Auto Review: The Rio deal

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Oct. 11, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Kia is not only a manufacturer that is expanding into the U.S. marketplace in leaps and bounds, they started in the 1944 making bicycle parts and tubing and ultimately became Korea’s oldest automobile manufacturer. Hyundai acquired a controlling stake in the company in the late ’90s, but Kia has maintained its own automotive persona (even though the concern shares a lot of resources with the parent company). As a result, Kias have always featured both economy and a certain sportiness as key components in their identifying characteristics, and they’ve managed to expand this to their least expensive, entry-level models. The 2013 Kia Rio is a great example of how an inexpensive car can be fun to drive, and, in the case of the new Rio, loaded with a host of great features while still delivering excellent fuel economy at a very attractive price.

Available as a sedan or a five-door hatchback in three trim levels (LX, EX and SX), the front-drive Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter Inline Four with 138 horsepower. Transmissions include a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, and our five-door SX had the manual gearbox (which was one reason it got high points in the fun-to-drive category). The throws are light and the ratios suit the quick-revving little engine well, allowing you to wring the maximum amount of performance out of it when needed, and yet drive frugally when desired to lower your fuel consumption. Acceleration is on par with most of the compact class, with 60 mph arriving in around 10.2 seconds. Road noise is pronounced over some surfaces, but the handling is crisp and suspension compliance is good over even some really nasty backroads. Braking performance is likewise commendable, with repeated stops from 60 mph arriving in an average of 123 feet and good, strong pedal feel.

Easily the biggest surprise during our week with the Kia Rio was the level of equipment given the price of admission. Our top-shelf SX included an audio system with Sirius satellite capability, and also on board was a navigation system with Sirius traffic, a back-up camera and numerous convenience touches. Front seat room is good, with numerous adjustments and durable fabric that seemed comfortable in both hot and cold weather (we had both in a short span of time). The driver’s instrument cluster features Kia’s Supervision Meters, which are clear and attractive, and most controls are easy to locate and intuitive in operation. The back seats are acceptable for two, but not as roomy as some of the competition, but again they are sheathed with durable fabric and seatbacks tilt forward in 60/40 increments to increase the hatchback’s cargo versatility. Maximum cargo space is 47 cubic feet, so the Rio can move a fair amount of stuff when called on to do so.

The 2013 Kia Rio SX five-door is EPA-rated 30 mpg city/40 highway and during a week of mixed driving we observed 29.7 MPG. The base price is $17,900. With options, our sticker came to $18,650.

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