Attainable new vehicles are hard to come by, especially one that’s fully loaded at less than $25,000. Regardless of the body style, you have exactly five: the Hyundai Venue and Accent, the Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, and our subject of the day, the 2022 Kia Rio. The current generation stands out because it redefines the notion of basic transportation. Yes, it’s inexpensive but this subcompact car offers consumers more than an appliance, especially in hatchback form.
2022 Kia Rio: Simple Living
Refreshed last year, the 2022 Kia Rio sports an updated front fascia and several small tweaks. Unlike the previous generation model, the latest one sports a more subdued design that’s aging nicely. It’s attractive but in a tastefully reserved sense like the Volkswagen Golf. The same theme carries over in the cabin, which features a simple dash layout and user-friendly infotainment controls. A standard 8.0-inch touchscreen features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless connectivity. Like every version of Kia’s user interface, the simplified version in the Rio has no learning curve and it’s a cinch to use. The six-speaker audio won’t win any awards but it’s clear and easy to customize.
Every Rio gets forward collision warning and front automatic emergency braking as standard equipment. Get the Technology package on the S trim and suddenly it also includes pedestrian detection, lane centering, and steering assist. The most impressive part is that these components work with the same level of precision as in pricier Kia models. They gently nudge you back into your lane when you start to drift and help you navigate turns at highway speeds on clearly marked roads. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and Highway Driving Assist are the only features missing. However, adding those may likely push the price up too high, something you don’t want to do with a vehicle in a price-sensitive segment.
The Practical City Car
Although you can get the Rio as a sedan, ignore it unless you can only swing for the base LX trim. The hatchback offers the best balance between city-friendly size and practicality, perfect for city dwellers. Four people fit fine but tall passengers need to go in the front due to the low roofline. There’s plenty of cargo space considering the size and you can easily expand it for bigger items by folding the rear seats. Unfortunately, you don’t get a flat floor due to a ridge elevating the seatbacks. This prevents you can’t simply sliding your stuff in. At least you get lots of storage spaces including a large pocket in the cargo area and a two-level bin below the center stack.
One surprise in the 2022 Rio is the build quality. For a vehicle starting under $20,000, it’s fantastic thanks to strategically placed padding and soft surfaces near areas you touch often. There are hard plastics but they’re not chintzy. The biggest hint that this car is built to a price is the lack of a telescopic steering wheel, limiting the level of adjustability for the driver. Exterior noise is surprisingly well managed, giving you a fairly quiet cabin. Things only get noisy when you accelerate hard because you’ll get excessive engine noise.
Peppy and Efficient
Where the Rio shines brightest is in the driving experience. The powertrain is especially notable because of its efficiency at an EPA-rated 33/41/36 mpg combined. With only 120 hp and 112 lb-ft of torque from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, power is modest. However, when you take the Rio’s 2,765-pound curb weight into account, you’ll find that it’s far from underpowered. Hyundai Motor Group’s CVT automatic is smooth and does a fantastic job making use of the available output. No, it won’t set your heart racing but there’s plenty of usable power on hand. Put the car in Sport mode and its scrappy, energetic character gets amplified thanks to sharper throttle response.
Agile handling complements the peppy powertrain, resulting in a small car that’s up for a good time. Quick turn-ins and minimal body roll give off hot hatch vibes, hinting at the true capabilities of this chassis. Sharp, accurate steering amplifies that because you get lots of feedback and you know what the front wheels are doing. The only things holding the Rio back are its narrow, eco-focused tires. They can’t handle what the chassis dishes out, resulting in them giving up quickly and squealing a lot when you drive a little too enthusiastically. At least the firm brake pedal, minimal front-end dive, and progressive delivery of stopping power give you plenty of confidence during emergencies.
The tradeoff for agility is a slightly stiff ride. Between the firm suspension tuning and short wheelbase, you’ll feel road imperfections when you go over them. Impacts are more pronounced but far from harsh. The narrow tires make the Rio feel like it’s tiptoeing over successive big bumps especially if you go over them at high speeds.
2022 Kia Rio: Ultimate Bargain?
Despite its downsides, the 2022 Kia Rio is a compelling choice for inexpensive commuting, especially against a used car. In typical Kia fashion, you get unbeatable value and so much substance for not much money. Best of all, you’re not simply buying an appliance despite starting at $17,545 and topping out at around $20,000. This car has personality in spades and it doesn’t punish you for wanting to save money or a small car.
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