THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Class, superior styling, leading edge telematics, inclusive content.
- What’s Worst: Still some cheap plastics interior trim, dumbed-down braking (disc/drum instead of former four-wheel-discs).
- What’s Interesting: Heated front seats and heated steering wheel come as standard equipment on all models of the 2018 Rio, Kia’s global bestseller.
Value can span the gap between need and desire.
Take the 2018 Kia Rio – bigger, bolder and better quipped for 2018. Yes, the Rio remains Kia’s econo car choice but the included equipment this year adds head-turning items like standard heated seats and even a standard heated steering wheel, normally an extra-charge item that prestige brands are still dinging their customers for.
The all-new fourth-generation 2018 Rio lineup comes in two configurations – Rio 4-door sedan ($14,795-$23,545) and Rio 5-door hatchback ($14,995-$23,745). While some might prefer sedans and their luggage-hiding trunks, the measly $200 premium for the Rio 5-door seems a small price to pay for a hatchback’s added cargo capacity and versatility, extra rear headroom and a sportier style.
All 2018 Rios start with a stretch – a 10 mm longer wheelbase (2,580 mm).
Our as-tested Rio 5-door EX Tech is also 15 mm longer, five mm wider and five mm lower than last year’s model. The body structure uses 32 per cent more Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) reinforcing the floor pan, pillars, engine bay and side sills.
The resulting stronger, lighter cabin “cell” allows for a more compliant suspension, improves rigidity, safety and impact resilience, and is also part of Kia’s wider effort to achieve a five percent reduction in average vehicle weight by 2020.
Designers in Korea, California and Germany combined efforts to create a “more balanced stance”; the longer front overhang emphasized by a longer hoodline, countered in back by a shorter, more vertical rear overhang.
The constraints of trying to get the most out of a limited package size usually seems to default to a kind of bubble-bodied, goby-eyed, goofy styling mantra when it comes to most small econo cars.
But the Rio 5-door’s sleek, straight-lined styling is accented by a thinner, wider evolution of Kia’s “tiger-nose” grille, sharply-sculpted bi-function headlamps with available “U-shaped” LED light signatures and thinner rear lamps, also with available arrow-shaped LEDs among other cues.
Inside, an emphasis on width carries over with lateral dashboard lines and new horizontal vents. The dash is now also angled towards the driver, mounted with a “floating” touch screen, and the centre console features new switches and dials. Red readout illumination at night plays to Kia’s sporty brand flavour.
Our EX Tech tester sits at the top of the Rio food chain so it came loaded with leather, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation on the seven-inch display instead of the base five-inch version, as well as driver-assist techs that culminate with Autonomous Emergency Braking.
The cabin is roomy for its class in passenger space and cargo room. Kia credits the Rio’s size increase for this year’s added rear leg room (850 mm, up from 790 mm) but a shift in seat positioning, subtracting some of that room from the front (1,070 mm, down from 1,112 mm) is also part of the story.
There are storage improvements throughout the cabin and the class-leading 493 litres of cargo room (+68 litres) offers a split-level floor for height positioning and/or hidden storage.
The hatch space expands to a suitcase-swallowing 928 litres with the second row folded. Even the fuel tank has gained two litres (now 45 litres).
Under the hood, the Rio carries over a revised version of last year’s 1.6-litre gasoline direct injection (GDI) four-cylinder engine. The power numbers are actually lower this year, at 130 hp (-7 hp) and 119 lb/ft (-4 lb/ft).
But the torque curve has been stroked for more usable low- to mid-range power, delivered to the front-wheel-drive through a base six-speed manual or, in higher trim levels and tested here, via a six-speed automatic.
Power numbers don’t really do justice to the stable, nimble and surprisingly quiet road manners of the 2018 Rio5 but I’ll finish with another set of important numbers in the econo car class – a fuel econ rating of 8.5/6.4L/100km (city/hwy) and my real world results of 6.7L/100km (comb).
Yeah, I realize I’ve just called this an “econo car” and at $23,745, I’m not sure a loaded EX Tech model qualifies.
I’ve always been ambivalent about luxury versions of entry-level vehicles, especially when you consider that, even within Kia’s lineup, it would be tempting to move up to lesser trims of larger vehicles instead, like, for example, the Forte5 ($19,995-$29,895) or even the Soul ($20,095-$30,095).
But the point is, I guess, that you can get any mix of content and pricing to suit both your needs and desires within the wide offerings of the new and improved 2018 Kia Rio lineup.
And that’s along with plenty of value.
2018 Kia Rio 5-door EX Tech
BODY STYLE: Subcompact five-door hatchback
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 1.6-litre direct injection four-cylinder motor (130 hp, 119 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.5/6.4L/100km (city/hwy); as tested 6.7L/100km (comb).
CARGO: 493 litres, 928 litres with second row folded
PRICE: EX Tech $23,945 includes Radiant Red paint ($200) not including $1,660 destination fee
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