2018 Kia Rio 5-door EX – Roadblazing DHS Budget Small Car Review

(Contributing Editor: George Straton)

Recently Roadblazing.com / “ChicagoNow Drive…He Said” reviewed a new 2018 Hyundai Accent sedan assessing it a much improved and high value Budget Small Car.

As esteemed an entry new vehicle that the 2018 Hyundai Accent is, it bowed with a minor caveat of disappointment. For the first time, the new Accent is not being offered as a hatchback here in the U.S.

Instead, Hyundai has ceded 5-door liftgate versatility to the sibling Kia brand. See the 2018 Kia Stinger.

The last generation Kia Rio SX 5-door hatchback had dreams of Pocket Rocket. Remember those stunning 17″ alloy wheels bound in 205/45 series rubber and the aluminum clad driver’s pedals?

A redesigned 2018 Kia Rio EX 5-door trades away most of that previous aspirational sporty focus for more practicality and strides in refinement.

Must Haves:

Low M.S.R.P:

from $15,095 for base trim w/ 6-speed manual to $19,595 for a loaded 2018 Kia Rio 5-door EX (omitting the $500 Launch Edition Package). That = a reasonable $300 upcharge from the 4-door sedan. The 2018 Kia Rio EX is priced $180 less than the top trim Hyundai Accent Limited sedan, though missing some key Accent Limited features.

Low transaction price:

Check Kia.com & Kia dealers for their extensive purchase, finance incentives.

Caveat: Kia does not yet offer a program analogous to Hyundai’s Shopper Assurance 

However, in our experience, reputable new car dealers may allow prospective purchasers to rent a service loaner vehicle for extended test drive purposes.

Sufficient capacity, Versatile use of space:

2018 Kia Rio 5 door EX: Lower cargo floor + perpendicular liftgate = 16% under-hatch cargo space > previous generation

Front buckets suit wide range of body types, though cushions are on short side; Forward & side visibility are usable; Cargo parcel shelf partially impedes rear visibility; Crisp white on black dial gauges include TFT trip data display, Finger friendly switches, pleasing to wind rotary dials; Front door / Rear door pocket storage = Good / Meh.

2018 Kia Rio 5 door EX: cockpit is airy, instrumentation highly legible, control layout logically placed

For Comparison’s Sake: 2018 Kia Rio 5-door vs. 2012 Kia Rio 5-door passenger volume, rear legroom & under hatch cargo volume = +2% , +2.4″-inches, +16% respectively.

Above average fuel economy, without hybrids or diesel power:

33 miles per gallon in combined driving, 450 mile highway range on 87 octane unleaded fuel.

Adequate highway on-ramp merge acceleration

Surprisingly un-taxed acceleration off line; Manumatic down-shifts are delayed;

Acceptable ride/ handling

The top 2018 Rio trim available stateside is stuck with 185 mm all-season tires on 15″ wheels; Mission accomplished when it comes to compliant urban cruising;  Faster responding steering improves higher speed agility; The 4-wheel disc brake equipped EX pedal feel is urban agreeable.

Fitted & Finished:

2018 Kia Rio 5 door EX: driver’s entry

Hard, though tight grained, plastics abound; EX Launch Edition trim seating and door armrests = split leather, peculiar embossed & low on aroma; Liftgate closes with low effort; Engine sound distantly muted from cabin; 30% torsional rigidity > 2017 Kia Rio, but some cold weather panel creak detected;

Low maintenance costs and good warranty

10 year / 100,000 miles powertrain (diminishing to 5 yr. / 60k on resale); 5 year / 60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranties

Styling that isn’t too radical

2018 Kia Rio 5 door EX: Comes of age with decisively more mature profile, practicality and driving characteristics

A more upright silhouette and vertical liftgate project an airy cabin and grant increased cargo space;  Headlights are swept back farther; bow-tie black grille extends wider; An assertively prominent lower fascia chin gains corner intakes for assertiveness;

Power windows (driver’s full express: SX, EX), door locks, automatically shifting transmission (opt. LX), air conditioning;

Also standard: Dual vanity sun-visors, (illuminated on S and up); Tilt (LX, S) + telescoping steering wheel (EX); Front and rear overhead map lights;

Good safety feature set & ratings:

9 airbags (incl. driver’s & front pax knee), Rear view camera w/ park guidance grid (S, EX); Automatic lights;

IIHS: Not [yet] Rated; cousin 2018 Hyundai Accent = IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus.

2018 Kia Rio 5 door EX: rear camera with predictive grid lines

Prefer to Have & Make Life Easier Behind the Wheel:

Bluetooth handsfree phone & audio connectivity (S, EX)

Cruise control (S, EX)

Touch infotainment display: 5″-inch touch LCD display FM/AM Audio with CD/ Aux (LX,S)

7″ semi-dash top mounted UVO 3-pane touch LCD screen, 6-speaker audio Android Auto / Apple Car Play with voice recognition Bluetooth (EX)

USB x 1 ports, (2nd USB port 2nd Row – S and up), 12V x 1 power ports

Front overhead console retracting sunglasses caddy (S, EX)

Nice To Have But Can Live Without:

Rear disc brakes (EX)

Cabin comfort: Leather seats and cabin trim (EX Launch Pkg.)

Power extras: Switch-blade type keyless entry (S, EX)

Driver assist technology:

(EX only): Forward Collision Warning, City Collision Avoidance braking

Wish It Had But Doesn’t:

-1: 2018 Kia Rio EX lacks cousin Hyundai Accent Limited’s keyless entry/ start, automatic climate control, heated front seats, blind spot & rear cross traffic warning.

Which to Skip, Which to Pick:

One’s must pay to play as in Android Auto/ Apple Car Play on the EX exclusive 7.0″ inch UVO pod infotainment screen; $500 for leather seating without heating in front?? It’s nice that the base LX features a 6-speed manual transaxle, but it isn’t so nice that it lacks cruise control and Bluetooth hands-free communication;

SMART BUY = the mid-tier S model with many of the EX conveniences.

Buying Tips:

1) When possible, locate an outgoing model year vehicle. They come with greater manufacturer sale and lease incentives.

2) Do Your Homework.” Scour manufacturer websites for “Rebates“, “Incentives” or “Special Offers.”

3) Be flexible on options and colors. Be willing to consider what other consumers might readily pass on.


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