2021 Kia Rio delivers more than small package would indicate Featured

Posted On Sunday, 25 July 2021 04:24 Written by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)
The Kia Rio gets a new look for 2021, and remains a strong small car option The Kia Rio gets a new look for 2021, and remains a strong small car option Photo courtesy of Kia

As vehicles get larger and larger, fewer subcompact cars remain in the marketplace.

But they are not extinct yet.

While automakers have mainly given up on them, your options include the Hyundai Accent, Chevy Spark, Nissan Versa, and the car I recently tested — the 2021 Kia Rio.

Most recently redesigned back in 2018, the 2021 version of the Rio features some upgrades, including new styling on the front and rear portions of the vehicle, and an improved infotainment system with wireless phone connectivity.


The 2021 Rio comes in both sedan and hatchback styles, and I tested a hatchback.

The exterior design of the Rio gets some upgrades for 2021, particularly in the front grille and headlights area, where the new design is quite sharp. The Rio also features LED headlights.

Inside, the 2021 Rio offers plenty of space up front, but the rear will be a bit tight for any adult, and should be reserved for the little ones in a best-case scenario. That type of space limitation is what you have to expect in a subcompact vehicle, which isn’t known as much of a people mover and is more often used as a cost-friendly commuter vehicle.

Similarly, cargo space isn't a strong suit on the Rio. The rear seats fold 60/40 to increase storage options, which is helpful.

As far as quality of the interior, the Rio offers a simple yet elegant cabin, well designed controls. It’s far from fancy, but at the same time doesn’t feel cheap. Steering-wheel mounted controls for audio and other features were well-placed. 


The 2021 Kia Rio features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, and can only claim 120 horsepower and 112 lb.-ft. of torque. It is a FWD-only vehicle.

All in all, with such low numbers, I experienced a better ride from this little guy than I had expected. Don’t expect too much (it's serviceable, not speedy), but use of Sport mode did a good job of enhancing the experience behind the wheel.

Don’t expect any major speed from a stop, though. The 0-to-60 time is over 8 seconds. But once you’re moving, this is a better ride than it should be and handling impresses. 


Physical controls of the tech setup in the Rio are simple in look and feel for radio and climate, but they do the job well and are easy to master. 

Oddly, voice controls were only offered via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Strange, but the good news in that statement is that the Rio is compatible with these systems for wireless mirroring of your cell phone in the vehicle. A new 8-inch infotainment touchscreen debuts for 2021, with rear camera and dynamic guidelines, a nice feature for this price point.

The vehicle also features a USB Multimedia Port, a USB Charger Port, Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music and phone calls, keyless entry and cruise control.

In terms of safety, you get the usual brevy of airbags throughout the vehicle, LATCH system for child seats, anti-lock brake system, traction control system and electronic stability control.

There are a few strong safety features on the 2021 Rio, but not a ton.

A Tire Pressure Monitoring System is included and will warn you when air is needed. And the optional Technology Package will get you most of the other available safety features, including:
— Forward Collision-Avoidance w/ Pedestrian Detection 

— Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)

— Lane Following Assist (LFA)

— Driver Attention Warning (DAW)

— Rear Occupant Alert

Official fuel mileage numbers on the 2021 Kia Rio are listed at 36 MPG average (33 city/41 highway). In my real-world testing, I got a solid 35 mpg in the Rio.

These are solid numbers in a segment where strong fuel mileage is essential, so Kia has lived up to the standard of the subcompact segment with the Rio.

Quite frankly, you can't beat the price on the 2021 Rio. My test vehicle was just over $20,000; and the base price starts about $16K. This is slightly more expensive than some subcompact rivals, but the Rio is also a better vehicle, so that makes sense.

Warranties are among the best in the business:

— 10 Year/100,000 Mile Limited Powertrain Warranty 

— 5 Year/60,000 Mile Limited Basic Warranty

— 5 Year/60,000 Mile Roadside Assistance



The 2021 Kia Rio delivers more than you would assume based on the price, and what you get is more than what you see.

It is a strong, affordable subcompact offering for those who want to save, don’t need a larger vehicle and aren’t focused on power. 


AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Kia Rio 
  • Price as tested: $20,200 (starts around $16K) 
  • Best feature: Fuel economy, affordability  
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars  
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Buyers seeking a small-car bargain and strong fuel economy  
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

Search Reviews by Make

AutoTechReviews  is your home for In-depth reviews of the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs; information on all the emerging vehicle technology; and breaking news from the world of NASCAR and other motorsports.