Minimalism Has Its Upside: The 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door
The 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door.
It's been a while since we said it (for that matter, since we've been given the opportunity, with all the fully-loaded top-of-the-line vehicles that have landed in our driveway), but the real test of a car's goodness is to drive the base model.  With no panoramic sunroof or thousand-watt audio system to distract you, you can focus in on what the manufacturer got right and wrong, decide if the car is something you'd enjoy owning for the length of a loan and then make decisions about higher trim levels or option packages.

The Kia Rio 5-Door came to us in LX (base) version a few days ago, with only two options...an automatic transmission and carpeted floor mats. 

And we love it.

Rear 3/4 view of 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door
2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door.
While TireKicker's Best Cars on the right side of this page has become filled with a list of the lustworthy,  I still hold the 1984 Honda Civic sedan that I bought new as the most satisfying car I've ever owned.  It had one option when I took delivery, air conditioning...and I added an aftermarket Alpine AM/FM Cassette deck because, 34 years ago, car manufacturer audio was garbage.

The 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door is an echo of my old Honda.  The base price is $14,200.  For that money, you get the same 1.6-liter, 130 horsepower four-cylinder engine that comes in every Kia Rio (EPA fuel economy estimate 28 city/37 highway), a six-speed manual transmission (the automatic in our tester was a $1,090 option that we'd have skipped), a five-inch AM/FM/mp3/SiriusXM Satellite Radio audio system with USB jack, 60/40 split-folding rear seat and air conditioning.

And that's the list.  To open the car and start it, you use this:

Key to 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door
2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door key.
Yes, that is a key, and no, there is no remote attached to it.  You have to put it in the lock on the door and turn it.  And once inside, you have to put it in the ignition and turn it.

Speaking of turning things:

Window crank of 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door window crank
2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door window crank.
That, for the uninitiated (hey, 20 years ago, my kids saw one in a car I was reviewing and thought it was a new invention), is a window crank.  It makes the windows go down when you turn it one way and up when you turn it another.   They are very nearly extinct because most manufacturers see a cost advantage in only building one type of door...the type with power windows and mirrors (you have to adjust those manually in the Rio LX, too). 

And you know what?  It's fine.  It's actually kinda fun.

Interior view of 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door
2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door interior.
Despite what it doesn't have, the Rio LX 5-Door does have a nicely-styled interior with automatic headlights, a multi-function steering wheel, intermittent-wipers, comfortable cloth seats, great visibility, a good amount of cargo space (even better when you fold down the back seats) and the legendary Kia 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

With the $1,090 automatic transmission, $130 carpeted floormats and $895 inland freight and handling fee, the bottom line for our tester came to $16,315.   Given that the government's inflation calcuator says my '84 Civic cost $19,810 in today's money, that's a serious bargain.  If I were buying, this would be near the top of my list.