The Kia Rio has never been a stand-out competitor in the subcompact class, but Kia is looking to change all that. With aggressive new styling, the Rio has been upgraded into the big leagues for 2012.
The Rio may be a Korean car, but the designers are European, and the overall design feels very Euro-chic. With a swept-back front end and a ton of sculpting, the Rio is a very sharp-looking hatchback. The C-pillars on the hatchback model are a little large, and that does hinder visibility. Designing a sedan in this class can be somewhat difficult, but we think the Rio sedan might be the best-looking car its class.
Inside the Rio, we like the unique airplane-like toggle switches and soft-touch materials in some models. The front seats are comfortable and two adults can fit in the rear seats for short trips around town. The hatch can easily swallow two roll-aboards, and you nearly double your cargo capacity by folding down the rear seats.
All Rios are now powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, producing 138 horsepower. Power goes to the front wheels through a six-speed transmission: either a manual or an automatic transmission are available, but Kia expects 95 percent of all Rios will be sold with an automatic transmission. The EPA gives the Rio a 30 mpg rating in the city and 40 mpg rating on the highway, no matter which transmission you choose. An automatic start/stop feature is available for $400 and that will increase the EPA city rating to 31 mpg.
Safety wise, the Rio has the typical dual front, side, and curtain airbags, along with anti-lock brakes and stability control. Both a rearview camera and Bluetooth are available, and we recommend both for safer driving.
The bottom line with the 2012 Rio is it's a safe, practical, economical choice. For more information be sure to watch our video review, and also read our full review.