Ace of Base: 2017 Kia Rio LX

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
ace of base 2017 kia rio lx

Yesterday, we learned the Kia badge might not be good enough for Stingers in its home country. Around here, the slinky sedan will still carry the nameplate, despite the brand’s humble beginnings.

Twenty years ago, Kia made a name for itself on these shores hawking bargain-basement priced entry-level cars, many of which quickly returned to the earth in the form of iron oxide. Today, Kia’s smallest offering has since gone to finishing school, earning a major in Economics.

Kia toned down the Rio’s atomic-egg styling compared to 2016, but the car still has a distinctive face and a strong character line running down its flank. The LX is equipped with 15-inch wheels taken from a grand piano; at least the 185 section rubber won’t break the bank at replacement time. Slathering the Rio in snazzy Signal Red paint is a no cost option. Choose the black cloth seats for maximum durability.

The Rio’s 138-horsepower 1.6-liter inline four is par for the course in this segment and unlikely to set any loins afire, but it’s nearly double the stock output of the ancient, wretched econobox I had the misfortune of piloting in the ‘90s. It’s also just seven horses short of the new-for-’82 V8 Camaro. Viewed through that lens, and considering most of the Camaro’s horses were — even when new — quite ill and on their way to the glue factory, 2017 is a great time to be alive.

Base model Rio’s make do with teacup-sized brakes, but at least they’re discs at all four corners, something which cannot be said for even a few larger players in the market. (Here’s lookin’ at you, 2017 Toyota Corolla). A sextet of airbags keep things pillowy in a crash, while all manner of stability controls attempt to keep the crash from happening in the first place. Hill start assist helps prevent new drivers from rolling back and centre-punching the car behind them.

Korean automakers have always been known for packing in more value than an all-you-can-eat buffet, and the 2017 Rio LX is no different. For $14,165, buyers will find heated side mirrors, fog lights instead of cheap black plastic, satellite radio, and air conditioning. It’s worth noting that satellite radio is not available on the larger Civic in Canada until you reach the much more pricey Touring trim. Americans will find it on the mid-range EX. That Kia sees fit to toss it into the base model of their smallest car pleases me to no end.

Sure, there’s no soft-touch dash at this price, and some of the plastics are colder than a Kristen Stewart smile, but cars like this represent a great value for the money considering the misery we had to endure at this end of the spectrum not all too many years ago. Plus, it’s new car warranty stretches coverage well into the next decade. The Rio might not be sexy or a designer-grade good, but it does make for a pretty good Ace of Base.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown in American trim, priced in Freedom Dollars, and is absent of an $895 destination fee. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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2 of 25 comments
  • Rod Panhard Rod Panhard on Mar 29, 2017

    I rented a Kia Rio last Fall for a weekend. I put about 1,000 miles on it in mostly highway driving, but there was about 100 miles of around town and secondary roads as well. Overall, I thought one could do worse. The dashboard was pleasant to look at, and all the right buttons and knobs fell to hand easily. The seats were comfortable for the long haul, and for an econobox sedan, I thought it was reasonably quiet. The ride was fine too. I've rented other economy cars for long hauls and at the end of the trip, had difficulty going to sleep from persistent motion perception. That did not happen in the Kia Rio. Really, my biggest complaint about this very affordable and tasteful economy car was fuel economy. At 65 mph, it was fine. But above 70 mph, it guzzled gas like my 1993 Miata does on the highway in a stiff headwind. So the solution is to keep it to legal speeds, and you'll get 340 miles out of a tank of gas. Take it above those speeds, and you'll be stopping at less than 300 miles. So much for saving time, right? Would I buy one? Yeah, I'd consider it. I think you'd have to see what's immediately available in low-mileage used cars that are a notch up on the food chain. But if nothing is immediately available and you need wheels ASAP, I think you could do a LOT worse than the Kia Rio.

  • Bph78660 Bph78660 on Mar 30, 2017

    The all new gen4 Kia Rio is currently making the auto show circuit and looks like a winner. It's supposed to go on sale in the US later this year in both sedan and hatch versions. I suspect this will be a much better choice than the current gen3.

  • MrIcky I would like to compare the answers here against the answers in the recent civil forfeiture article- but I won't because research is hard. It's true though that currently a ticket has no punitive value on those with means and maybe an outsized punitive value on those without. That's not communism, that's just the way it is. Speeding tickets are too arbitrary anyway though: officer discretion, speed trap towns, excessively low speed zones in areas to increase ticket revenue instead of safety, etc. I could clearly see a case where expensive cars are selectively enforced over cheap cars because you only have so much time in a day to up the revenue. It's a gray rainy crap morning and I'm sure the government will do it wrong.
  • 28-Cars-Later Feels a bit high but then again... forget it Jake, its Clown World.In 2021 someone in Sewickley had an MY01 soft top in a manual with 54K otc which I am fairly certain was a 996 and not a Boxster - $20K. I already had my C70 at the shop being reborn and could have done the $20K but it would have been tight and just didn't make sense. Still...
  • SCE to AUX Q: Should Speeding Fines Be Based on Income?A: Yes. Rich people (the guy with $1 more than you) should pay less, because giving his income to the government means he has to lay off a worker at his business.Laws are for poor people./s
  • SCE to AUX "Volvo has suggested it’s capable of yielding 275 miles of range"Every non-US car's range estimate is based on WLTP - worth mentioning.EPA range never 'backs up' WLTP; it's always about 15% lower - so figure maybe 234 miles. Not great, except as a commuter.As for the interior - it's obviously a Model 3 clone, but the screen is substantially smaller. Incidentally, I suspect Tesla made the Model 3/Y interior so minimalist to save money - not just to be different. When you're trying to become profitable on EVs, every dollar counts.
  • Dukeisduke I know it really isn't, but the central display looks like it's being held by one of those cheap spring-loaded mobile phone mounts. Poor interior design.