weather icon Partly Cloudy

Kia Rio 5-Door: Keeping it simple

In automobiles as in life, sometimes the simplest things are the best fit for one’s needs, rather than larger and costlier choices. The 2018 Rio 5-Door hatchback exemplifies this philosophy.

Although dimensionally positioned in the heart of the subcompact bracket, the Rio 5-Door is in no way a bottom-feeder model. The hatchback is larger overall than most direct competitors, such as the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic and Toyota Yaris. The Kia is not that tall, however, so it takes a back seat to the interior space of the Nissan Versa Note and class-leading Honda Fit.

Compared to the 2017 model, the 2018 Rio 5-Door is slightly larger and rides on a completely new platform that has been significantly stiffened for improved ride and driving qualities, as well as for safety. The suspension has been redesigned to improve ride quality while maintaining composure during cornering.

The 2018 5-Door looks about the same as before, even though the front end is more aggressively styled with a larger air intake below the grille. The rear roof pillar has been squared off, which should help the entry and exit process for rear passengers.

Overall, the 5-Door displays a mature appearance that shares nothing with the kiddie-car shapes of previous-generation models.

The interior design is also more grown up, with its clean, straightforward dashboard that shouldn’t require memorizing the owner’s manual to master. The touch screen and climate controls are also easy to use.

There’s a reasonable amount of rear legroom for adults, and the load space with the rear seat folded forward will swallow lots of gear. (An enlarged hatch opening helps.) But for class-leading stowage capacity, the Honda Fit remains unchallenged.

The 5-Door’s drivetrain is an interesting conundrum. The 1.6-liter “Gamma” engine is rated at 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque, which is slightly less than the previous 130/123 rating. Despite this, Kia claims that the engine now has better low- and midrange acceleration and is also more fuel-efficient.

At 29 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway, it’s a one-mpg improvement in the city and highway numbers. Most drivers aren’t likely to notice.

As before, the engine can be matched with a six-speed manual transmission or available six-speed automatic.

The Rio 5-Door is commendably comfortable in city driving, and the manual gearbox is smooth shifting. The automatic also works well except for some slight hesitation when accelerating hard from a dead stop.

This Kia really shines on the highway, where the suspension works well, soaking up all but the nastiest of rough stuff while keeping the car securely planted in the turns. The fact that the 2018 5-Door is about 150 pounds heavier doesn’t seem to hurt the fun-to-drive quotient one bit.

Starting prices haven’t been set, but somewhere in the $15,500 range (including destination charges) for the base LX trim seems about right. That gets you a car with air conditioning, a 5-inch display and the usual power features.

The midrange S trim adds a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, center console, keyless entry and additional steering-wheel-mounted controls.

The top-end EX has alloy wheels (in place of wheel covers), fancier interior and exterior trim, a 7-inch touch screen and automatic emergency braking. Optional with the EX are leather seat coverings, a power sunroof and a navigation system. There are no additional dynamic safety aids such as lane-departure warning/intervention or pedestrian detection.

Still, in the basic-transport field, the Rio 5-Door stacks up as a good-looking, semi-sporty driver’s car with room for plenty of gear. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Lake Las Vegas hosts Drive 25 on Saturday

Hundreds of vehicles will be on display at Lake Las Vegas on Saturday as part of the Drive 25 car and golf showcase.

Cadillac Through the Years to be held Sunday at Town Square

The 14th annual Cadillac Through the Years car show will be Sunday at Town Square Las Vegas, and the event promises to be another blockbuster show featuring 117 years of Cadillac design and performance.

MuscleCars at The Strip returns to Speedway

One of the most celebrated aspects of Americana is the muscle car, an iconic example of the power of Detroit iron. Muscle car culture and drag racing are once again on display Friday through Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the return of MuscleCars at The Strip.

New truck sales are booming

Southern Nevada has endless opportunities for pickup truck drivers in a region that offers everything from the desert to the mountains. And whether a vehicle has two-wheel drive, front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, trucks are fast becoming the choice of young adults, millennials and baby boomers.

Motor Trend show to be held this weekend

The Motor Trend International Auto Show returns to Las Vegas this weekend, bringing more than 350 of the latest automobile models from nearly 20 top manufacturers.

Green Car Factory showcases technology at SEMA

A Las Vegas company is drawing on technology popular in Europe to change the way car and truck owners service their vehicle’s engines.

Valley car dealers host AARP safe driving series

Summer has always been the deadliest time of year for driving, and those older than 65 have a much higher incidence of fatal injury per annual miles driven.

Ducati to auction custom Scrambler motorcycle for charity

On Saturday, a custom Scrambler build will cross the auction block at Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction at the South Point, with full proceeds going to Shriners Hospital for Children. The one-of-a-kind motorcycle was customized as part of Ducati’s Maverick program by prolific celebrity tattoo artist Grime.

Mecum Motorcycle Auction returns to South Point

Following the success of the inaugural summer Mecum Las Vegas Vintage Motorcycle Auction last June, which achieved $4.4 million in sales with an 80 percent sell-through rate, Mecum will again return to the South Point this Friday and Saturday with an estimated 600 vintage and collectible motorcycles on offer.