Entry Price: $16,490
Price as Tested: $18,345
This week centers on the 2019 Kia Rio S, the sporty subcompact introduced in 2018 as an all-new generation model. Along with subcompact and corporate cousin Hyundai Accent, reviewed two weeks ago, these little cars deliver economically priced solid transportation while arriving in good looking body styles.
Notably, Kia is now joined at the hip as a corporate partner with fellow Korean based Hyundai, the latter which now controls 33 percent of Kia’s worldwide operations. Their abilities in motor vehicle manufacturing (after a very shaky start 35 years ago) culminates this year with a Motor Trend Magazine 2019 “Car of the Year” award for the Genesis G70, the all-new luxury sport compact that we hope to drive soon.
Hyundai launched Genesis Motors two years ago and we gave excellent reviews to the G80 and G90 models we’ve driven. And, although Kia is not officially involved in the Genesis Motors evolution, much of the car’s success can be attributed to the merging of the best of Hyundai and Kia design and the sharing of engineering input. Noted is the fact that Kia now builds the new Hyundai Accent at the same modern plant in Pesqueri, Mexico, where the Rio is assembled.
Now, back to the Rio S.
Available in either four-door sedan or five-door hatchback models, the big change for 2019 centers on the Rio hatch now arriving in just one trim instead of three. Last year, the entry LX did not offer enhanced safety features and still had crank windows. This year, the sole S model offers all of the powers (windows, etc.) as standard and much better safety features. The eliminated top line EX offered enhanced safety, but the 2019 Kia S offers the same features thanks to an extra cost tech/safety option.
Rio’s drivetrain is exactly the same as last year although gone is the manual transmission that came with the outgoing LX. All Rios now come with six-speed automatic transmissions and a good dose of improved interior features. Kia Rio now features as standard fare Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth hands-free, and other tools for operating your Rio in today’s high tech motor vehicle culture.
Power for Kia Rio comes via a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that generates 130 horsepower and 119 lb. ft. of torque. It’s not a powerhouse by any means, but with Rio’s lighter weight it feels fairly peppy at low RPMs. The EPA estimates are solid at 28 city and 37 highway, which is several MPG better than the last generation.
The top option available on the S is the aforementioned $800 Technology Package that adds LED Headlights, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assistance, Forward Collision Warning, LED Positioning Lights, UVO e-Services with a 7-inch Touch-Screen Display, SiriusXM Satellite, and a 3.5-inch display Supervision Meter Cluster. I highly recommend this option as for $800 you receive the latest in high tech safety and infotainment. Our Rio also included a $130 carpet floor mat package which brought the final bottom line to $18,345 with $925 delivery included.
Although smaller in wheelbase length, once you settle in behind the wheel you’ll be surprised of how spacious the Rio cabin feels. It’s also lower to the ground than the previous generation (ended in 2017) and a bit wider, too. When it comes to the new, upscale and more pleasing exterior design, Kia designers can take a bow as it is indeed one of the better looking of the subcompact bunch.
The cabin features comfortable stitched dark cloth seating, nice dashboard and gauges, USB charging ports, power windows and outside mirrors, keyless entry, center console and much more.
On the highway, expect Rio to ride comfortably while rear seat passengers will enjoy more rear legroom than the previous generation Rio. When it comes to country road handling, you’ll enjoy improved operation thanks to the upgraded strut front with gas shocks and stabilizer bar that mates to a rear torsion beam setup. Rio also features all-season 15-inch tires on alloy wheels and ABS four wheel brakes with discs up front and drums in the rear. Consumers can feel confident that each and every Rio has the modern safety features, from the important traction controls to all the expected air bags.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 101.6 inches, 2,714 lb. curb weight, 17.4 to 32.8 cu. ft of cargo space, 33.5 ft. turn circle, 5.5 inch ground clearance, and an 11.9 gallon fuel tank.
If you want to step up in both safety and amenities, make sure you add the Tech Package to make your Rio S a safer all-around vehicle. Add in the standard 10-year, 100,000-mile limited drive train warranty, and you’ve got a winner sitting in your driveway for less than $20,000.
Remember Kia offers incentives on both new and leftover Kia models, so ask your dealer what discounts are available as it’s always a good time to buy a car when the New Year begins. (ie: All dealers want to get off to a fast start).
Likes: Low price, handling, cargo room, enhanced safety now standard.
Dislikes: Could use more power, drum rear brakes, road noise.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive: 2019 Kia Rio S Hatchback
Entry Price: $16,490