The supply of subcompact hatchbacks is drying up rapidly, and it's either a Mitsubishi Mirage or the Kia Rio5 we review here if you're in the market for one. The Honda Fit and Chevrolet's Spark and Sonic are all gone now, so we're down to a grand total of two. If you cast your net a bit wider to include subcompact sedans, the Nissan Versa and Mirage G4 also come into play. These are the cheapest cars available in the USA, all retailing for comfortably less than $20k. Don't expect upper-crust conveyance at this level because cheap is the name of the game, and cheerful is not always on the menu. For what it is, the Rio5 is better than most and certainly a far better car than the frankly dismal Mirage. It continues on with an uncertain future for 2023, so there's a single trim in the range. With 120 horsepower and a CVT, there are no fireworks when you put your foot down, but it's on par with the Versa, and at least excellent fuel economy is a given. So at a low $17k starting price, is a new Kia Rio5 hatchback the default choice in this class?
There is but a single change to the 2023 Rio5, and that is the addition of an oil-level sensor, so the car will notify you if you need to top up on engine oil. Other than that, it's business as usual for 2023, except for a small price increase.
With its $17,690 MSRP, the 2023 Kia Rio5's price is up only $300 over last year's model, so it's still very affordable. This is for the sole S trim, and although it's more expensive than the $16,245 Mitsubishi Mirage ES, it's excellent value, considering the Mirage is smaller and packs only 78 hp. Keep in mind that the destination fee is not included in the Rio5's price and will cost you an additional $1,125.
See trim levels and configurations:
1.6L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
If you expected dull and dreary basic transportation, the Rio5 might surprise you with its well-balanced chassis. It's more fun to pilot than you might imagine, with responsive handling, well-weighted steering, and a keenness to play, even though its grip limits aren't high. There isn't much feel or feedback to the steering, but it's precise nonetheless. The suspension doesn't prioritize either handling or ride comfort over the other and strikes a good balance, with plenty of compliance built in to handle undulations with commendable ease for a light car. There are drum brakes in the rear, but stopping power is more than adequate for shopping transport. Rear discs can be optioned on at extra cost as part of a package. There isn't much power on tap, and the CVT can send the engine buzzing when you step on it, but it's still comfortably the quickest among its major rivals and will get to 60 in under nine seconds.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The Rio5 is the best subcompact hatchback on the market - granted, there are only two players in the segment. Still, it comprehensively outguns the disappointing Mitsubishi Mirage. It does more than enough to hold its own against sedans such as the Mirage G4 and Nissan Versa too, beating the latter on the fun-to-drive scale and performing better as well. Its excellent warranty coverage is the cherry on top.
There is only one S trim in the 2023 Kia Rio5 lineup, so it depends on how you spec it. We would definitely add the $1,800 S Technology package with its 15-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with auto high beams, rear disc brakes, automatic climate control, and a suite of driver assists that includes lane-keep and -following assist, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, and driver-attention warning. Even with all of this, the total price remains under $20,000 before destination.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Kia Rio5: