Driving Today

2012 Kia Rio: Getting in the Small-car Game

The previous edition of the Kia Rio was just so-so, but the all-new version has much more to it.

If you’re shopping in the subcompact class, you might be eyeballing the Nissan Versa or the Honda Fit. The Toyota Yaris and Chevy Aveo are other familiar names in what the industry calls the “B” segment. Well, we have another model you should look at: the Kia Rio. In its previous generation, the Rio didn’t offer all that much to win consumers’ hearts. It was cheap, and that was about it. But in this new-generation Rio, many of the previous car’s shortcomings have been addressed. It has gone from being an also-ran to a vehicle that offers good style, a comfortable interior and a near-luxury-level list of available equipment. For instance, this inexpensive ($14,000 or so) subcompact offers a navigation system with real-time traffic monitoring. That’s something that was the exclusive province of luxury cars until now.

Our only complaints about the car revolve around the driving experience. While the Rio has come a long way, there are a few cars in the segment -- such as the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit -- that are more fun to drive. There’s nothing wrong with the Rio’s 138-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but when teamed with the available six-speed automatic transmission, acceleration is leisurely -- not something you want when merging on the expressway. We didn’t test the car with a six-speed manual, the standard transmission, but we suspect it is a bit more responsive with it. On the other hand, a manual forces you to row through the gears, which isn’t great for commuting.

However, commuters should appreciate another example of its advanced features: the high-tech auto stop-start system that kills the engine whenever you stop, and fires it up again when you’re ready to go, helping the car deliver 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Another important feature is Kia’s lengthy warranty, which offers you peace of mind long after the warrantees from other manufacturers have expired.



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