Diminutive 2018 Kia Rio picks up big safety accolade

It's proof that small cars can be plenty safe.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
2 min read

If you ask consumers why they ended up buying crossovers or other larger vehicles, you might hear "safety" in return. But size doesn't automatically guarantee safety in a collision, nor does a small footprint guarantee a gnarly wreck. The 2018 Kia Rio is proof.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has bestowed its highest award, Top Safety Pick+, upon the smallest Kia , the 2018 Rio. The diminutive sedan was able to withstand a battery of crash tests that are more involved than the ones the federal government relies on, in addition to evaluations of its crash-protection systems and headlights.

In fact, the headlights are what saved the Rio from missing an IIHS accolade entirely. The S trim's optional Technology Package adds LED headlights, but only on cars built after June 2018. Those headlights were given a "Good" rating, the Institute's highest. All other trims, including the S trim without its optional package, sport halogen headlights that were given a "Poor" rating, the industry's worst. "Poor" headlights will disqualify a vehicle from the IIHS' awards -- at least one trim must have a headlight rating of "Acceptable" or higher.

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It might look violent, but all those tiny bits flying around help dissipate the energy being sent through the vehicle, mitigating the forces that actually make it to the passenger compartment. 


While crash prevention isn't standard on lower trims, it's standard on EX, where it was given a "Superior" rating. In both 12-mph and 25-mph tests, the Rio avoided a collision. To quality for Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must have forward collision warning and some type of automatic braking, although the standards could become stricter as more automakers move to make these systems standard.

The 2018 Rio more or less nailed the IIHS' crash tests, too. It received the top rating of "Good" in the side, roof strength, head restraint, moderate overlap and driver-side small overlap crash tests. Its only other rating, a single "Acceptable" came from the IIHS' new passenger-side small overlap test, which the IIHS implemented to ensure automakers care about the safety of both front passengers equally. Since this is the test's first year as a Top Safety Pick requirement, the IIHS passes cars with "Good" or "Acceptable" ratings, but again, that will likely change in the future as automakers wise up.

The Rio joins a number of other Kia vehicles with IIHS TSP or TSP+ awards, including the , , , , , Soul and .

The Kia Rio proves cheap cars can be really good

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2018 Kia Rio: See why this small sedan moves out of the penalty box.

2018 Hyundai Accent: Looking for a Rio of a different flavor? Try this one from Kia's sister company .