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Looking for an affordable new vehicle? Two Kia cars fit the bill. The 2023 Kia Forte and the 2023 Kia Rio are excellent small cars. But one stands out as the better choice. Here’s a side-by-side comparison.

2023 Kia Forte2023 Kia Rio
Starting price$19,690$16,750
Engine2.0-liter inline four-cylinder 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder
Horsepower + Torque147 hp + 132 lb-ft120 hp + 112 lb-ft of torque
Transmission + DrivetrainCVT w/OD + front-wheel driveCVT w/OD + front-wheel drive
Acceleration + Top Speed8.3 seconds (0– 60 mph), 123 mph8.6 seconds (0–60 mph), 120 mph
Fuel Efficiency 22–28/31–39 mpg city/highway32/41 mpg city/highway
Gas tank capacity14 gallons11.9 gallons
Passenger capacity55
Cargo capacity15.3 cubic feet13.7 cubic feet (sedan), 32.8 cubic feet (hatchback)
NHTSA Safety Rating4/5 starsNot rated

2023 Kia Forte

A driver's side exterior view of silver 2023 Kia Forte traveling on a city street
2023 Kia Forte | Kia
  • Pros: Many features at a low MSRP, spacious seating, excellent gas mileage, easy-to-use infotainment system, long warranty
  • Cons: Handling could be better, stiff ride, noisy CVT

The 2023 Kia Forte is an attractive compact sedan and one of the most affordable new cars. The GT trim is an outstanding performance sedan on a budget, offering many features for the price. It also has an available manual transmission that some drivers prefer.

2023 Kia Rio

A blue 2023 Kia Rio subcompact car travels on a city street
2023 Kia Rio | Kia
  • Pros: Superb gas mileage, easy-to-use infotainment system, responsive handling, generous warranty, hatchback option with more cargo space
  • Cons: Bare-bones base model, loud engine at higher speeds, subpar cargo capacity in the sedan version, cramped back seat

The Rio is another cheap Kia car. A fully loaded 2023 Kia Rio costs only $20,375. This subcompact car is available in sedan and hatchback body styles.

2023 Kia Forte vs. 2023 Kia Rio: Driving and performance

Neither the Forte nor the Rio has a thrilling driving performance. They can get you from point A to point B dependably, but the ride won’t leave you eager to leap back in and have another go. Regardless, they’re admirable daily drivers. 

In terms of power, the Forte wins. It offers slightly more potent engine choices, especially in the GT trim.

2023 Kia Forte vs. 2023 Kia Rio: Interior and tech

2023 Kia Forte
2023 Kia Forte | Kia

The 2023 Forte is slightly larger than the Rio, so you won’t feel cramped when you climb inside. And both Kia cars offer many of the same features. They include a backup camera, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

However, the Forte boasts more comfort and convenience features. For instance, it has HD Radio, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control, whereas the Rio does not, U.S. News reports.

2023 Kia Forte vs. 2023 Kia Rio: Trim levels and features

The 2023 Kia Forte offers four trims: LX, LXS, GT-Line, and GT. Pricing is hard to beat, ranging from $19,690 to $25,090. The GT trim boasts an optional sunroof, rear spoiler, rear parking aid, remote engine start, cooled driver seats, heated front seats, and other upscale features.

The 2023 Kia Rio has two trims: LX and S. There is only one engine option. The LX includes a rearview camera, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a USB port, and Bluetooth. You can add a technology package to the S that includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, and driver-attention monitoring.

Which small Kia car is the right fit for you?

The 2023 Kia Forte and the 2023 Kia Rio are excellent small cars, and it’s up to you which one you choose. However, we believe the Forte is the better choice if you can afford it. Costing about $3,000 more than the Rio, the Forte is worth every penny for all the value it provides at a low price.