Why the 2016 Rio Needs to be More Than a Fuel Efficient Car

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The reception for the upcoming 2016 Kia Rio is pretty consistent across the board. Many were hoping to be impressed by something beyond the eye-popping fuel economy numbers, and it appears like the brand delivered.

Just take a look at what two of the bigger review sites had to say about the Rio’s non-fuel-efficiency specs and features:

Edmunds: “[The Rio] might still win you over with its inviting cabin, strong engine performance and excellent value.”

Car and Driver: “The Rio is a stylish, well-equipped and fuel-efficient sedan or five-door hatchback…Build quality is top-notch though, plus the refined interior and lots of standard and available convenience features make the Rio a good value.”

Those are pretty positive remarks, and neither (really) mentioned the fuel economy. This is of utmost importance to the brand, as a variety of circumstances have led to fuel economy generally being deemphasized.

Before you go shopping for a 2016 Kia Rio, see what the company is doing to buck the trend of the sedan being regarded as “fuel efficient” vehicle…

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As John Voelcker of TheCarConnection.com writes, it’s essential for Kia to establish the Rio as more than just a fuel efficient vehicle. There are two rather big obstacles standing in the company’s way: declining gas prices and improved competition. As a result, the Rio has to stand out in different, more innovative ways.

While he was seeking some changes, Voelcker was happy that the stylists generally retained the same recognizable design of the Rio. He describes both the four-door and five-door sedan as having “tidy dimensions and rakish bodies,” and he commended the engineers for “avoiding the odd tall-truck look of competitors like the Ford Fiesta.” He notes that the five-door sedan certainly has some swagger, and he believes the minor front end redesign allows the sedan to better resemble some of the brand’s other vehicles, like the Soul and Optima. While the Rio may not have previously been regarded as a stylish or eye-catching vehicle, it’s clear that the company certainly wanted to make the exterior a bit more luxurious.

The interior has also been updated to convey more of a “premium feel,” although Voelcker notes that there are still several “throwback details,” like the outdated toggle switches for the climate control system. Potential buyers could opt for a large touchscreen display, which will allow drivers to access a navigation system, radio, a number of applications, and even their phone’s basic capabilities (like text and phone calls).

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The writer also noted the sizable interior room and comfortable seats, recognizing that the bottom cushions were generally longer than those in rival vehicles. While you ordinarily wouldn’t write home about 15 cubic feet of cargo space, that’s actually a mighty impressive number for a hatchback (the sedan offers 13.7 cubic feet of room).

Other interior additions include “satin-finish bezels” surrounding the air vents and a “piano-black center console” accompanied by “ancillary controls” and a bumping audio system. Of course, similar to many vehicles you see on the market today, the engineers included the much-appreciated noise-reducing technology. That means your engine will never overpower your radio’s audio, and the noise-suppressing foam will present you with one of the quietest rides on the market.

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You can’t expect top-of-the-class power from the Rio’s engine, but you can rely on the unit for being dependable and reliable. The 1.6-liter motor can pump out 138 horsepower, and when coupled with the six-speed manual gearbox (or optional six-speed automatic), you still get a fairly enjoyable driving experience. Voelcker writes that the sedan handles “remarkably well for a small, inexpensive economy car,” and he was appreciative of the “basic strut and torsion-beam suspension,” as well as the short wheelbase.

Of course, the most impressive part of the vehicle is the fuel economy, which comes in at 31 combined miles per gallon. The Eco model actually includes an innovative stop-start function, which could help preserve your fuel when you’re in stop-and-go traffic.

The Rio received relatively positive safety scores. Despite earning “only” a four-star rating on the federal crash test, the vehicle still earned commendable ratings for the side-impact tests. While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety only referred to the side-impact score as “acceptable” and front crash test as “marginal,” the Rio still holds up well against the competition. Voelcker recommends that customers add the option hill-start assist and rearview camera, a pair of essential safety features that will likely be standard in the coming years.

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With an upgrade to the hatchback model, customers will receive “15-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, tilt steering, steering-wheel audio controls, and split-folding rear seatbacks,” all impressive and important add-ons. The Rio EX, which is the vehicle’s middle trim level, includes even more, like “cruise control with steering-wheel mounted controls, power windows with driver’s one-touch auto-up/down control, remote keyless entry with trunk release and a tilt/telescope steering column.” The top-of-the-line Rio SX will present buyers with a variety of exclusive features, including “17-inch wheels, sport suspension tuning, larger front brakes, power-folding heated side mirrors, fog lamps, and LED taillamp and headlamp accents; options on the SX include a navigation system (that replaces the UVO system), pushbutton start, leather seats, heated front seats, and a sunroof.”

There are two packages available for the EX trim. The Eco Package offers the start-stop system with an updated UVO telematics system (which includes the backup camera), while the Appearance and Designer Package offers “two-tone interior treatment featuring black cloth with gray leatherette trim and gray contrast stitching.” As you can see, you can’t really go wrong with any of the three trim levels.

The price may be the best part of the vehicle, as even the top-of-the-line SX trim comes in around only $20,755. The standard version only costs around $14,000, with the LX ($15,395) and EX ($17,755) following.