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2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

2013 Kia Rio Sedan - FROM $13,600

The 2013 Kia Rio is one of our top picks in the subcompact segment.

2013  Kia Rio Sedan

What's New for 2013

For 2013 the Kia Rio EX can now be equipped with automatic stop/start technology for improved fuel efficiency around town. The Rio SX gets standard steering wheel paddle shifters for the automatic transmission.

Introduction

These days it seems as if cars are being radically transformed from woefully forgettable to wowie class leaders all the time. Most of these transformations, however, come attached to a name change to ensure that no residual bad taste is left in the mouths of potential buyers. Nevertheless, the 2013 Kia Rio bucks this trend, standing proud with a name previously associated with one of the cheapest and crummiest cars on the road (not to mention Brazil and Duran Duran).

Since its redesign last year, the Rio has become one of the best subcompact cars you can buy. It starts with the car's styling, which is not only timelessly handsome but also manages to avoid the awkward proportions associated with other tiny sedans. Tiny is a relative term, however, as full-size adults can still fit comfortably in all the outboard positions of the Rio's four-door sedan or hatchback body. Plus, with its high-mounted dash, reasonably quiet cabin and composed ride, the Rio feels much bigger than it is when you are behind the wheel.

This Kia can also seem more expensive than it really is. While the LX trim is rather bare bones, the EX and SX step things up with higher-quality cabin materials and near-luxury levels of equipment. Every time we've driven a Rio, we've been amazed when the window sticker shows a price lower than $20,000.

Yet the Rio is not alone when it comes to radically improved subcompact cars. The Hyundai Accent is mechanically related to the Rio and offers similar value, but differs in equipment availability and styling. The Chevy Sonic is one of the more fun-to-drive subcompacts, especially with its turbocharged engine that still achieves standout fuel economy. The Ford Fiesta may not have replaced a forgettable Ford, but its sophisticated balance of ride and handling helps make it another of our top choices. The Honda Fit is also worth a look if you prioritize interior space and versatility.

Quite frankly, never have subcompact cars been so genuinely desirable. As the 2013 Kia Rio proves, just because a car is small doesn't mean you have to sacrifice equipment, style or the ability to cart around three friends. We just hope people don't pass it over because of its unfortunate predecessors.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2013 Kia Rio is a subcompact car available as a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback. Trim levels are LX, EX and SX.

The base LX comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a trip computer, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The LX Power package adds power windows, power locks and keyless entry.

The EX trim level includes the above equipment and adds to it cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, a sliding front armrest, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system. The EX Convenience package adds 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, power-folding mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, map lights, upgraded interior materials, a rearview camera, a small touchscreen interface and the Uvo voice-activated media player interface. To that package the EX Eco package includes automatic stop/start, which shuts the car down when stopped to save fuel.

The SX trim level includes the EX Convenience package items, plus 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, LED running lights and taillights, dual exhaust tips and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The SX Premium package adds a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, real-time traffic and a larger touchscreen interface.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2013 Kia Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the LX, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional on the LX and standard on the other trims. The EX Eco package adds the fuel-saving automatic stop/start technology.

In Edmunds testing, the Kia Rio SX went from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds, which is about a second quicker than the class average.

Fuel economy estimates stand at 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined for the automatic. The EX Eco package for the automatic bumps the estimates to 30/36/32, while the manual rates 29/37/32.

Safety

Every 2013 Kia Rio comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is available.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Rio SX came to a stop from 60 mph in just 119 feet, which is better than average. In government crash testing, the Rio received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for frontal protection and five stars for side protection.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Kia Rio's cabin boasts a restrained yet stylish design that evokes German cars. The materials quality is nothing special in the base LX, but the added soft-touch surfaces, armrest cushioning and tasteful metallic accents found in the upper trims make the Rio's cabin one of the finest in the subcompact segment. We highly encourage you to go that extra mile to get an EX or SX, especially since they come with a truly impressive amount of equipment.

The climate and audio controls are easy to use, while the available Uvo voice-activated electronics interface is another nice bonus. Although we've found its voice recognition abilities aren't quite to the level of Ford's Sync, its accompanying touchscreen interfaces are more user-friendly than the buttons and screens found in Ford's Fiesta and Focus.

The Rio also scores in the areas of space and comfort. Even tall drivers should be comfortable behind the available tilt-and-telescoping wheel, while the backseat offers a competitive amount of space. Count this as another subcompact that doesn't feel all that subcompact. When it comes time to carry cargo as well as passengers, the sedan has a generous 13.7-cubic-foot trunk. For maximum stuff-hauling potential, though, you'll want to consider the hatchback, which measures about 50 cubic feet with the seats down. That's less than a Honda Fit, but more than a Ford Fiesta.

Driving Impressions

As we've only driven the SX, these impressions pertain mostly to that trim. With its firmer suspension tuning, the 2013 Kia Rio SX is a good choice for those who like feeling connected to the car but still want a comfortable ride. You may even have some fun behind the wheel, but it's not really that sporty and doesn't quite have that sophisticated blend of sharp handling and controlled ride like the Chevy Sonic or Ford Fiesta. Still, the Rio feels surprisingly grown up for such a small car, and regardless of trim, you won't feel Lilliputian in a Gulliver world when cruising down the freeway.

Given that midsize family sedans are now approaching 300 hp, it's hard to get excited about the 138-hp Kia Rio. Even so, its direct-injected four-cylinder is one of the more robust in its class and delivers impressive acceleration for a subcompact. It can get a bit noisy, and while the engines of other subcompacts make a noticeable amount of noise, the timbre of the Rio's is particularly thrashy. More importantly, Edmunds testing has found that the Rio's real-world fuel economy isn't as good as its EPA estimates.