2012 Kia Rio: Eco-friendly and wallet friendly
By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The Kia Rio has been redesigned for 2012, and the South Korean subcompact has emerged looking very European. Eco-friendly with prices starting at $13,400, the newly style-conscious Rio has received 40mpg estimates on the highway.
The Kia Rio began as a low-frills offering in August 2000 and now in its third generation, has added quality fit and finish, a sweet sculptured demeanor, and some upscale options and standard inclusions
First marketed as the Rio Cinco (for five doors) in the United States, the redesigned Rio has benefitted from a bevy of improvements, the most apparent being in the style department. Looking sporty, athletic and aggressive, Rio is clearly aimed at more youthful drivers. Forward angled and wedge-shaped with an abrupt rake and steep shoulders, Kia is bolder and larger than in previous incarnations, providing increased passenger and cargo accommodations.
Improvements have been made in terms of standard equipment with the inclusion of an attractively trimmed cabin, standard air conditioning, electric power steering, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with USB and auxiliary ports, SiriusXM™ satellite radio with three months complimentary service, and such standard safety features as Electronic Stability Control, a four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System, Hill-start Assist Control and Vehicle Stability Management.
Filling the niche in contemporary fashion, my test Rio’s Clear White exterior was matched to a beige interior and measured 171.9 inches long, 67.7 inches wide and 57.3 inches high on a 101.2-inch wheelbase, with 5.5 inches of ground clearance.
Exterior accouterments on my test LX trim Rio included 15-inch tires with steel wheel covers, a black mesh radiator grille, body-color door handles, dual body-color power heated mirrors, 2-lens multi-reflector headlights, locking fuel-filler door, front variable intermittent wipers and heated rear glass with timer.
Rio gets its power from a new 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder aluminum block and head DOHC engine that puts out 138hp and 123 lbs-ft of torque. Mated to a 6-speed manual shift and a gasoline direct injection fuel system, the set-up is EPA rated 30mpg in city driving and 40mpg on the highway. A weeklong test of mixed-use driving achieved a solid 36.6mpg.
Rio is the first non-hybrid or non-luxury vehicle to offer Idle Stop and Go technology, which helps to reduce fuel consumption by turning the engine off when the vehicle is not in motion – such as at a stop light or in traffic – and automatically restarting when the driver releases the brake pedal. Adding to the Rio's earth-friendly theme, 85 percent of the vehicle's materials are recyclable at the end of its lifespan, and the Rio features seat foam material that uses 100-percent biodegradable and non-toxic castor oil, which benefits the environment in several ways, including reduced use of petroleum-based products; and because castor oil comes from plants, this material is generated from a completely renewable source.
Back to on-the-road capabilities, Rio’s performance has improved somewhat, though not dramatically, despite the fact that the 138 horses puts it near the top of the class. Weighing in at about 2525 lbs., the set-up translated into a steady, but not blazing off-the-line zero-to-60mph sprint in 9.7 seconds. Acceleration continued well enough to complete a quarter-mile run in 17.5 seconds, and on the interstates, passing was smooth and confident, though pedal stomping resulted in a rather noisy cabin. Conversely, Rio is very quiet at a stop and one wonders if the engine is on. That is not the case on the road, however, where you know the engine is working hard.
Handling is agile and the rack-and-pinion power steering is responsive and fairly true, with some top wobble, but little oversteer. The suspension is good for the driver’s road feel, but not as friendly for passengers, who experience road irregularities.
The cabin seats five and is comfy up front, while tight in the second row, providing 43.8 inches of front legroom and 31.1 inches in row two, 40.0 inches of front headroom and 37.6 inches in the second seats, and 53.1 inches of first row shoulder room, with 52.1 inches for the rear seat occupants.
The LX’s interior is outfitted with air conditioning and a ventilation system, 4-speaker sound system, AM/FM radio, CD player (reads MP3 format), satellite radio, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, trip computer, outside air temperature indicator, low tire pressure indicator and USB auxiliary input jack.
Rio attends to safety with side impact door beams, front and rear crumple zones, full-length front and rear side curtain airbags, dual front seat mounted side airbags, intelligent driver front airbag and intelligent passenger front airbag with occupant sensors, front seat belt pretensioners, LATCH for children, rear child safety door locks and height adjustable front seat belt anchors. Rio also employs disc brakes on all four wheels, while most in the segment utilize front discs and rear drum brakes.
The 2012 Kia Rio in LX trim starts at $13,400 and even its highest trim level, SX is based at only $17,500. An auto-dimming mirror with compass and HomeLink® on my test LX with manual transmission, added $295, carpeted floormats were $95 and destination charges added $750 for a final sticker of $14,540.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been
# # #
Journalist note: Information about the Carlisle Events Group, its event listings, auction offerings and expo center is available to journalists by phone:
Carlisle Event Marketing Dept.
# # #