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There used to be a time when all a car had to do was just be a car. Its only job was to get from point A to point B without breaking down. Now-a-days, there is so much more to the equation than just being a car. The fourth generation Kia Rio is just that, more package than car.

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When the Kia Rio first hit the market in the early 2000’s, it didn’t have to be a quality product – it was an economy car for the economy class. It served up the job it was built to do at an affordable cost. But now, as the wheels at Kia keep turning to surprise us, the Rio is no longer just an ordinary eco-box with four wheels and an engine.

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Designed here in the United States, the all-new Rio is a handsome little brute carrying a European flair to its bold, yet simplistic design. Having gone a step backwards from the previous generation, that was designed to stand out and make a statement, the new Rio features a humble side to the little touches of attractive design queues. The top trimmed EX, contained here has a starting price of $18,700. The EX styling upgrades the Rio with euro fashionable attributes that works well to its proportions – the 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, and tasteful use of chrome and piano black finish, all enhances the Rio’s curb appeal.

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All three trim levels come with the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine from the last generation. The bit of fine tuning Kia has done shows dramatic improvement over the 130-horsepower powerplant and with the new six-speed automatic transmission, it’s a creamy smooth little champ getting to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds. Kia’s new slogan, “The Power to Surprise” certainly has us amazed over the Rio’s performance. While a six-speed manual is available on the base LX, the six-speed auto does the job just fine shifting through its gears eagerly and smoothly. There is a German quality feel to the chassis with proper road mannerisms and a willingness to take on a little bit of driving aggression – perfect for city defensive driving. The Rio feels much more solid and well composed than before with surprisingly decent feedback from the leather steering wheel, as well as quick stopping brakes from the firm brake pedal.

Following Kia’s trend in interior quality, the Rio executed a well display contrast of amusing materials that provided an attractive space. While our tester wasn’t equipped with the $500 Launch Edition with a red color schemed interior, its simple black cloth seats and silver trimmed panels paired well with our blue exterior.  For as simple as the interior has been laid out, there is a since of 90’s retro-ness with rotary dials for the climate control system that carries a tactile, quality presence to its functionality.

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Even though entry level base LX and S models incorporate a small 5-inch touch screen display, we find that it’s a huge upgrade from what sub-compact cars used to offer. The EX on the other hand features a larger 7-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto connectivity to ensure we’re never out of touch. That also means we’re able to have navigation, hands-free texting, and online radio streaming.

As part of upgrading to the EX, the Rio comes equipped with forward collision autonomous emergency braking. Something that is not quite available on other sub-compacts. The Toyota Yaris being the only one in the segment that comes standard with emergency braking, but only works at low range speeds. All Rio’s will also be equipped with a back-up camera as a standard feature.

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These days, small cars come in big packages. The Rio, while only priced at $18,500 adds up to a valued packed sub-compact car. With comfort for four passengers, easy to fold rear-seats, and over 40 mpg on the highway – the Rio delivers a big car wrapped in a small package.

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Vehicle Specifications:
2018 Kia Rio EX: $18,700
As Tested (including Options & Destination): $19,725
Performance Specs:
1.6-liter Four-Cylinder – 130-Horsepower, 6-Speed Automatic Transmission – 0-60 MPH: ±8.5 seconds
EPA MPG: 28/37/32 (City/Highway/Combined) – SSB Average:  33.7 MPG’s – Fuel Range: ±375 Miles