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By Jim Flammang
February 23, 2005
Vehicle Overview Introduced for the 2001 model year, the South Korean-built Kia Rio sedan was touted as the lowest-priced car on the American market. Kia launched a Rio Cinco wagon companion for the 2002 model year.
Both subcompact body styles were redesigned and gained some welcome power for 2003. The current 1.6-liter four-cylinder generates 104 horsepower. A reinforced steering wheel and column mount were meant to produce less vibration. A larger front stabilizer bar aimed to improve handling, while an enhanced suspension was installed to improve ride comfort.
Changes for 2005 are technical in nature and include an enhanced onboard diagnostics system and the adoption of LEV-II emissions standards.
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 and major powertrain components for 10 years/100,000 miles. Redesigned Rios are expected to debut for the 2006 model year. (Skip to details on the: Rio Cinco)
Exterior The Rio's front-end styling was reworked in 2003, and the sedan's rear end got a new trunk lid, taillights and back bumper. Apart from that front and rear freshening, the Rio and Rio Cinco look about the same as the early versions. The basic design evolved from the Kia-built Ford Aspire of the mid-1990s.
Interior The Rio and Rio Cinco got additional standard equipment in 2003, including fade-out lighting, rear-seat heater vents and LATCH child-safety seat anchors. The instrument panel and center console were updated to include new cupholders. Updated seat fabric was installed, and the front door panels gained map pockets with an integrated bottle holder.
Even though up to five occupants can fit inside the Rio, the backseat is a tight squeeze for three. Kia says the Rio's seats are higher than normal and provide a commanding view for the driver and passengers. The height-adjustable driver's seat includes an integral fold-down armrest.
Air conditioning, a CD player and power windows are optional. An upgrade package for the sedan includes power steering, a tilt steering wheel, a tachometer and vanity mirrors.
Under the Hood The Rio's 1.6-liter four-cylinder produces 104 hp. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard and a four-speed-automatic transmission is optional.
Safety Antilock brakes are optional, but side-impact airbags are not available.
Driving Impressions Even more than the Rio sedan, the Rio Cinco wagon benefits from the 2003 power increase. Most other features and characteristics regarding the Rio Cinco are pleasing. It's easy and fun to drive. On good roads, the ride is admirably smooth and its handling isn't bad. 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. In addition, the seat bottoms are considerably longer than what's customary in small cars. The gauges are clear and easy to read at a glance.
Rio Cinco Other than its body style, the Rio Cinco wagon is essentially the same as the Rio sedan. Rio Cincos gained standard alloy wheels and body-colored rear trim for 2004. The driver's seat now has 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, and 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, CD player, tilt steering wheel and power steering are standard. Back to top