Rising gas prices may have many drivers grumbling at the pumps, but new-car buyers have a number of new fuel-sipping subcompact cars from which to choose. Kia’s offering in the segment is the Rio sedan and Rio5 hatchback, both of which have been redesigned for 2012 and are expected to get around 29/37 mpg city/highway. Competitors include the Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris. The Rio is scheduled to hit dealerships in fall 2011.
The redesigned Rio incorporates design cues from the automaker’s larger Optima family sedan, including a chrome-ringed grille that leads to wraparound headlights, but the sedan’s trunk lid is relatively short. The Rio5 hatchback has a sleeker rear, finished with a forward-swept liftgate.
Value-oriented LX trims come with 15-inch steel wheels, body-colored door handles and mirrors, and manual locks. The EX gets power locks and keyless entry. The top-line SX boasts 17-inch rims, fog lamps, LED daytime running lights and taillights, chrome exhaust tips and heated side mirrors with redundant turn-signal lights.
The Rio’s cabin gets a makeover for 2012, and as with the exterior of the car, there’s a greater focus on distinctive design. Controls are within easy reach of the driver and thoughtfully arranged. With front bucket seats and three seat belts in back, the Rio theoretically has room for five people.
LX models have a standard height-adjustable driver’s seat and a CD stereo with auxiliary and USB inputs. The midlevel EX has standard power windows with an automatic up/down feature for the driver, Bluetooth connectivity and a 60/40-split folding backseat.
SX models add metal pedals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, illuminated vanity mirrors, a trip computer, cruise control, and Kia’s Uvo communication and entertainment system that incorporates a backup camera. SX models can have the optional Premium Package, which includes a navigation system, push-button start, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a moonroof.
The Rio has a 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that teams with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
An auto-stop feature is optional for the four-cylinder. Included with the Eco Package, auto-stop shuts the engine off automatically when the Rio comes to a halt, restarting when the brake pedal is released. With this system, city gas mileage is expected to increase by 1 mpg. The engine also features direct injection, an uncommon technology in this class.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags and an electronic stability system that is required for 2012.