What kind of car is the 2021 Kia Rio? What does it compare to?

The Rio’s a car in the most basic, dutiful sense. It’s a frugal sedan or hatchback with an excellent warranty and good infotainment but it needs to adopt standard automatic emergency braking. Cross-shop it with the Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent.

Is the 2021 Kia Rio a good car?

Review continues below

It drives well enough, and it’s a strong value once equipped with that vital safety technology. We give it a TCC Rating of 5.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Kia Rio?

A slightly refashioned front end joins an upgraded 8.0-touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment. 

The new front end doesn’t change the Rio’s anodyne appeal. It’s handsome in a generic way, with a clean and uncontroversial shape that pairs with like-minded looks inside. 

The Rio performs sans brio. It’s equipped with a 120-hp 4-cylinder and a CVT that would be unlikely to excite any driving passion even in a car weighing hundreds of pounds less. It’s competent and frugal, as it’s meant to be, and the Rio rides and steers well enough to please anyone who tasks it with commuter duty. 

Its 36-mpg combined EPA rating is likely all any shopper needs to justify its purchase, but the Rio has enough space to suit two adults and a couple of short-term, small-stature buddies. Hatchbacks sport far more cargo space, but two or three roll-aboard bags will fit, no matter who’s on board. 

The Rio only comes with automatic emergency braking when configured in the Rio S trim, and after spending more for an optional Technology package. That oversight aside, its outward vision is good, and crash-test scores are acceptable, though not award-winning.

The Rio is more spacious inside than its trim dimensions suggest, especially in Rio 5 hatchback guise for $17,615. Comfortable front seats and decent rear-seat room make it a viable option as a family car, too. Materials are durable, with a nice finish, and the standard cloth upholstery feels like it will stand up well to daily abuse. 

How much does the 2021 Kia Rio cost?

The best reasons to like the Rio are its value. Pass on the $17,045 Rio LX sedan and head directly to the Rio S, which has an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, keyless entry, a fold-down rear seat—and access to the Technology bundle, which includes LED headlights, automatic emergency braking, and active lane control. The 5-year/60,000-mile warranty? That’s standard on every Rio, no matter how much you pay.

Where is the 2021 Kia Rio made?

In South Korea.