Kia Rio SX Has A Sporty Feel

Kia Rio SX Has A Sporty Feel


2012 Kia Rio SX Review:

The 2012 Kia Rio SX is a fine small, entry-level car.

The test Rio comes in a 5-door or hatchback version. The car has a sporty feel created by a stiff suspension and contoured seats.

The Rio’s interior is youthful and delivers an understated performance look. These features give Rio a stiffer, more performance oriented feel.

The Rio comes with a 1.6-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder engine that creates a class-leading 138 horsepower. This version, included a 6-speed automatic with manual shift feature and Active Eco system that helps that transmission shift sooner, at lower revs, to save fuel.

[![KiaRioexterior2]( "KiaRioexterior2")]( engine is plenty strong for the 2,483-lb. car.
The engine is plenty strong for the 2,483-lb. car. Acceleration is decent and the transmission shifts easily and fairly seamlessly, but torque tapers off after 40 mph, unless you crunch the pedal. That creates some engine noise, but not so much as to disturb passengers.

The car turns into corners well with little lean, but not as precise as sportier compacts. The car is light and easy to drive.

What a driver notices quickly is Rio’s much stiffer ride, due to its sport-tuned suspension that uses gas-charged mono-tube shocks. The suspension is independent up front and semi-independent in back. The Rio SX also has 17-inch tires.

Braking is from four-wheel discs, something lesser small cars still don’t have, instead opting from drums on the rear wheels. Stability and traction control are standard.

The Rio delivers good gas mileage. I averaged 31.3 mpg, with about 60% highway driving. The Rio is rated 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway by the EPA.

The tested SX hatch starts at $17,700 while an EX model starts at $16,500. There is an LX entry model that begins at $13,600. The Rio sedan starts at $13,400.

What you get inside the Rio is a more serious looking black interior with dark gray cloth seats that feature a sculptured pattern of dashes. The steering wheel and shift lever are leather wrapped and there is pewter-look trim around the floor shifter, door releases and trim encircling the climate controls.

The SX includes a tilt/telescope steering wheel with radio, cruise and trip computer and phone controls on the hub.

Gauges in the black soft-touch textured dash have white numbers but there’s a raised red digital gauge centered in the speedometer. This gauge includes the odometer, trip computer and outside temperature gauge.

Mid-dash is a screen with a large digital clock and the radio readouts. It’s easy to read, but you can only view three preset channels at once and when you press the touch-screen to activate one channel, all the others disappear from view. Not a great system. There also are two small volume and tuning knobs, but all other buttons around the screen are large.

[![KiaRioexterior3]( "KiaRioexterior3")]( Rio’s interior is youthful and delivers an understated performance look.
Below the radio screen are three large climate control knobs, plus some toggle switches for the rear window defogger and air recirculation. While everything looks good and feels good inside, the test car had an annoying rattle in the front portion of the roof.

Front seat leg and headroom are good, but legroom is tighter in the rear seat.

Seats are sporty and well shaped and supportive.

Outside, beyond the “electric blue” test car’s well sculpted hatchback lines, the test car included superb modern looking Hot Wheels-style wheels. This fully delivered the youthful look that many hatchbacks’ outward styling promise. Racy no, but fun and functional, yes.

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