2020 Kia Rio

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2020 Kia Rio Review: Back To Basics

by Aiden Eksteen

If you're looking for an entry-level subcompact sedan for a first-time driver, then the Kia Rio Sedan is an option that should certainly be on your shortlist. It's simplistic yet contemporary in design, comfortable on the road, reasonably practical, superbly fuel-efficient, and most importantly, exceptionally safe; all traits that make the Rio Sedan an ideal daily driver. Moreover, the Rio Sedan is now equipped with an efficiency-minded 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-pot mill that's coupled to a new continuously variable automatic transmission, making the best use of the front-wheel drivetrain to deliver impressive gas mileage, despite power outputs dropping to 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft for the new year. Competition is tough for the Rio Sedan, despite being part of a segment that seems to be dying, with the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Hyundai Accent all still prevalent in the US.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 8 /10
  • Performance 7 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 9 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 9 /10
  • Reliability 8 /10
  • Safety 9 /10
  • Value For Money 9 /10
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2020 Kia Rio Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Rio?

The new Kia Rio Sedan has undergone a few major alterations for the new model year, the most prominent of these being the Rio's powertrain replacement. For 2020: an all-new Gamma 2 1.6-liter MPI engine takes the place of the previous Gamma 1.6-liter GDI engine, and is now paired to a new CVT automatic gearbox as well, replacing the previous six-speed automatic gearbox. This new powertrain is less powerful than before, but vastly more fuel-efficient. A seven-inch infotainment touchscreen display has been made standard-fit in every Rio model along with full smartphone integration in both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Pros and Cons

  • Pleasant ride quality
  • Agile handling dynamics
  • Simplistic yet stylish interior
  • Industry-leading warranty coverage
  • Exceptional crash-test safety ratings
  • Great gas mileage means the savings last long after purchase
  • Lack of standard driver-assist tech
  • Rear seat is relatively tight
  • Cheap interior materials

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2020 Kia Rio Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
1.6L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
1.6L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
See All 2020 Kia Rio Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Rio Sedan is a relatively lightweight vehicle, which along with its subcompact dimensions make it an ideal city runabout. Though not nearly as athletic as the Toyota Yaris, the Rio Sedan still proves somewhat capable. Body roll is impressively well controlled around corners and tight bends, and while the steering provides only a slight bit of feedback from the front end, it's appropriately weighted and very precise nonetheless. Kia has effectively managed to balance the Rio's impressive handling poise with a decently comfortable ride quality along with a substantial feel. Its solid structure and well-tuned chassis have it soak up most everyday road imperfections and typical undulations reasonably well for such a small car, too.

Verdict: 🏁Is the New 2020 Kia Rio a good car?

Cheap, pleasant, efficient, and stylish - four core values that serve the Rio well in the subcompact segment. The new engine upgrade for 2020 is worthwhile from a running cost perspective, but we're a little sour Kia doesn't offer a manual gearbox as the CVT isn't the most pleasant companion anywhere outside of a traffic jam. However, the rest of the package is great, and with exemplary ride comfort, comfortable and spacious seats, and a fairly large trunk, the Rio has all the makings of a great all-rounder. But the interior feels a little cheap compared to more luxurious competitors like the Toyota Yaris, and there's not much in the way of safety and driver assists. Sure, it picked up an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, but you need the top trim's optional package equipped if you're going to achieve that status. Still, as far as back-to-basics budget runabouts go, the Rio Sedan is one of the best for how much it offers.

Check out other Kia Rio Styles

2020 Kia Rio Comparisons

Hyundai Accent Hyundai
Kia Forte Kia

2020 Kia Rio vs Hyundai Accent

The Hyundai Accent shares its underpinnings with the Kia Rio Sedan, from the powertrain to the chassis. The Accent does, however, have a six-speed manual gearbox option on the base trim, making the base Accent SE more entertaining to drive, even if it does come at the expense of Rio-matching gas mileage estimates. With three trims offered, the Accent starts off several hundred dollars cheaper than the Rio, but it misses out on a fully comprehensive infotainment suite at a base level - score one point to the Kia Rio - although the uppermost trim gets all the Rio's optional safety features as standard - score one to the Accent. The Accent is also a little more staid in its design, both inside and out, sending another point the way of the Kia. The Rio is marginally larger in the trunk department, which scores it another point, but both are equally as spacious inside. As much as we wish the Rio had a manual gearbox, it's a small failing of an otherwise comprehensive package, and while these two Koreans may be very similar, it's the Rio that wins our favor.

See Hyundai Accent Review

2020 Kia Rio vs Kia Forte

For around $2,000 more than the Rio Sedan, one could opt for the compact Kia Forte Sedan. Being a compact sedan, the Forte is a little more commodious on the inside, offering passengers more room to enjoy and hosting a little more cargo in the trunk. The Forte is also equipped with a slightly more powerful engine, which means it will feel peppier than the Rio around town, and a bit more capable on the highway. While significantly more powerful, the Forte's powertrain is only a little less fuel-efficient which is impressive. Moreover, there's an even more powerful 201 hp engine available for the Forte, appealing to those with gasoline running through their veins. In terms of safety, comfort, and convenience, both models provide similar packages overall, but the Forte offers more safety equipment on higher-level trims. If you need more space, more safety, and more performance, the Forte is a better car; but if you only need a cheap A-to-B appliance, the Rio is a more than viable option.

See Kia Forte Review
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