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2018 Kia Rio Hatchback Entry Price: $14,200

Price as Tested: $19,595

It’s always way more fun to review a car that is all-new, and with the delivery of this week’s test drive, the 2018 Kia Rio, the current streak stays intact. Specifically, many times in the past we receive the so-called “new year” models that don’t really change much from the prior year. The reasoning is sound, however, as manufacturers usually keep a new generation model for a duration of five years or more.

Available as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback, our tester came in sharp-looking hatchback EX trim, the top-line Rio available. An entry LX trim starts at a very economical $14,200 and comes with a manual transmission, five-inch color display, AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM, USB jack, power door locks and a host of modern safety features. However, the entry-level model does not come with enhanced safety features, and still has crank windows. When you move up to the S model at $16,400, all of the powers are standard, and the safety features, like rear-view camera, are also standard.

The engine and suspension are exactly the same as the mid-level S and top-line EX, both of which come with a six-speed automatic transmission, which is optional on the LX. The mid-level S trim adds some nicer interior features while the top-line EX comes standard with some extra nice amenities, including a UVO system and automatic emergency braking system, the latter something you don’t usually find on competing subcompact models.

During our weeklong test, more than 300 miles were logged in all types of weather; including a five-inch snowstorm where we found the front-drive Kia delivered outstanding traction. Out on the dry highway, the Rio rode comfortably and there’s also more rear legroom than last year which we found useful when transporting several adults with no problem. When it came to sharper corners, you’ll enjoy improved performance thanks to the upgraded strut front with gas shocks and stabilizer bar and rear torsion beam setup. The EX comes with quality Continental all-season 15-inch tires on alloy wheels and four wheel disc brakes, while the LX and S have rear drums and wheel covers. Overall, there’s a new feeling of handling confidence surprisingly similar to competing vehicles we’ve reviewed in the past like Mini Cooper and Fiat Abarth. (OK, not exactly, but still very good.)

Power for all Kia models comes via a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that generates 130 horsepower and 119 lb. ft. of torque. It’s not a powerhouse by any means, but with Rio’s lighter weight, it feels fairly peppy at lower RPMs and can handle most all situations on the road. The EPA estimates are solid at 28 city and 37 highway, which is several MPG better than the 2017 model. The LX with the six speed manual is nearly identical, with one better in the city at 29 and identical 37 highway estimates.

The final tally for our test Kia Rio came in at $19,595 retail thanks to a $125 cargo mat kit and $895 delivery. Check with you Kia dealer for any buyer incentives.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 101.6 inches, 2,714 lb. curb weight, 17.4 to 32.8 cu. ft of cargo space, 33.5 ft. turn circle, 5.5-inch ground clearance and an 11.9-gallon fuel tank.

Consumers can feel confident that each and every Rio has most of the modern safety features, from hill start assist to all the traction controls and air bags. However, if you want to step up in both safety and amenities, drive the S or EX first.

Likes: All new design, solid handling, hatchback cargo room, fair price.

Dislikes: Lack of available options on LX, could use more power.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.)