Reporting Vinnie Richichi
If the Korean car maker Kia is showing the world one thing it is that a subcompact sedan that gets 40 miles per gallon can have some style, pizazz, personality and a lot of zip. That is just some of what Kia was trying to build into its redesigned small car and after spending a week in the Rio EX 5 door I found all of that and more in an appealing package that lives very comfortably in the $18,000 neighborhood.
Previous editions of the Rio were well… kind of bland and non-descript bordering on boring. This third generation of the Rio clearly has a European influence all over its 159 inch long body. Clean sculpted lines, carrying an arching roofline, gives the Rio almost a chopped look. From the front the Rio wears the trademark Kia grille and nicely integrated headlights. Below the grille there is an attractive fascia of blackout paint and sculpting of the lower panel that gives the front a racing type look. The Rio carries itself with an athletic wide stance. Fit and finish on the Kia is way above average. I think it is one of the more attractive sub compacts out there.
Jump inside the Rio and you feel like you are sitting in a car that’s much more in the mid 20’s price range. Quality materials cover supportive seats and a simple but functional dash. Front seats are comfortable but the rear seat can be cramped for tall adults. Kia has moved a lot of the controls into the steering wheel making life a lot more convenient and helping you to keep your eyes on the road. The heater and a/c controls are easy to use toggle switches. Kia’s UVO infotainment system is simple and logical. Visibility is good especially with the small windows in front of the door pillar and the Rio comes with a backup camera if you get the nav system…a big help with the high beltline of the hatchback. Rear seats fold down giving you almost 50 sq. ft. of cargo space. The rear hatch opening though is smaller than average with that high beltline. The Rio was made for Costco runs!
Hit the gas and the Rio’s 138 horsepower 4 cylinder injected engine married up to the 6 speed automatic is geared for quick moves through traffic and to get up to highway speeds with a minimum of grunt. The transmission is fairly straightforward and shifts clean. Highway cruising can get a little laborious if that cruising is done much over 80 MPH but stay around the posted limits and the Rio moves along quite nicely. Steering is taut and concise and stays that way as you go faster with a good feel of the road. The ride is surprisingly stable and soft especially on rough roads. The Rio tends to leave the teeth jarring ride to the older Kia’s.
The Kia Rio EX 5 Door I drove had a sticker price of $19,345 fairly loaded including the UVO system, power folding mirrors with turn indicators and alloy wheels. The 4 door sedan model starts at $13,400. Mileage figures come in at 30 city/40 highway MPG and the Kia has a 10 year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. The Rio gets a four star rating in Federal Government Crash Tests.
I am a big Kia fan. They give you solid value in a very well constructed car loaded with a lot of options. Lots of bang for the buck. The Rio also has a lot of style and is an attractive fun car to drive. It by no means is a sports car but for good economical transportation with a lot of style and value in the subcompact class it is hard to get more than you do out of the Kia Rio.
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Vinnie Richichi has been driving vehicles of all kinds and covering the automotive scene for over 20 years. His Drivetime-radio vehicle reviews have aired on radio stations across the US as well as his website www.drivetime-radio.com. You can hear Vinnie weekdays on The Vinnie and Cook Show on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.