Take a good look.
It deserves it.
Especially in the upper trim levels, the Rio’s interior has lots of soft, padded areas to please the touch, a dash that has the appearance of an aircraft cabin, and an ambiance that is worthy of models found at more expensive ranges.
Though the voice-activated system leaves something to be desired, audio and climate controls are very intuitive to operate. EX and SX models come with an especially wide array of standard equipment for the class, including Bluetooth technology, steering wheel-mounted control buttons for audio/Bluetoooth/wireless technology functions and cruise control, power windows with one-touch up-and-down, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, and more.
With the SX, you also get a rear-camera display as standard, and navigation and push-button start with Smart Key are available options only on the SX.
All models come with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque, not neck-snapping performance but not untypical of the class.
What it lacks in direct power it makes up for with fuel efficiency rated at 28 miles-per-gallon city, 36 highway, 31 combined when mated to the six-speed automatic transmission (standard on EX and SX models). The six-speed manuel version is rated at about a mile-per-gallon better, and the Eco package on the EX is good for slightly city mileage (30 mpg city)
New for 2013 are paddle shifters on the top-of-the-line SX that I found added to the driving experience. You can’t get quite as much performance out of them as you can with a full-bore manual, but the paddle shifters aren’t a bad substitute when it comes to the driving experience.
Safety often is a concern with the subcompact class, and the Rio comes with a list of standard equipment across the line that includes dual front advanced airbags, dual front side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, four-wheel, antilock disc brakes, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, hill-start assist control, side-impact door beams, and more.
The Rio 5-door received a four-star overall rating from the government with four stars for frontal crash tests for both driver and passenger, four-star front seat and five-star rear seat in side tests, and four stars in rollover tests.
When it comes to roominess, the front cabin offers more than enough space. The rear seat is snug, but not uncomfortable, and storage behind the second row of the hatchback is 15.0 cubic feet in LX trim, 13.3 in EX and SX. Put the second row seats down and cargo space bumps up to 49.8 in the LX, 47.1 in the other two models.
As far as pricing, you can get in the LX trim hatchback for just over $14,000 ($14,550 to be exact). The EX starts at $17,450, the SX at $18,650.
That means after adding a couple of options on the SX you quickly are over the $20,000 mark. My test vehicle checked in at $21,340 with the Premium Package included.
That may be stretching the “inexpensive” label, but there is nothing “cheap” about this car. It’s easy to see how some reviewers have put this at the head of its class.