The least expensive Kia is a looker.
The Kia Rio, once an archetypally boring car, is now interesting. All-new last year, the Rio has clean lines, an upright and aggressive front fascia, and standard fifteen-inch wheels that dispel the sense of awkwardness and cheapness that commonly afflict subcompact cars. The top-of-the-line SX goes even further, with seventeen-inch aluminum wheels and LED accents for the taillights and the daytime running lamps. That’s flashy hardware for a subcompact, but the Rio subtly pulls it all together in a fashion not unlike that of the Volkswagen GTI. The Hyundai Accent, its under-the-skin twin, is probably more distinct, but the Rio is more expensive-looking. The Rio also looks good on the inside — typically an area where economy cars serve up lots of cut-rate hard plastic. There’s a handsome dash with large switches and available navigation. The graining of the plastics and the number of soft-touch surfaces impresses. Predictably, the Rio shares much with the Accent, from its 101.2-inch wheelbase to its direct-injected, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Paired with a standard six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic, the Rio gets the now-requisite 40 mpg on the highway. On the debit side are overboosted steering, sluggish acceleration, and a ride that can be harsh.
new for 2013
Kia is releasing about 500 SX hatchbacks with manual transmissions this year. There’s a new “Kia” badge on the hood, trunk, and steering wheel of all Rios. Steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles are standard on SX models. Five-door models get new rear seatback release levers, and a cargo floor tray and net come standard on EX and SX trim levels.
Front, side, and side curtain air bags; ABS; stability and traction control; and hill-start assist are standard.
Very firm ride
Base Price Range: $14,150–$18,450
TRIM LEVELS: LX, EX, SX
BODY STYLES: Sedan, hatchback, 5-passenger
ENGINE: 1.6L I-4, 138 hp, 123 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: 88.4 cu ft
CARGO SPACE: (sedan/hatch) 13.7/15.0 cu ft