2012 Kia Rio – The 2012 Kia Rio is as good as the last Honda Civic we truly enjoyed driving–the pre-2006 version–and joins the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent as one of the new benchmarks in the subcompact class, with looks, features and efficiency as its most convincing bullet points. You may also see the 2012 Kia Optima for your information. European designers draw European-looking cars, and that’s true with the Rio, more so in the five-door hatchback than the four-door sedan.
The bland bubbly shapes of the past have dissolved into a wedgy look with lots of body sculpting behind the front wheels, Kia’s new signature grille in front (chromed on sedans, blacked-out on hatchbacks) with large trailing headlights and a rounded rear end. The five-door is pert and clean and interesting for the first time in the nameplate’s history. And while it’s tough to draw sedans on this scale, but the Rio succeeds better than just about any of its competitors.
Kia pitches the Rio squarely in the subcompact class, with 88 cubic feet of interior space. Cars like the Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent put more cubes on paper with their boxy rear ends, and the Nissan Versa is a bit larger. The Rio lines up best alongside the Ford Fiesta, with a 101.2-inch wheelbase, an overall hatchback length of about 160 inches, and a cargo hold measuring 15 cubic feet (13.7 in the sedan, which goes on sale late in 2011).
The Rio’s front seats have good, long bottom cushions and great, long seat travel, putting a good foot forward for solo drivers or pairs of adults. The back seat is more confined than in the Fit, with no adult-sized knee or head room to spare; its Accent cousin does a better job of providing space for four, and in luggage room too, where the Rio’s nicely squared-off cargo hold nonetheless leaves the right kind of space for roll-on bags and Costco boxes.
There’s one powertrain in all Rio sedans and hatchbacks for the 2012 model year, and it’s a smooth, and pretty powerful, 1.6-liter four with direct injection and 138 horsepower, as much as the Hyundai Accent and the turbocharged Chevy Sonic. It’s not as truly quick as the Sonic feels, but the Rio’s combination of its four and a six-speed automatic is one of the highlights of the car.
The four-cylinder’s pretty well muted and the transmission shifts cleanly, without any noticeable driveline shock and with quick response that Ford’s PowerShift automatic hasn’t matched in our drives. There’s a six-speed manual transmission we haven’t driven, too, but Kia thinks only five percent of drivers will want it. The four/six combination nets estimated EPA figures of 30/40 mpg for either transmission, without special fuel-economy packages, putting at the top of the subcompact class.
There’s also a start/stop packaging coming later in the year as a $400 option; it shuts off the engine at longer pauses and restarts it when the brake pedal is released, adding one mile per gallon to the Rio EX’s city fuel economy.
The 2012 Kia Rio Specifications
- Gas Mileage 30 mpg City/40 mpg Hwy
- Engine Gas I4, 1.6L
- EPA Class Compact
- Style Name 4dr Sdn Man LX
- Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
- Passenger Capacity 5
- Passenger Doors 4
- Body Style 4dr Car
- Transmission 6-speed manual transmission -inc: hydraulic clutch w/clutch lock
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