2012 Kia Rio 5-Door EX Auto Road Test Review

Brian Armstead - CAP staff
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If you are looking for a well equipped, gas saving car, then look no further than the Kia Rio.

Part of an outstanding lineup from the South Korean automaker, Kia's 2012 Rio impresses with 6.6 L/100km highway fuel economy, a host of standard comfort and convenience features, and a base price for my EX Auto trimmed tester of a super reasonable $18,295.

I sometimes wonder how Kia and corporate cousin Hyundai do it. They both offer excellent vehicles, standard features that cost extra on Honda, Toyota and Nissan cars, and top it off with a much better than average 5-year, 100,000-km bumper-to-bumper warranty. Not that you'll need the coverage, as Kia and Hyundai products have proven to be exceptionally reliable. No small feat from companies that in the 1980s produced pretty much rolling piles of junk.

Rio is Kia's least expensive Canadian-market car with a base price of $14,095 plus $1,455 for destination charges. Trim levels range from base LX with a six-speed manual transmission to range-topping EX Luxury with a standard six-speed automatic, 17-inch wheels and LED lighting accents. No matter the model you choose, you will get a capable, reliable automobile.

The Rio 5-Door is a true urban mobile. Open the hatch, fold the rear seats and toss in all of your active lifestyle gear. Seats up mean comfortable room for four adults. At 6'9" and 255 pounds, I even fit behind the wheel. In fact, I've got about as much head and legroom in the Rio as I do in my personal 2004 Jaguar XJ8 luxury sedan. Once I folded myself up to get inside, I was rewarded with a comfortable ride, great ergonomics and decent acceleration.

Power comes from Kia's proven 1.6-litre aluminum four-cylinder that outputs 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. This advanced engine features four valve per cylinder and direct injection technology, both enhancing performance and efficiency.  The engine in my tester drove the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, while Kia's "Active Eco" system adjusts shift parameters at the touch of a switch for better fuel economy. With the Active Eco switch engaged, acceleration is leisurely, so best to use this feature when you are in a steady cruising state. If you are trying to win a stoplight battle, keep the system off and the Rio performs with spunk. Ride quality is a bit firm, and can seem bouncy over really rough roads, but I think the suspension offers a nice blend of road handling ability with decent comfort.

Interior comforts are many, and I'll start with the supportive cloth seats. Even after a 100-mile drive my rear did not tire, and lateral support through turns was adequate.

The sound system on my test EX included AM/FM/CD/MP3 capability with four door-mounted speakers and "A" pillar tweeters. It sounds great. Bluetooth is standard on the LX+ and above, while SIRIUS/XM Satellite Radio is standard across the board. There is a smallish screen to view audio commands, and I don't care for the preset function for radio, which forces you to touch the screen to scroll up or down to see more than five presets. Having them visible all at once is a better setup.

Below the centre screen are controls for heating and cooling, as well as several well-integrated switches that tie into defrosting/heating/cooling functions. Just below that is a cubby with two 12-volt power points, as well as USB and AUX audio jack connections.

The sports steering wheel implies more handling capability than this car can offer, and even though you won't out hustle most cars it looks great. It's functional as well, housing remote control for audio volume as well as switches for cruise control and Bluetooth calling. Like all door window switches, the steering wheel switches are illuminated, a feature that belies this car's price point.

As with all Kia and Hyundai products, they come fully contented. How they do this and still make a profit is the magic that drives these automakers. In the Rio EX 5-Door, the following gear is standard: alloy wheels, fog lamps, power windows and door locks with keyless entry, heated power-folding outside mirrors with built-in LED turn indicators, air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a soft-touch dash, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, electric power steering, a trip computer, the aforementioned audio system, Bluetooth and cruise control, plus six airbags, hill assist control, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management and traction control.

My test EX Auto was outfitted with the $500 UVO package, which includes rear camera, auto light control, and a UVO infotainment system.

The UVO system features voice control via Bluetooth for hands free calls and streaming music, and a 700 MB hard drive for music storage.

This is a lot of car for the money and it's a ton of fun to drive. With built in safety, an outstanding warranty and excellent fuel economy, it's hard to find fault with the 2012 Kia Rio.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Kia, 2012, Rio, $10,000 - $19,999, Subcompact,

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