Sedans & Coupes

The 2021 Kia Rio Is the Best Subcompact Sedan You Can Buy

The automotive industry in the United States is in for a fast and furious ride this year. At least that’s what automakers are hoping for after the uncomfortable and bumpy ride of 2020. We’re poised to see a lot of exciting innovations, more standard features offered with base vehicles, and an increased focus on efficiency. Another trend you may or may not appreciate is the sedan comeback—especially of the compact variety. At the head of the pack is the Kia Rio.

MotorTrend recently published its list of “The Best Sedans to Buy in 2021” proving that the sedan will be a big fixture of 2021. Excluding luxury sedans, Japanese automakers look to dominate the sedan segment this year. MotorTrend named the 2021 Honda Insight as the best compact sedan with the 2021 Kia Rio named the best subcompact sedan. With a starting MSRP of just under $18,000, MotorTrend praised the Rio for offering buyers great value for an affordable price.

Other subcompact vehicles that compare

MotorTrend isn’t the only vehicle review site to put its 10 cents in on the topic. U.S. News also published a list of best subcompact cars for 2021, with the 2020 Honda Fit placed first and the 2020 Kia Rio at second.

According to Kelly Blue Book (KBB), the 2021 Kia Forte was given a fifth-place position in its list of the “9 Best Small Cars for 2021.” Priced at nearly $19,000, KBB gave the Forte a rating of 4.2 out of 5. The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is only $1,000 more and earned a rating of 4.8 due to its “outstanding efficiency, improved interior room, and a thorough safety suite.” In second place and with a rating of 4.7, KBB lauded the 2021 Honda Civic for its reliability, safety, and fun-to-drive design.

Why the 2021 Kia Rio made MotorTrend’s top spot

RELATED: A 5-Year-Old 2015 Kia Rio Is Outrageously Affordable

As MotorTrend put it, subcompact cars have traditionally been cheap, not fun to drive, with their only appeal being a lower than average price tag. However, Kia Motor Company put substantial effort into designing a subcompact sedan that looks good inside and out. It has a “mature design and quality-feeling materials throughout” with an interior that “belie[s] its lowly station on the automotive totem pole.”

MotorTrend boasts the Rio as being a compact sedan you won’t be embarrassed to drive if your budget is tight. Some updates made to the 2021 Kia Rio include a new front and rear bumper design, a new standard infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. But unlike the models KBB chose, the 2021 Kia Rio doesn’t include automatic emergency braking (AEB) unless you buy the S trim with the S Technology Package.

A brief overview of the 2021 Kia Rio

The new changes to the Kia Rio’s bumpers give it a look that resembles the new Kia K5—if you squint hard enough at night under a dim streetlight. Either way, Kia seems to be going for a slightly sportier stance with the Rio in 2021. One thing most people should agree with is the slight changes to the grille and fascias garnered this compact sedan a better look.

If you want fancy LED headlights, remote keyless entry, cruise control, automatic climate control, a front-center armrest, and better safety features, you’ll have to pay extra. As with the previous year’s Rio, the 2021 version is powered by a 120-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. While AEB doesn’t come standard, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is on every model. If you’re not feeling the sedan, you can get a 2021 Kia Rio hatchback with a regular gas engine or hybrid.