Kara Essay

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Fourth-generation Kia Rio rolls out.

Demand for small cars is down, but don’t tell that to Kia Motors. The Korean automaker is well entrenched in the segment, offering both the subcompact Rio and the compact Forte.

The Kia Rio rolled out in 2001 and we’ve seen it grow since, although it remains Kia’s smallest and least expensive model, slotting beneath the Forte. Kia has always offered a Rio sedan; early on you could also choose a small wagon, but that body style was soon replaced by a five-door hatchback.

For 2018, the fourth-generation Kia Rio arrives, offering a fresh take in a segment desperately needing something new. Indeed, as automakers continue to build more SUVs, entry-level models see few updates or manufacturers may abandon
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Even then, tall passengers may find rear legroom wanting.

After spending many hours behind the wheel of the Rio, I can say that seat comfort is adequate at best. Happily, I avoided the back pain similar cars have given me, so there is that attribute. Kudos to Kia for supplying the Rio sedan with such a large trunk — 13.7 cubic feet, although I think the utility of the hatchback would suit most people.

You’ll find soft-touch materials, plastic surfaces and brightwork trim throughout the Rio’s cabin. Texturized surfaces provide a pleasing appearance — I like what automakers such as Kia have done to give extra attention to their smallest models. Low cost shouldn’t mean cheap.

Standard equipment includes cloth seats; a red accent leather package option is on the EX grade. The top trim also has a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. All models have air conditioning and locking doors. Power windows, cruise control, and a center console with a sliding armrest and storage area are in the S and EX models.

Safety Highlights

If there is an inherent weakness with the Kia Rio, it has been the compact’s safety scores. The previous generation model received top scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in three categories: moderate overlap front, roof strength, and head restraints & seats. In side testing, the Rio picked up an acceptable score; in small overlap front testing the score was marginal.

We’re expecting scores to
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