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By Jim Flammang
November 5, 2003
Vehicle Overview Introduced to the United States in July 2000, the South Korean-built Kia Rio sedan was touted as the lowest-priced car on the American market. Kia also launched a Rio Cinco wagon companion shortly before the 2002 model year began.
Both subcompact body styles were redesigned and gained some welcome power for 2003. The current 1.6-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine generates 104 horsepower. Both models received new automatic-off headlights and optional front fog lamps. Kia claims that shoulder room and hip room are greater than the dimensions in previous models. A reinforced steering wheel and column mount were meant to produce less vibration. A larger front stabilizer bar was aimed to improve handling, while an enhanced suspension was installed to improve ride comfort.
Other than the addition of lumbar support to the drivers seat, little has changed on the 2004 Rio sedan. With all of its models, Kia focuses on a blend of affordability and reliability. Kia provides a long-term warranty that covers the whole vehicle for five years/60,000 miles, major powertrain components for 10 years/100,000 miles and corrosion for five years/100,000 miles.
The Rios front-end styling was reworked in 2003, and the sedans rear end got a new trunk lid, taillights and back bumper. Apart from that front and rear freshening, the 2004 Rio and Rio Cinco look about the same as the 2001 and 2002 versions and resemble a typical small sedan and wagon. The basic design evolved from the Kia-built Ford Aspire of the mid-1990s.
Last year, the Rio and Rio Cinco got additional standard interior equipment, including a fade-out interior light, rear-seat heater vents and LATCH child-safety seat anchors. The instrument panel and center console were updated to include new cupholders. The seat fabric was revised, and the front door panels feature map pockets with an integrated bottle holder.
Even though five people can fit inside the Rio, it might be a tight squeeze in the backseat. Kia says the Rios seats are higher than normal and provide a commanding view for the driver and passengers. The height-adjustable drivers seat includes an integral fold-down armrest.
Power windows and an AM/FM radio with a CD player are standard in the Rio Cinco and optional in the sedan. Air conditioning is also available as an optional feature.
Under the Hood
Kias 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces 104 hp. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard, and a four-speed-automatic transmission is optional.
Antilock brakes are optional, but side-impact airbags are not available.
Except for its wagon body style, the Rio Cinco wagon is essentially the same as the Rio sedan. Rio Cincos gain standard alloy wheels and body-colored rear garnish for 2004. All drivers seats now have lumbar support. Cinco translates to five in Spanish, which denotes the number of doors on this Lilliputian wagon. The Rio Cinco is available in only one trim level. A body-colored rear spoiler is available. Maximum cargo volume is 44.3 cubic feet.
The Rio Cinco has front buckets and a three-place, 60/40-split, folding rear seat. A tachometer, cassette player, tilt steering wheel and power steering are standard.
Even more than the Rio sedan, the Rio Cinco wagon benefits from last years power increase. Most other features and characteristics regarding the Rio Cinco are pleasing. Its easy and fun to drive. On good roads, the ride is admirably smooth, and its handling isnt bad either. The Rio Cinco stays right on course by taking curves competently and maneuvering adeptly with quick steering response.
The seats are nicely cushioned, comfortable, well bolstered and attractively upholstered. The seat bottoms are considerably longer than what is customary in small cars. The gauges are clear and easy to read at a glance.