Kia has grown from producing smaller compact sedans and hatches to introducing stylish models at affordable rates. While Honda and Toyota may have cornered the market in terms of reliability and reasonable pricing, Kia seeks to compete with these automotive giants by offering their own blend of affordability, efficiency, and style.

Also offering several SUV and minivan models, Kia has turned around their early image and continues to bring their brand closer to the cutting edge. The 2018 Kia Rio is just one tiny example of that shift towards styling and accessories that customers are looking for.

Performance Specifications

Only one engine option comes standard on all 2018 Kia Rio models. The 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder comes with 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. Transmissions can either be bought as a six-speed automatic or manual, and models can either be purchased as a sedan or hatchback. Front-wheel drive is the only configuration available on the 2018 Rio.

The 2018 Kia Rio can be purchased in the following colors, each available on one or more of the trim levels listed further down:

  • Currant Red
  • Clear White
  • Silky Silver
  • Deep Sea Blue
  • Smoke Blue
  • Phantom Gray
  • Aurora Black
  • Ice Wine

Fuel Efficiency

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) rates the 2018 Kia Rio second in its class for fuel economy. At a rating of 29 city and 37 highway EPA-estimated mpg for the manual transmission and 28 city and 37 highway mpg for the automatic, it’s easy to see why this tiny sedan/hatch gets top marks for fuel use. Especially considering the 2018 Kia Rio is not offered in a hybrid powertrain option.

Bascar / Shutterstock

Entertainment and Safety Features

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the 2018 Kia Rio four out of five stars, according to KBB. While only the EX trim level offers autonomous emergency braking and a forward collision warning system, those features come standard on a car that costs less than $20,000.

Both the sedan and hatch versions of the 2018 Kia Rio can be purchased in one of three available trim levels.

The base LX trim is only available in clear white, silky silver, and aurora black. This trim level starts out at $13,900 and comes with 15-inch wheels, a five-inch touchscreen, and SiriusXM standard. Other features include steering-wheel-mounted audio buttons and cloth seats. LX trim models come standard with a six-speed manual, but the automatic version is optional for those who aren’t stick-inclined.

The S trim level adds currant red, ice wine, and deep-sea blue to the color options. Starting at around $16,000, the S trim comes standard with a six-speed automatic, power heated mirrors, 15-inch wheels, and a five-inch touchscreen. Cloth seats are surrounded by six speakers with front tweeters, cruise control, power windows, remote keyless entry with alarm and trunk buttons, a rear-camera display, and Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free.

EX trim models offer advanced safety features like autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning. Customers will also receive smoke blue and phantom gray as color options. Features for this trim level include front fog lights, a six-speed automatic, 15-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen, and a telescoping steering column. Topping this model off are the embossed cloth seats, and leather steering wheel and shifter knob. EX trim models start at $18,400.

Hatch versions do start out at a bit of a higher price than sedan versions do, at $14,200 for the LX model and topping out at $18,700 for the EX trim. So, for $300 more, you could be sprinting around in a hatch if that better fits your style.

How the 2018 Kia Rio Compares to the Competition

Edmunds is quick to notice that this new Rio model is less powerful than last year’s in terms of numbers. Experts spoke with representatives from Kia, who explained that while there is less power, this allows the Rio to be stronger at lower engine speeds. Unless you’re a racer, this might not make much sense, but think of it in terms of pushing the gas from a standstill at a stoplight. The all-new Rio can accelerate faster off the line, while the old Rio powertrain wouldn’t have been able to do the same thing.

Whether that means anything to you as a customer really depends on your style, but what most prospective buyers can agree on is the great fuel efficiency offered on the 2018 Rio. KBB also sings praises about the “generous serving of tech-savvy features” available on this new model. In fact, experts at KBB love the fact that this subcompact comes with features most other marques would charge a higher price for. And the warranty Kia offers is great insurance as well.

Consumer Reports experts weren’t as thrilled about the Rio, noting it had a stiff ride and loud cabin. And as you might have guessed, they weren’t enthused about the engine’s lack of power either. All the same, when you compare it to the other models in the segment, there are a lot more positives than there are negatives.

For example, the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit are top-dogs of the hot hatches. Toyota offers a ton of safety features, like Honda, but both have different personalities and offerings. What might cost you over $20,000 from either of their marques will only cost you about $18,000 from Kia. In fact, Edmunds recommends the EX trim level because it is such a good buy for the number of features you’re able to get.

Suzuki, Mazda, and the dying brand Scion also offer models in this segment, along with the Hyundai Accent. Most customers might find the build quality and value of the former manufacturers leaving much to be desired, but Hyundai presents itself as a strong competitor as well. If you’re looking for a middle-of-the-road option, consider both Kia and Hyundai.


  • Long standard safety features list
  • Affordable
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Best warranty in segment


  • Lack of engine acceleration
  • No hybrid option
  • Less power than past models

Though the 2018 Kia Rio might not be a super-speedy FIAT or cruise around as fast as a MINI Cooper in The Italian Job, Kia has certainly come a long way since the first generation of the nameplate. A strong safety and fuel efficiency rating make the Rio a favorite among penny-pinchers, and recent style updates may end up attracting future owners who would have passed it up in the past. Test drive the new 2018 Kia Rio today and decide if you approve.

Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock

Rebecca Henderson has a Master's in German and a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. She alternates her time between writing and working on a variety of motorized projects. Most recently, she and her boyfriend have been building a custom drift trike. Rebecca believes that language, love, and a life worth living are only the first ingredients to happiness.