2012 Kia Rio 5-door Road Test Review

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Expansive good looks will attract a lot of people to the 2012 Kia Rio 5-door. And when they get there, in most regards, the Rio will satisfy. However, there is one critical area in which the all-new Rio will leave some shoppers questioning whether to go with the handsome new hatchback. But it won't be the car's interior quality or feature-set.

In the not so distant past, many of the 2012 Kia Rio's offerings were found exclusively in luxury cars. Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, power folding outside rearview mirrors, voice activated telematics, a rearview camera feeding a huge seven-inch monitor in the dash, leather upholstery, a sunroof, keyless entry, and pushbutton start are still pleasant finds to this day, standard or not, particularly when they're all found together as in the 2012 Rio 5-door.

Soft touch materials adorn the dash and door panels and even the Rio's base-level cloth interior features a sumptuously woven fabric. Tres cool "aircraft style" toggle switches grace the centre console for the climate control system. The handsomely styled leather wrapped steering wheel is nicely sized and hosts redundant controls for the audio and communications systems, as well as switches for the cruise control.

Electric power steering, powered and heated mirrors, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with USB and auxiliary ports, along with satellite radio and three months of complimentary service are standard equipment. You'll also find an abundance of safety features - Electronic Stability Control (ESC), ABS, Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) - as standard features.

The 138-horsepower, inline four-cylinder engine tasked with motivating the front-drive Rio does an admirable job of setting the 1,200-kilo Kia into motion and keeping it moving briskly along. The engine makes 123 ft-lbs of torque and in most cases will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is offered, but Kia's product planners chose to exile that transmission to the lower (LX) trim level of the Rio.

The 2012 Rio is the first car in its class (that isn't a hybrid) to offer what Kia terms "Idle Stop and Go". In other words, the Rio's engine shuts itself down at traffic signals, or when you have to stop in heavy traffic. The engine then restarts when you release the brake pedal to move again. Kia's reps say this feature is good for a one mile per gallon increase in fuel efficiency. On that subject, according to the U.S. EPA, a much more realistic measuring stick than Canada's rating system, the 2012 Kia Rio is good for the metric equivalent of 7.8 L/100km in the city and 5.9 on the highway. For reference, the Canadian rating is 4.9 and 6.6 respectively.

Dynamically, the Rio ranks right in there with every other car in its category. It's pleasant enough. Not overtly sporty, but not dull either. The Kia's steering, suspension and braking systems do a nice job of balancing comfort and engagement. While the 2012 Rio won't set your eyebrows ablaze with exceptional dynamics, it is an enjoyable car to drive.

Seated behind the wheel, you'll find the ergonomics of the handsomely styled interior demonstrative of a thoughtful process. You won't miss your exit trying to find the tuner or volume control for the radio in a Kia Rio. And it's an especially good thing, because you will need that volume knob a lot.

The new Rio is a pretty noisy car. And when you think about it, simple economics demand if you load all those premium features in a sub-$20,000 car, you're going to have to cut corners somewhere. Part of where Kia makes up the difference is in insulation. Tire roar is an omnipresent Rio traveling companion. If you're intrigued by the look of the car and truly enraptured with the vast amount of content you can get for so little money, you'd do well to turn the radio off on your test drive, ask the sales person to stop talking about the Rio, and listen to it.

If you can hear yourself think, you'll get a pretty good deal. Pricing for the base model 2012 Kia Rio LX starts at $15,550, destination included. The top of the line Rio EX-Luxury, which comes fully loaded with every option starts at $22,250.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

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

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