2018 Kia Rio vs. 2018 Nissan Versa Note

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The Rio EX has a standard Autonomous Emergency Braking System, which uses forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Versa Note doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

The Kia Rio has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Versa Note doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.

Both the Rio and the Versa Note have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding and available rearview cameras.


The Rio comes with a full 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24 hour roadside assistance. The Versa Note’s 3-year/36,000 mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 24,000 miles sooner.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Rio 5 years and 40,000 miles longer than Nissan covers the Versa Note. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Versa Note ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.


To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the Rio has a standard 130-amp alternator. The Versa Note’s 110-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2017 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia first in initial quality, above the industry average. With 21 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 10th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2016 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 17th in reliability. With 20 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 27th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2017 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 8 places higher in reliability than Nissan.


The Rio’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 21 more horsepower (130 vs. 109) and 12 lbs.-ft. more torque (119 vs. 107) than the Versa Note’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

The Rio has 1.1 gallons more fuel capacity than the Versa Note (11.9 vs. 10.8 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Rio’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Versa Note:



Versa Note

Front Rotors

11 inches

10.02 inches

The Rio EX has standard antilock four-wheel disc brakes for better stopping power and improved directional control in poor weather. Only rear drums come on the Versa Note. Drums can heat up and make stops longer, especially with antilock brakes that work much harder than conventional brakes.

Suspension and Handling

The Rio has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Versa Note’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Rio is 1.7 inches wider in the front and 1.7 inches wider in the rear than on the Versa Note.

For better maneuverability, the Rio’s turning circle is 1.3 feet tighter than the Versa Note’s (33.5 feet vs. 34.8 feet).


The Rio 5-Door is 3 inches shorter than the Versa Note, making the Rio easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Servicing Ease

The Rio has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Versa Note doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.


To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Rio EX has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The Versa Note doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

The Rio EX’s driver’s power window opens or closes with one touch of the window control. The Versa Note’s driver’s power window switch has to be held the entire time to close it fully.

The Rio’s standard power locks allow the driver or passenger to lock or unlock all the doors at a touch without leaning over, or reaching to the back seat. Power locks are only available on the Versa Note SV/SR.

The Rio’s variable intermittent wipers have an adjustable delay to allow the driver to choose a setting that best clears the windshield during light rain or mist. The Versa Note S/SV’s standard fixed intermittent wipers only have one fixed delay setting, so the driver will have to manually switch them between slow and intermittent.

The Rio has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The Versa Note doesn’t offer automatic headlights.

Standard smartphone integration for the Rio EX allows the driver and passengers access to select programs on their smartphones, including playing internet radio stations and other connected activities without taking their eyes off the road or their hands from the wheel. The Versa Note doesn’t offer factory integrated smartphone program access.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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