Sometimes I wonder if Kia remembers that it still sells the Rio, one of the cheapest new cars you can buy in America. For 2023, the Rio changes almost nothing at all, except for being $400 more expensive when you tally up hikes to MSRP and destination. Oh, and it gets a new oil level sensor this year, ostensibly for reasons. If I just bought a 2022 Rio, I’d feel like quite the chump right now.
Jokes aside, the Rio is worth acknowledging if only to remind ourselves what roughly $17,500 gets you today. And since Kia just announced pricing for the 2023 iteration, now’s the perfect opportunity. All Rio trims come with the same 1.6-liter, 120-horsepower four-cylinder with a continuously variable transmission. Remarkably, they also all have wireless CarPlay and Android Auto via an 8-inch touchscreen.
Step up from the base $17,645 LX model to the S version for $18,285, and ever-generous Kia throws in keyless entry. Yes, that’s right — the Rio gets wireless phone projection standard, but not a key fob. Other features in the lap of luxury include cruise control, a sliding armrest, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats with adjustable headrests.
For the apex of the Rio experience, you’ll need to cough up another $1,800 for the Technology Package — a vaguely named assortment of amenities that covers everything from driver assist stuff, like lane-keep assist and forward collision avoidance; to rear disc brakes; to a 4.2-inch instrument cluster display. That equipment group pushes the Rio just over the threshold to $20,085. Those who want the five-door hatch can’t have the LX, and will pay another $300 for the S.
Back in 2021, our old pal Raph said the Rio “might be the best car Kia makes these days.” That was not faint praise, because he also said Kia makes a lot of good cars. Like him, I’m astounded that you can get CarPlay in a vehicle this cheap now. But I also remember about 10 years back, when my parents helped me, a fresh college student, lease a base-ish Focus hatch with a sticker somewhere in the neighborhood of $18,000. And that had disc brakes on all corners, 40 more horsepower and an exterior that looked far less tragic. The bar for the cheapest possible mode of transportation might be rising, but I’m not sure anyone’s getting more for their money.