2019 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2019 Kia Rio

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The Golf has standard whiplash protection, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the whiplash protection system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Rio doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The Golf has standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Rio doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Golf offers an optional Maneuver Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Rio doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Golf SE’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The Rio doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Golf’s blind spot warning system uses digital cameras monitored by computer to alert the driver to moving objects in the vehicle’s blind spots where the side view mirrors don’t reveal them. The Rio doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

To help make backing safer, the Golf’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The Rio doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Golf SE has standard Car-Net, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to 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 Golf 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 and available rear parking sensors.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Golf the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 139 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Rio has not been tested, yet.


The Golf comes with a full 6-year/72000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car. The Rio’s 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 12000 miles sooner.

The Golf’s corrosion warranty is 5 years and unlimited miles longer than the Rio’s (10/unlimited vs. 5/100,000).


The Golf’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. produces 17 more horsepower (147 vs. 130) and 65 lbs.-ft. more torque (184 vs. 119) than the Rio’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Golf gets better fuel mileage than the Rio:











1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

29 city/37 hwy



1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

29 city/37 hwy







1.6 DOHC 4 cyl.

28 city/37 hwy

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Golf Auto’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Rio doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The Golf has 1.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the Rio (13.2 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.


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

An eight-speed automatic is optional on the Volkswagen Golf, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Rio.

Brakes and Stopping

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




Front Rotors

11.3 inches

11 inches

Rear Rotors

10.7 inches

8” drums

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

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Golf has larger standard tires than the Rio (195/65R15 vs. 185/65R15). The Golf SE’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Rio (225/45R17 vs. 185/65R15).

The Golf SE’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 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 Golf SE offers optional 17-inch wheels. The Rio’s largest wheels are only 15-inches.

The Volkswagen Golf’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

For superior ride and handling, the Volkswagen Golf has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Kia Rio has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

The Golf has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Golf flat and controlled during cornering. The Rio’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

The Golf 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.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Golf’s wheelbase is 2.2 inches longer than on the Rio (103.8 inches vs. 101.6 inches).

The Golf’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (59.6% to 40.4%) than the Rio’s (61.9% to 38.1%). This gives the Golf more stable handling and braking.


The Golf is 5 inches shorter than the Rio Sedan, making the Golf easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The Golf has 3.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Rio Sedan (93.5 vs. 89.9).

The Golf has 1.8 inches more front shoulder room, .7 inches more rear headroom, 2.1 inches more rear legroom and .6 inches more rear shoulder room than the Rio Sedan.

Cargo Capacity

The Golf has a much larger cargo area with its rear seat up than the Rio 5-Door with its rear seat up (22.8 vs. 17.4 cubic feet). The Golf has a much larger cargo area with its rear seat folded than the Rio 5-Door with its rear seat folded (52.7 vs. 32.8 cubic feet).

The Golf has a much larger trunk with its rear seat up than the Rio Sedan (22.8 vs. 13.7 cubic feet).

To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the Golf’s hatch uses gas strut-supported hinges that don’t intrude into the cargo area. Its intrusive beam hinge reduces the Rio Sedan’s useful trunk space.

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


To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Golf 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 Golf’s standard power windows allow the driver or passenger to lower and raise the windows without leaning over or being distracted. Power windows are only available on the Rio S/EX.

The Golf’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, 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.

If the windows are left open on the Golf the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows with the driver’s door power window switch. The driver of the Rio can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

Keyless Access standard on the Golf SE allows you to unlock the driver’s door, 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 Golf’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Rio’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the Golf SE to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Rio doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Golf SE detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Rio doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

The Golf SE has standard heated front seats, which keep the driver and front passenger extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated seats aren’t available in the Rio.

The Golf has a standard center folding armrest for the rear passengers. A center armrest helps make rear passengers more comfortable. The Rio doesn’t offer a rear seat center armrest.

For greater rear passenger comfort, the Golf has standard rear a/c vents to keep rear occupants more comfortable. The Rio doesn’t offer rear vents.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Golf SE offers an optional Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The Rio doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

To direct the driver from any location to a given street address with audible turn-by-turn directions, a GPS navigation system is standard on the Golf SEL. The Golf’s navigation system also has a real-time traffic update feature that offers alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The Rio doesn’t offer a navigation system.

With standard voice command, the Golf SE 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.

The Golf SE/SEL’s optional Parking Steering Assistant can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Rio doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Golf is less expensive to operate than the Rio because typical repairs cost less on the Golf than the Rio, including $15 less for fuel injection and $27 less for a power steering pump.


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

The Golf was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” for 12 of the last 12 years. The Rio has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

Motor Trend selected the Golf as their 2015 Car of the Year. The Rio has never been chosen.

The Volkswagen Golf/GTI outsold the Kia Rio by over two to one during the 2018 model year.

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

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