The engine is new, down 10 hp and 7 lb-ft compared to last year’s model. Our seat time in the Accent revealed reasonable acceleration around town, but less than ample power passing. The engine is reasonably quiet in the Accent.

The Rio’s comfortable ride feels like the ride in a more expensive car. That’s unlikely to change for 2020. With its 15-inch wheels having tires with tall sidewalls, the ride is fairly soft and composed, as those taller sidewalls (compared to tires on 17-inch wheels) absorb some of the shock from bumps.

The handling isn’t exactly thrilling, although the steering is accurate so the Rio is confident on winding roads, and the thick steering wheel adds to the feeling of responsive turn-in.

The rear drum brakes (cheaper than discs) are a place where Kia keeps the price down, but you’d never know they’re drums unless you look at the spec sheets or go out on a winding mountain road and push the Rio to its limit.

Final Word

The 2020 Kia Rio has some very tough competition in this category, but it’s hard to beat. It has distinctive styling, a solid powertrain, good comfort and cargo space, durable cabin materials, an excellent warranty, and last but not least, excellent gas mileage.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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