Launched in 2001 with a 96-horserpower four-cylinder, the Kia Rio is one of a handful of cars that has helped guide the brand from obscure and untrusted to a legit alternative to the pricier Japanese brands. As we head into the 2016 model year, the Rio is about midway through its second generation, so Kia saw it fit to give the sedan a light refresh to better match its hatchback counterpart, which showed off its new styling at the 2014 Paris Auto Show.

In 2014, the Rio saw a drop of more than 11 percent in sales, so the Korean automaker needs to pull off a little magic to prevent falling even further. It has no hope of catching the likes of the Fiesta, Sonic or Versa, but it needs to at least maintain its position. Does this refresh have what it takes to stop the bleeding?

Click past the jump to read my full review to find out.

  • 2016 Kia Rio Sedan
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    138 @ 6300
  • Torque @ RPM:
    123 @ 4850
  • Displacement:
    1.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    9.5 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    105 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    14000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Kia Rio Sedan Exterior
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2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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For the 2016 model year, Kia installed new front and rear fascias that give the tiny sedan a lower, wider and sportier look. Up front, Kia installed its thinner “Tiger Nose” grille, pushing the headlights inward a touch, and adding round fog lights with revised surrounds. The lower valance is also changed for 2016, as it is larger and straighter than on the 2015 model, further enhancing the lower-and-wider look Kia was going for.

The backside of the 2016 Rio received a much lighter refresh, as Kia only installed new reflectors that are now closer to the outside of the bumper to help spread the widened look to the rear.

The remainder of the changes on the Rio center around the color palette, as Kia added two new hues: Urban Blue and Digital Yellow.

These changes should help the Rio a little bit in sales, and given the massive slide it had last year, it can certainly use the boost.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 101.2 Inches
Length 172.0 Inches
Width 67.7 Inches
Height 57.3 Inches
Track, front/rear 59.8/60.0 Inches
Overhang, front/rear 32.1/38.8 Inches
Minimum ground clearance 5.5 Inches
Approach angle / Departure angle (degree) 13

Side-by-side comparison

2016 Kia Rio Sedan
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Interior

2016 Kia Rio Sedan Interior
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2016 Kia Rio Sedan Interior
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2016 Kia Rio Sedan Interior
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Kia spread the changes to the inside too in 2016, one of which was the installation of more high-density foam in the A- and B-pillars to help reduce NVH. I test-drove a Rio during my search for a new car – I settled on the Forte 5 only due to its size – and I found the 2014 Rio pretty darn quiet, so I can only imagine that this change will make it even better.

Moving on, Kia also installed premium touch materials to help give the cabin a slightly higher-grade feel than before. The model-wide changes to the cabin also include new satin-finish bezels around the air vents, and a piano-black center console.

On EX models there is also a new Designer Package available that gives the cabin a two-tone color scheme, with black cloth seats with leatherette trim and grey stitching.

As standard on the LX (base model) trim, the Rio comes with air conditioning, electric power steering, a six-way manual driver’s seat, SiriusXM capabilities, a USB port, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, hill-start assist, and more. The midrange EX adds power windows, cruise with steering wheel-mounted controls, keyless entry, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The SX receives steering column-mounted paddle shifters, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, backup camera, the Supervision meter, an upgraded-for-2016 navigation system, push-button start, leather seating, and a standard power sunroof.

Interior Dimensions

Head room, front/rear 40.0/37.6 Inches
Leg room, front/rear 43.8/31.1 Inches
Shoulder room, front/rear 53.1/52.1 Inches
Hip room front/rear 52.1/51.2 Inches
Passage volume 88.4 (cu. ft.)
Cargo volume (rear seat up) 13.7 (cu. ft.)

Drivetrain

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Under its hood, the 2016 Kia Rio carries on with the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine it had in 2015. This spritely little four-pot puts down 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 123 pound-feet of torque at 4,850. The engine hooks up to a six-speed manual transmission as standard that then transfers the power to the front wheels. Kia doesn’t mention the six-speed automatic as being an option in the sedan, but I am pretty certain it is.

The fuel economy numbers are not official yet, but given the drivetrain is the same, I expect the 2016 Rio to retain the 2015 model’s numbers. That would put it at 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined, regardless of which transmission it has.

Drivetrain Specifications

Type 1.6L in-line 4 cylinder, Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI), aluminum block and head
Displacement (cc) 1,591 cc
Bore x stroke (mm) 77 x 85.44
Compression ratio 11.0:1
Horsepower (SAE net) 138 HP @ 6,300 RPM
Torque (SAE net) 123 LB-FT @ 4,850 RPM
Valve System 16 valve DOHC with Mechanical Lash Adjuster
Injection system Natually Aspirated
Fuel System Direct Fuel Injection

Prices

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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The 2016 Rio isn’t due out until later in the first quarter of 2015, so pricing is still unknown. Given this update includes higher-grade materials, expect a mild price hike. The 2015 Rio based at $13,990, while its EX trim checked in at $16,990, and the SX trim started at $18,090. I expect hikes of around $500 across the board.

Pricing Details

2016 Kia Rio LX TBA
2016 Kia Rio EX TBA
2016 Kia Rio SX TBA

Competition

Ford Fiesta Sedan

2014 Ford Fiesta High Resolution Exterior
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The Fiesta is one of the leaders in its class, year in and year out, though it did slide a little in 2014. In its sedan format, the Fiesta, in my opinion, is a sportier-looking rig than the Rio. However, the Rio’s new look definitely reels the Ford in a bit.

In the powertrain department, the Fiesta has one more option than the Rio. Standard under its hood is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque, but an optional engine is a 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder that produces 123 horses and 125 pound feet of twist. Both engines are overpowered by the Rio’s 1.6-liter, but the standard drivetrain can keep pace with the Rio to 60 mph while the 1.0-liter beats it by half a second.

The real shining star of the Fiesta is its fuel economy, as the 1.6 liter matches the Rio at 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, and the 1.0-liter crushes it at 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway.

The Fiesta’s pricing starts from $13,965, putting it about on par with the Rio, and it stretches all the way to $17,915 for the range-topping Titanium trim.

Chevrolet Sonic Sedan

2014 Chevrolet Sonic High Resolution Exterior
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The Sonic is another powerhouse in the subcompact segment, though you’ll likely see more hatchbacks than sedans. Regardless, its looks are quite unusual, with the dual round headlights with exposed surrounds, and low-lying grille.

Under the Sonic’s hood in its LS and LT trims is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that churns out 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. The engine powering the sportier LTZ and RS models is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that develops the same 138 horsepower, but ups its off-the-line jump with 148 pound-feet of torque. The lower trim levels come standard with a five-speed manual transmission and have an optional six-speed auto. The LTZ and RS models get a standard six-speed manual or an optional six-cog auto.

The Sonic LS and LT are decent but not great in the fuel economy department, topping out at only 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. In the LTZ and RS models, fuel economy gets a nice hike to 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway with the manual.

In terms of pricing, the 2015 Sonic Sedan starts at $14,245 and ranges to $18,235 for the LTZ.

Conclusion

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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The Rio has fallen into a bit of a sales pit here recently, and Kia needed something to help liven things up a bit. With this restyle, that model gets a slightly sportier look that may help. However, with better-looking cars like the Sonic and Fiesta, and a stalwart like the Versa leading the pack, it’ll be an uphill battle between now and the model’s full overhaul. Maybe the Rio needs a peppier turbocharged version to help bring a little more recognition to the nameplate and possibly boost sales a bit.

  • Leave it
    • Same old engine
    • With sales sliding, will this be enough of a refresh?
    • Priced about the same as better-recognized models

Press Release

Chicago’s gleaming skyline and indie rock music were the backdrops today as Kia Motors America (KMA) pulled the wraps off the 2016 Rio Sedan at the Chicago Auto Show. Making its global debut alongside the previously introduced Rio 5-Door (Paris, 2014), these two modern and dynamic subcompacts are the entry points into KMA’s ever-expanding lineup of award-winning cars and CUVs. Refreshed inside and out for the 2016 model year, the pair offer sporty European design cues and generous interior accommodations while providing fuel efficiency. Both Sedan and 5-Door are expected to go on sale in the first quarter.

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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“The Rio signifies everything the Kia brand has evolved into since coming to the U.S. market more than 20 years ago,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning. “And like the brand, the Rio has grown up as it enters the 2016 model year. Its sophisticated design has been refreshed and both models continue to offer a long list of standard features, making the Sedan and 5-Door standouts in an otherwise pedestrian subcompact segment.”

Most visible of the Rio’s updates are the new-for-2016 front and rear fascias. Designed to add visual width and stronger presence, the revised grille insert incorporates the now-familiar geometric pattern found on other Kia vehicles such as Optima and Soul. New fog light surrounds include strong horizontal satin-finish bezels that house projector lenses. The lights have been repositioned inward for a more aggressive appearance. Likewise, the lower front valance integrates strong horizontal planes that echo a similar treatment at the rear. The rear reflectors have been redesigned and repositioned to the far corners of the car, and the Rio’s color palette has been enhanced with two new colors: Urban Blue and Digital Yellow.

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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Inside, the enhancements continue with the increased use of high-density foam in the A- and B-pillars for reduced NVH, new technology features, premium touch points and available two-tone Designer Package (EX only). Subtle changes include satin-finish bezels around the air vents, and a new piano black center console surround wraps the audio system and ancillary controls. The EX Designer Package includes unique black cloth with gray leatherette trim with gray stitching. Gray padded door panel inserts, unique gray stitching on steering wheel, center console armrest and shifter boot all contribute to a sporty, premium-feeling interior.

Both models continue to be offered in three trim levels: LX, EX and the top-line SX. Standard equipment on LX includes rear disc brakes, air conditioning, electric power steering, six-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, SiriusXM®2 satellite radio, USB and auxiliary audio jacks, steering wheel mounted audio controls3, Electronic Stability Control (ESC)4, Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)4 and Hill-start Assist Control (HAC)4. The popular LX Power Package continues to be available with power windows and door locks, along with keyless entry. The stand-alone option of a six-speed automatic transmission (standard on Rio 5-Door) also includes Active eco system and Bluetooth®5 wireless technology.

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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Stepping up to the EX adds appealing standard features such as power windows with driver’s one-touch auto-up/down control, cruise control with steering-wheel mounted controls, remote keyless entry with trunk release and a tilt/telescope steering column. Two new option packages are available on EX: Appearance and Designer, while the continuing Eco Package now includes Kia’s updated UVO eServices Telematics system with integrated backup camera display6.

The range-topping SX adds a dash of sportiness to Kia’s entry-level Sedan and 5-Door models. Standard amenities build upon the EX and include a sport tuned suspension highlighted by 17-inch alloy wheels and 11-inch ventilated front disc brakes, steering column-mounted paddle shifters and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Rear backup camera display, Supervision meter cluster, an upgraded navigation7 system with new interface and improved graphics with Sirius® XM Traffic, pushbutton start, leather seating surfaces with front seat heaters and a power sunroof are all standard.

2016 Kia Rio Sedan High Resolution Exterior
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The 2016 Rio continues to be powered by an efficient 1.6-liter normally aspirated inline-four cylinder engine routing 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 123 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,850 rpm to the front wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the sedan while a six-speed automatic is standard on the 5-Door. The six-speed manual is no longer offered in the Rio 5-Door.

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