2012 Kia Rio SX new car reviews

Kia's subcompact, the Rio, has done grown up.
The Rio SX gets a leather-wrapped wheel, among other niceties.
Power comes from a gas-injected, 1.6-liter engine that makes 138 horsepower.

Better than: The Rio of old.
But not as good as: The girl that Duran Duran sang about.
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 85.98

The Kia Rio? That's a bargain-basement subcompact that's about two steps above walking, right? How that nameplate has quickly grown. What was only recently a rather forgettable people mover has been reborn for the 2012 model year into an elegant, nicely equipped machine.

The engine alone is worth a look: a 1.6-liter, direct-injection, all-alloy unit that produces 138 horsepower while delivering a 30 city/40 highway EPA mpg rating. Kia also notes that it's the first non-hybrid engine with ISG technology--the engine turns off when the car isn't moving in order to conserve fuel.

Two transmissions are available, either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. (Sadly, the manual is only available on the base trim level.)

We spent our time with the top-of-the-line SX model: 17-inch alloy wheels, tilt steering wheel, six-way adjustable driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry and other niceties. And remember, the Rio is still their base model.

Prices: The base Rio LX sedan starts at $13,400; the upmarket SX that we drove has a starting MSRP of $17,500.

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Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

MINI may have blazed the trail of the upmarket subcompact here in the U.S., and it's nice to see others following suite. The new Rio looks amazing. Yes, I admit that I'm a huge fan of Kia's new design language, but at first glance, especially with those 17-inch wheels, this doesn't look like a bargain-priced econobox.

The interior is equally nice. It looks good and, just as important, it feels good. The surfaces have a nice, rich feeling to them--especially for this price point.

Then there's the engine: a gasoline-injected, 1.6-liter plant that makes 138 horsepower. I know, I know, Honda's famed B16A made more from the same displacement, but it wasn't this thrifty, either. It was also not something available to the masses.

We put a bit of miles on this one, and even with the low-profile tires it was quiet. Visibility is nice, and there's plenty of room inside.

What's not to like? Personally I wish the manual transmission wasn't limited to the base model. You know, I might be a potential customer for a loaded Rio, provided it had the stick. I also wish it had a more advanced rear suspension, but I have driven a B Spec Rio and it seems to work okay. Plus that torsion beam suspension seems to be par for the field.

Closing arguments: I like it. I'd like it even more if Kia would offer the stick with the SX trim.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
integraguy
integraguy UltraDork
9/28/12 1:41 p.m.

jrg77:

Sentra SE-Rs weighed 200 lbs LESS, by my calculations, each of the Rio's horses carries 10% more weigh than the old Nissan.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

The Kia Rio? That's a bargain-basement subcompact that's about two steps above walking, right? How that nameplate has quickly grown. What was only recently a rather forgettable people mover has been reborn for the 2012 model year into an elegant, nicely equipped machine.

The engine alone is worth a look: a 1.6-liter, direct-injection, all-alloy unit that produces 138 horsepower while delivering a 30 city/40 highway EPA mpg rating. Kia also notes that it's the first non-hybrid engine with ISG technology--the engine turns off when the car isn't moving in order to conserve fuel.

Two transmissions are available, either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. (Sadly, the manual is only available on the base trim level.)

We spent our time with the top-of-the-line SX model: 17-inch alloy wheels, tilt steering wheel, six-way adjustable driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry and other niceties. And remember, the Rio is still their base model.

Prices: The base Rio LX sedan starts at $13,400; the upmarket SX that we drove has a starting MSRP of $17,500.

Like what you read here? You can get a whole magazine full of these types of articles delivered to your home or shop 8 times a year. Subscribe now!

Visit the Grassroots Motorsports online store for back issues.
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