Small, affordable hatchbacks are pretty popular sellers in Québec, and Europe. It's a segment that has plenty of competition from all around the world, with the Japanese, Koreans, and Americans all offering something. This week we've got the latest subcompact from South Korea, the 2018 Kia Rio 5 EX Sport, and it's all-new for this model year. Subcompacts are popular for their price, practicality, and fuel efficiency, and we think all 3 are solid features of this little blue hatchback.
As a larger guy I sometimes worry about the space inside of these small cars, we've driven a few like the Mitsubishi Mirage and Ford Fiesta that felt cramped, even when it wasn't me driving it, but that's not the case with the Kia Rio. We found the interior space to be quite good considering it's small size, in fact we actually preferred the amount of seating space and legroom on this over the 2018 Subaru Impreza Sport we featured last week. Even with the smaller dimensions we found there to be more room overall including rear cargo space.
Since we haven't featured any of the direct competition on TestDrive so far, it's hard for us to show the differences with this car in comparison with the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, or Hyundai Accent, but we have compared their specs to see if anything stands out. Some manufacturers like Honda and Toyota offer basic enhanced safety technology like blind spot monitoring, active cruise control, and forward collision mitigation, but that's about it. The Kia Rio can get autonomous emergency braking with the Tech trim, but that's it.
And that isn't necessarily an issue. I know we made a point with the Chevrolet Cruze about halogen headlights, and the Rio 5 has them as well. These are projector based fixed headlamps with halogen filaments for both the low beams, high beams, and fog lights. Normally we'd complain, and the performance is absolutely terrible, however no other manufacturer offers LED lights on their subcompact vehicles, so while the halogen technology in our option is dated and awful, it's what you get in this segment so we can't knock points on Kia for it.
In terms of the rest of the vehicle, the $22,245.00 MSRP gives you 17" sport rims, LED brake lights, and that gorgeous blue colour. The hatchback form factor is very functional and looks great. There's a backup camera where the hatch release is, and that's about it when it comes to the exterior.
Inside we find a very functional interior, offering a large 8" infotainment screen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Jumping up to the EX Tech trim would add navigation but we prefer using our phones anyway. We really like Kia's infotainment system, it's very responsive when using the touch screen interface, and switching between USB audio tracks was quicker than we've experienced on other vehicles. The quality of the screen bezel is also very good, having durable materials used in it's construction, and the placement makes more sense than sticking it on the top of the dashboard.
One thing we're very impressed with, are the heated front seats and heated steering wheel. Buyers looking at the absolute base model Kia Rio will get those two features included, which is a major plus for Québec buyers since our winters are cold, but also incredibly beneficial for most of Canada given the climate. Having a heated steering wheel at around $16,000.00 is fantastic, and something that makes us like this little Kia even more.
As mentioned earlier, we found the interior space to be very good for it's segment. Seating is comfortable with the cloth seats, and if you jump up to the Tech trim you'll also get leather. This car isn't trying to compete outside of it's segment, it know's is an affordable car, so other luxuries won't be found here, like a leather dashboard or dual zone climate control, however the single zone automatic climate worked well for us.
Performance and fuel efficiency is also important for buyers, considering most of us need to travel by highway to get back and forth to work or school. The 1.6L 130 horsepower engine is comparable in specs to other subcompact vehicles. You aren't going to be setting any lap records at the Nürburgring with this hatchback, but we didn't find any fault with it getting on to the highways. Yes, you have to floor it, but you'll be doing that with any subcompact (except for the Ford Fiesta RS).
Overall this is a charming little car with plenty to offer those looking at an affordable new car. It has the basic creature comforts you need, like heated front seat and steering wheel, air conditioning, and a very good infotainment system. Space is decent overall and it's performance is on-par with other subcompact vehicles. We think this all-new Kia Rio is great, and certainly will compete well with the competition.
You can watch the full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2018 Kia Rio 5 EX Sport below: