2019 Chevrolet Sonic vs. 2019 Kia Rio

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Sonic LT/Premier’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The Rio doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Sonic’s blind spot mirrors use wide-angle convex mirrors mounted in the corner of each side view mirror to reveal objects that may be in the driver’s blind spots. The Rio doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

The Sonic has standard OnStar®, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to get turn-by-turn driving directions, remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Rio doesn’t offer a GPS response system, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Sonic and the Rio 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, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available collision warning systems and rear parking sensors.

Warranty

The Sonic’s corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the Rio’s (6/100,000 vs. 5/100,000).

Chevrolet pays for the first scheduled maintenance on the Sonic. Chevrolet will pay for the first oil change, lubrication and any other required maintenance in the first year. Kia doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Rio.

There are almost 4 times as many Chevrolet dealers as there are Kia dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Sonic’s warranty.

Reliability

The Chevrolet Sonic’s engine uses a cast iron block for durability, while the Rio’s engine uses an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

Engine

The Sonic’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. produces 8 more horsepower (138 vs. 130) and 29 lbs.-ft. more torque (148 vs. 119) than the Rio’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl.

Transmission

The Sonic offers a manual transmission for better acceleration, control and fuel economy. The Rio doesn’t offer a manual transmission.

Brakes and Stopping

The Sonic stops shorter than the Rio:

 

Sonic

Rio

 

60 to 0 MPH

128 feet

131 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

139 feet

140 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Sonic has larger standard tires than the Rio (195/65R15 vs. 185/65R15). The Sonic LT’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Rio (205/55R16 vs. 185/65R15).

The Sonic’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Rio’s 65 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Sonic offers optional 17-inch wheels. The Rio’s largest wheels are only 15-inches.

The Chevrolet Sonic’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Kia Rio only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.

Suspension and Handling

The Sonic has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Rio doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The Sonic RS Hatchback handles at .84 G’s, while the Rio 5-Door pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Sonic Premier Hatchback executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Rio 5-Door (27.3 seconds @ .62 average G’s vs. 27.9 seconds @ .6 average G’s).

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the Sonic Premier Hatchback is quieter than the Rio 5-Door (79 vs. 82 dB).

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Sonic Hatchback a Mid-size car, while the Rio 5-Door is rated a Small Station Wagon.

The Sonic Sedan has .4 inches more rear headroom and 1.1 inches more rear legroom than the Rio Sedan.

The Sonic Hatchback has .1 inches more rear headroom and 1.1 inches more rear legroom than the Rio 5-Door.

Cargo Capacity

The Sonic Sedan has a much larger trunk than the Rio Sedan (14.9 vs. 13.7 cubic feet).

The Sonic Hatchback has a much larger cargo volume with its rear seat up than the Rio 5-Door with its rear seat up (19 vs. 17.4 cubic feet). The Sonic Hatchback has a much larger trunk with its rear seat folded than the Rio 5-Door with its rear seat folded (47.7 vs. 32.8 cubic feet).

The Sonic’s standard rear seats fold to accommodate long and bulky cargo. The Rio LX doesn’t offer folding rear seats.

Ergonomics

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Sonic 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 Rio doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

The Sonic LT/Premier’s front and rear power windows all open fully with one touch of the switches and its front windows also automatically close, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Rio S/EX’s power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. Only its driver’s window opens automatically.

Keyless Open and Start optional on the Sonic (except LS) allows you to unlock the doors, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Kia Rio doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

The Sonic (except LS) offers optional heated front seats, which keep the driver and front passenger extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated seats aren’t available in the Rio.

On extremely cold winter days, the Sonic’s optional (except LS/RS) heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Rio doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

With optional voice command, the Sonic offers the driver hands free control of the radio and the navigation computer by simply speaking. The Rio doesn’t offer a voice control system.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Sonic owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Sonic will cost $635 less than the Rio over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Sonic is less expensive to operate than the Rio because it costs $234 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Sonic than the Rio, including $48 less for a starter, $107 less for fuel injection, $38 less for front struts and $46 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Chevrolet Sonic, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Kia Rio isn't recommended.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sonic second among small cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Rio isn’t in the top three.

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

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