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The Rio is the most affordable Kia sedan, catering to consumers on a budget. However, when choosing between the two 2023 Kia Rio sedan trim levels, most shoppers splurge on the more expensive one. Why do they avoid the base model?

Overview of the 2023 Kia Rio: Price and specs

A silver 2023 Kia Rio parked in front of a city skyline
2023 Kia Rio | Kia

The sub-$20,000 Kia Rio comes in two trim levels. First is the base model, the LX, starting at an enticing $16,750. The other is the S, whose base MSRP is $17,390. Both debuted in 2018 and haven’t had any significant changes besides minor tweaks in 2021. 

This subcompact car doesn’t offer much power, either. With a 1.6-liter inline-four engine making a measly 120 hp and 112 lb-ft of torque, the Rio takes considerable effort to reach highway speeds and pass other vehicles. An unremarkable continuously variable transmission pairs with the engine. Predictably, Edmunds’ reviewers weren’t impressed with the driving experience, especially the steering.

But the weak powertrain has an appealing benefit: excellent fuel economy. The 2023 Rio boasts an EPA-estimated 32 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, for 36.5 mpg combined. However, Edmunds’ test drivers achieved an astounding 43 mpg combined.

What features do the 2023 Kia Rio trims offer?

The two 2023 Kia Rio sedan trims are virtually identical from the outside. Both have standard 15-inch wheels, solar control glass, and dual body-colored side mirrors. 

However, their interiors have a few differences. The LX includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen, front USB port, vehicle immobilizer system, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The S trim has the same features but adds keyless entry, adjustable rear headrests, a rear USB charging port, and steering wheel-mounted controls. 

Their trunks provide 13.7 cubic feet of space, enough for everyday items like groceries. And both have Kia’s exceptional 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. 

If the 2023 Kia Rio S provides only a few more features than the base model, why pay more for the top trim? There are two potential reasons. The first is that the range-topping trim’s price is only about $600 more than the base model’s MSRP. So, buyers don’t pay much more for those additional features. 

The second reason is the S trim’s access to more options, allowing shoppers to build a fully loaded 2023 Kia Rio. Kia offers no extras to upgrade the XL. But the higher trim lets customers add LED lighting, high-beam assist, 15-inch alloy wheels, Kia Connect, and a smart key system with push-button start capability. As for advanced safety and driver-assistance features, the higher trim offers forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, and driver attention warning. 

Both 2023 Kia Rio sedan trims pack plenty of value. But the more popular top tier brings more for less than a thousand over the base MSRP. Thanks to its added features at a still-affordable price, the S trim is the better buy.