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CarGurus ReviewThe Good
The 2010 Kia Rio provides solid, reliable transportation at a rock-bottom price with the added security of a 10-year warranty.The Bad
Mediocre performance in safety tests and a lack of overall refinement hold the 2010 Rio back from true small-car greatness.
The CarGurus View
As the smallest and least expensive model in Kia’s already budget-conscious lineup, the 2010 Rio sedan demonstrates how far small cars have come, yet also reminds us of where they still have to go. Subtly freshened for 2010 with new styling up front and some interior feature additions, the Rio continues to offer buyers the security of a brand-new car with a great warranty for the price of a decent used vehicle. While its 5-year old design is wearing thin in spots (especially relative to the newer Toyota, Nissan, and Honda products with which it competes), the Rio still features a modern powertrain and acceptably spacious interior.
At a Glance
Kia’s 2005 revamp of the Rio placed it firmly at the head of the small-car class, offering an all-new chassis with lots of standard safety features. Five years later the Rio still offers a lot of car for the money, especially with Kia’s standard 10-year powertrain warranty.
Offered as both a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback, the Rio rides on a 98.4-inch wheelbase. While not as diminutive as European "supermini" cars, the Rio is still quite tidy by American standards, yet it makes the most of its small dimensions, with adequate (though hardly spacious) room for five. Trunk space is also sufficient for most, with the Rio5 wagon carrying a surprising amount of cargo under its hatch.
For 2010 the Rio gets a fresh grille, bumper, and headlight treatment to bring its visage in line with the new Kia identity that debuted on the Forte model last year. The interior benefits from some new optional niceties, like cruise control and Bluetooth telephone connectivity. Mechanical bits remain unchanged, with a 110-hp inline four-cylinder (I4) carrying over as the sole engine choice. While not quite as sophisticated as some of its competitors, the Rio rides and drives surprisingly well and never feels unduly cheap or tinny.
All Kia Rio trims are powered by a 1.6-liter I4 engine that drives the front wheels. This DOHC powerplant uses variable valve timing to make 110 hp and 107 lb/ft of torque, enough to move the lightweight Rio along smartly. The engine has more than enough refinement for its class and delivers excellent fuel economy.
Two transmissions are offered, a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic. Despite its rubbery feel the stick shift is the best way to maximize the Rio’s performance; the automatic shifts nicely, but saps too much of the small engine’s power. Fuel economy is excellent: Rios deliver 27 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway, even with the automatic gearbox.
Ride & Handling
The 2010 Rio possesses adequate, though certainly not exciting, dynamic qualities. Base trim levels are not available with power steering (parking is a tremendous chore, although at speed the un-boosted rack actually provides good steering feel) and ride on 14-inch wheels with narrow 175-series tires. LX and SX trims get standard power steering and meatier rubber, offering a vastly friendlier driving experience.
With its strut-type front and torsion-bar rear suspension, the Rio offers decent if not cloud-like ride quality. Handling is predictable, and the little Rio slices through tight traffic with aplomb. Braking is handled by discs up front and drums in the rear, with ABS standard on the LX and SX, but not available on Base Rios.
Cabin & Comfort
While it lacks the ultimate packaging efficiency of say, a Honda Fit, the 2010 Rio nonetheless provides a reasonably spacious interior for its size. With 92 cubic feet of interior volume and 34 inches of rear legroom, five can fit adequately, if not comfortably. Trunk space in the sedan is just under 12 cubic feet, while the Rio5 hatchback offers a commodious 15.8, expanding to nearly 50 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Interior design of the Rio is rather nicely executed for a budget car. The dash and steering wheel feature appealing shapes, the materials appear frugal but not overly cheap, and everything fits together nicely. Base Rios are quite stripped; air conditioning isn’t available even as an option. The LX trim offers a split-folding rear seat and optional power goodies, while the up-level SX Rios get unique upholstery and standard Bluetooth phone connectivity.
With standard front, side, and curtain airbags, the Rio provides a reassuring level of protection, at least on paper. In NHTSA crash testing the Rio could have fared better, garnering only four stars for driver protection and managing only three stars for rear side impact protection. ABS brakes are standard on the LX and SX trims, but not available on base Rios.
What Owners Think
Owners of current-generation Rios find many reasons to like it as a commuter car, praising its excellent fuel economy and grown-up driving manners. Value and price were cited as major factors in purchasing the Rio. Complaints center on occasional interior rattles and some concern about the Rio's safety ratings, especially in a side-impact collision.
by Jesse Berger
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