Shouldn’t basic transportation have some fun as well?
Every new model year, automakers not only launch redesigned models and facelifts of existing ones but also revised trim package offerings. What didn't sell the previous model year is not always likely to come back for the next. It's basic economics. It doesn't matter which segment vehicles are in or how much they cost; all that matters is what makes or doesn't make money.
According to Cars Direct, the 2019 Kia Rio, one of the better all-around vehicles for basic transportation, is set to lose one of its better, more driver-focused features: the six-speed manual transmission. In fact, Kia is heavily revising the '19 Rio trim lineup, as only two trims will be available: LX and S. The cheapest trim for 2018, LX, won't return and neither will its manual gearbox.
Previously, buyers had three Rio trims to choose from, LX, S, and EX, for both the four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. The upcoming model year will this reduced to only three possible configurations: LX sedan, S sedan, and S hatchback. Kia has reportedly explained to its dealerships the decision was made in order better focus on the value-minded Rio S and to keep the LX as a lower-volume trim.
Not surprisingly, it's the S trims for 2019 that are set to receive a 7-inch touchscreen with UVO Play and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, and a backup camera. Instead of the previously offered six-speed manual, all new Rios will come equipped with a six-speed automatic instead.
Aside from being a bit more fun to drive, manual-equipped Rios, believe it or not, had identical fuel economy ratings when compared to the slushbox, an EPA-rated 32 mpg. Considering the take rate for the manuals was also likely lower, Kia's reasoning makes sense. And because the manual Rio is a goner, prices have slightly increased.
The 2019 Kia Rio LX sedan begins at $16,195, including destination. That's $1,400 more than last year's cheapest Rio. Then again, if it's compared to 2018's automatic-equipped counterpart, the price difference falls to $310. The 2019 Rio S sedan starts at $16,995 while the S hatchback kicks off at $17,295. To compare, both prices are the same as last year.
So, what's left on the market for bargain shoppers who want a cheap new car with a manual? Try the five-speed manual-equipped Nissan Versa, priced from $13,255.