2016 Kia Rio5 Review


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2016 Kia Rio5 Overview

Mildly updated for 2016, the Kia Rio5 hatchback subcompact offers a versatile and well-designed interior, as well as peppy performance and an overall sporty nature, all of which draw positive comments from reviewers and owners alike. Displaying sleek lines and an aggressive stance, the Rio5 has established itself as one of the better budget cars available on the market today, and the incremental updates for 2016 make it more attractive and an overall better value.

To give it a slightly flashier appearance, Kia tweaked the Rio5's exterior design for 2016, giving it a revised front end with a new fascia, repositioned headlights, and new foglight surrounds. In addition, the Rio5 gets a new geometric grille insert, which mimics those found on the Optima and the Soul, creating a unified design element across the automaker's vehicles. The headlights have been moved inward for a more aggressive appearance, and the lower front valance provides a more horizontal line that's echoed in the rear. The foglights now feature satin-finish bezels, which help to refine the exterior look.

Kia updated the rear fascia as well and redesigned and repositioned the rear reflectors. In addition, the Rio5 comes in new Urban Blue and Digital Yellow exterior flavors for 2016. The rear spoiler remains, a holdover from previous years, along with heated power exterior mirrors and a rear wiper and washer. The sporty upper-level SX trim also includes LED taillights, dual exhaust tips, and power folding mirrors with integrated turn signals. In addition, both the SX and the mid-level EX trims come with front fog lights. While not trendsetting, the exterior updates should keep the Rio5 looking fresh for the next couple of years and help it stay relevant in a competitive market segment.

Interior updates are again minor but help to improve an already well-reviewed cabin. A new two-tone Designer Package for the EX trim leads the way for 2016. It features unique black cloth upholstery with gray leatherette trim, gray padded door-panel inserts, and gray stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and shifter. All trims, including the entry-level LX and the upper-level SX, get new satin-finish bezels around the air vents and additional high-density foam in the A and B pillars, which helps reduce cabin noise and vibration. The EX and SX trims also receive a new piano-black center console surround for 2016.

Reviewers suggest prospective Rio5 buyers should stick to either the EX or SX trims, since the lower-end LX comes sparely equipped inside, lacking such standard features as power windows, power door locks, cruise control, and a center console. It does, however, include air conditioning, a 4-speaker audio system with satellite radio, an auxiliary input jack, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

The EX adds a 6-speaker audio system, steering-wheel-mounted cruise control, dual LED map lights, and premium knit cloth upholstery as standard features. The SX trim remains the best-equipped of the bunch, with such features as leather upholstery, heated front seats, a navigation system, a 7-inch touchscreen display, a rear camera, push-button start with a smart key, and HD Radio. Adding to the SX's sporty feel are aluminum pedals and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, while a power sunroof with tilt offers an open-air driving experience.

Most passengers should find plenty of headroom and legroom in the subcompact Rio5, although headroom might be tight for taller passengers in the rear. Most reviewers and owners give the cabin good overall marks, finding it comfortable and relatively roomy for a subcompact. The Rio5 hatchback also offers fairly generous cargo space. With the 60/40-split rear seat up and in place, cargo space checks in at 15 cubic feet, which expands to 49.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. The rear seats fold flat, making for a level cargo floor.

Kia leaves the Rio5's powerplant unchanged for 2016. The subcompact's naturally aspirated 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque and couples to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Kia does not offer the hatchback with a manual transmission for 2016. The 4-cylinder engine provides good acceleration, although it doesn't quite match competitors like the Ford Fiesta in the performance category. However, it's more than adequate for its class. The EPA estimates fuel economy numbers at a relatively decent 27 mpg city/37 highway/31 combined.

The front-wheel-drive Rio5 rides on MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar in the front and a coupled torsion beam axle with gas shock absorbers in the back. The configuration delivers a stable ride and responsive, well-balanced steering, especially over long distances. For a more spirited ride, the SX gets a sport-tuned suspension, which provides good handling, although some reviewers find the ride too stiff for long-distance comfort. The LX and EX both ride on 15-inch wheels, while the SX continues to come equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels.

Kia outfits the Rio5 with all the expected safety features, including 6 airbags, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, and hill start assist control. The NHTSA gave the Rio5 an overall safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars, while the IIHS awarded it a Good rating for front and rear crash tests, and an Acceptable rating for side-impact crashes. In addition to the Ford Fiesta, competitors to the Rio5 include the Honda Civic, Mazda3, Chevy Cruze, and Hyundai Accent.


Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.

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