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A blue 2021 kia rio s

The 2021 Kia Rio Missed the Mark According to Consumer Reports

The 2021 Kia lineup is overall well-ranked and recommended when it comes to reviews from Consumer Reports, but a few vehicles, like the affordable subcompact 2021 Kia Rio, missed the mark in some major areas. Regardless, for a buyer looking for simplicity and something basic, the 2021 Kia Rio has at least that to offer.

In the past several years, the Kia brand has moved its way up the ranks and into the public favor. With vehicles growing in popularity like the sporty Kia Stinger and the capable Kia Telluride, it is easier to forget about the less popular models, like the 2021 Kia Rio. While there are plenty of things to love about the Kia Rio, like its more than affordable price point for a brand new subcompact vehicle, it doesn’t quite hit the mark for reviewers like Consumer Reports.

The Kia Display booth at the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibit
Kia booth | VCG, Getty Images

The overall scoring of the 2021 Kia Rio according to Consumer Reports

When it comes to scoring breakdowns, there is one overall score that depicts how Consumer Reports feels each vehicle ranks based on several factors. With this score, buyers can directly compare the rankings of different cars within the same segment. For the 2021 Kia Rio, the overall score was a rather abysmal score of 55 out of 100, scoring it at the bottom of the list as #4 out of the 6 tested vehicles.

The vehicle itself is rather simple, and with an MSRP of just $17,045, it is pretty much what you would expect. Under the hood of every Rio is a 120 hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a CVT transmission. All Rios come with front-wheel drive, with no option for rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

A blue 2021 Kia Rio S
2021 Kia Rio S | Kia

Safety and reliability expectations for the Kia Rio

The 2021 Kia Rio comes with the bare minimum of what buyers would expect from a new car, such as a touchscreen infotainment system that offers Bluetooth connectivity, an adjustable driver’s seat, and an adjustable steering wheel. If you’re underwhelmed by these highlights, it’s because the Kia selected simplicity with the Rio’s design, not giving it much else to offer. Most surprisingly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard even on the base model.

You can’t go wrong upgrading to the S Technology package, which gives the subcompact car all of the modern safety techs and features to bring it up to par with much more expensive vehicles. Along with a few other tech updates, the S Technology package offers drivers a handful of safety features such as forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane following assist, and driver alert warnings.

It’s also worth noting that while the 2021 Kia Rio tanked in several aspects of its review, but it did decent in expected reliability, which is based on reliability statistics from previous model years.

Where is the Kia Rio lacking?

Of course, if it isn’t for reliability, there has to be something dragging down the rating for the 2021 Kia Rio. While it is by no means a luxury car, it receives harsh criticism for its overall ride quality. Consumer Reports notes the car for having a cabin space that is poorly insulated from noise, causing the ride to be rather loud. Besides that, it isn’t particularly comfortable, with an underwhelming suspension that allows both driver and passengers to feel imperfections in the road.

While we aren’t expecting much from the modest engine, the new Rio is noted for having unimpressive braking performance and underwhelming handling, leaving a lot to be desired behind the wheel even by an average driver.

A blue 2021 Kia Rio S
2021 Kia Rio S | Kia

When it comes down to it, Consumer Reports recommends leaving the subcompact car sector altogether and opting for a similarly priced option in a larger compact car. In fact, there were several alternatives called out directly that compete with the Kia Rio in price but have more enticing scores: the Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla. For some buyers, however, there is plenty of appeal to buying a small, subcompact vehicle, and for the minimalist, the 2021 Kia Rio is really all you need.


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