Consumers are on the neverending journey of finding decent cars that are safe, reliable, and comfortable without spending piles of cash. As we know, that can be pretty hard to do. It’s easy to find cheap cars. It’s easy to find reliable and comfortable cars. However, it can be tough to find a car that is all three. That being said, we have a pair of contenders who are weighing in. In the blue corner, the 2020 Toyota Yaris, and in the red corner, the 2020 Kia Rio. *ding*
MotorTrend ranked the two cars at the top of the list of “Best Subcompact Sedans.” They ranked so closely, in fact, that only 0.1 out of 10 separates the two models. Economy sedans like this tend to play each other close in a race to unending discomfort and joylessness. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
Round 1: The Kia Rio is lean
The base model Toyota Yaris, the LE hatchback, starts at $17,750 while the base model Kia Rio LX slides under at $15,850. The top-trim Kia Rio still comes under the price of the base model of Yaris. If you spring for the fully-loaded Toyota Yaris XLE, you are looking at another $1,000 for a total of $18,750. Round one goes to Kio Rio. *ding ding ding*
Round 2: The Kia Rio is looking good
This is where it gets a little more complicated, and out two competitors start trading blows. All versions of the Kia Rio have a 1.6-liter inline-four cylinder engine making a modest 120 hp. However, the more expensive Toyota Yaris has a similar 1.5-liter inline-four cylinder making only 102 hp regardless of trim level. Both cars are only available in front-wheel drive. But hold that bell.
Although the 2020 Kia Rio is cheaper and has more power, it has a two-speed automatic continuously variable transmission. This has to be the least exciting transmission on planet earth. Smooth, maybe? But a two-speed CVT is utterly devoid of anything resembling joy. The Toyota Yaris lands a jab with its six-speed manual transmission. The higher-level trim has an automatic transmission. The Yaris is in no way sporty, but at least you can pretend with a manual gearbox. It’s not a haymaker, but it’s something. *ding ding ding*
Round 3: The Toyota Yaris swings heavy
Even though the Kia Rio has a bigger, more powerful engine, the fuel economy still surpasses the Toyota Yaris, not by much, but it counts. The 2020 Kia Rio gets 36 combined mpg compared to the 2020 Toyota Yaris’ 35 combined mpg.
The Yaris slightly starts to make up for its higher price in the features department by offering standard cruise control, adjustable steering wheel, and illuminated mirrors. I know it’s the ritz, but cruise control is nice. The Kia Rio, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any cruise control at all.
Although it’s not very well-equipped, the tester at MotorTrend says the 2020 Kia Rio might be cheap, but it doesn’t feel like it. Materials inside aren’t premium, but they don’t seem like bargain bin bits either. Both cars have a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that can display Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Only the Kia Rio specifically states that Bluetooth is included.
Although both cars are inexpensive, they both did very well in the IIHS tests. Both did well in the crash test, although the Yaris got negative marks on the headlight placement. The Kia also rated poorly on the standard headlights, but the LED headlights scored better. *ding ding ding ding ding*
The winner is…
MotorTrend named the 2020 Kia Rio the best subcompact sedan, and the 2020 Yaris came in a very close second. Both cars are inexpensive, reasonably comfortable, and reliable. The Kia’s price being a couple of thousand dollars cheaper than the Yaris put it over the edge.