Best light car under $20,000

The Kia Rio has grabbed a convincing win for the second year in a row in the entry-level segment of the market, where everyone wants a bargain.

The volume-selling Kia Rio Si has five doors, plenty of interior space, a free-revving, willing and efficient 1.6-litre petrol engine and a crisp, six-speed manual transmission.

The Rio leads the category in overall design and function. Inside, the cockpit is both functional and comfortable and, perhaps more importantly, well executed. Adults can sit comfortably in the back seats, and the luggage area (in what is a small hatchback) is generous, with or without the rear seats folded down.

All the connectivity and multimedia options you need are included, along with controls that feel sturdy and are well placed, and a general feeling of quality and tightness throughout the cabin.

The Rio’s on-road performance, handling, ride and braking are close to best in class. Importantly, it has most certainly benefited from a concerted effort to tune and recalibrate the suspension and damping to suit local conditions and roads.

Safety is five stars – as good as it gets.

All in all, it adds up an extremely fun daily drive that doesn’t break the budget.

Australia's Best Cars Best Light Car under $20,000 Kia Rio Si

Manufacturer’s List Price: $18,990.

Kia Rio Si - Criteria out of 10


Value for Money   Rating 
Pricing  2C
Depreciation  4M
Running Costs  7M
Fuel Consumption  9C
Warranty and dealer access   8H
Insurance  5L
Standard Features  8H

Design and Function   Rating 
Safety  10C
Environment  10C
Comfort  9M
Space  8L
Practicality  8M
Ergonomics  9M
Build and Finish  9H

On the Road   Rating 
Performance  8M
Ride  7H
Handling  8M
Braking  8H
Smoothness and Quietness   8L

Note: Level of weighting importance for each score: L = Low, M = Medium, H = High, C = Critical.