SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Motoring the traffic-clogged I-35 heading north out of San Antonio, I notice that one of the rear wheels of a car in front of me is wobbling significantly. It turns out to be a Texas State Police car and I become even more concerned about letting the officer on board know the condition of his Impala’s wheel. Speeding ahead now, I dodge in and out of traffic to reach him. The car I’m driving handles perfectly as I weave my way forward.
Alongside the officer, I make hand signals and mouth out: "Your rear wheel!" He doesn’t get it. We agree to pull over and after some more maneuvering, we come to a stop on the shoulder. He gets it. And, I feel like a good citizen.
Soon, however, I realize that it will take time, skill and a good throttle response to reenter the flow of back-to-back, high-speed traffic. When the timing is right, I step on the throttle of America’s lowest-priced car and am impressed to find all the power needed is easily there. It’s a real confidence-booster and before long, I’m in the passing lane, heading to the hills – the Texas Hill Country, that is — to put this car through its paces through the slow twisties, over uneven surfaces and on up and downhill grades. But, for me, it’s already received high marks.
At $8595, the new Kia Rio sedan is not only this Korean carmaker’s least expensive car, it’s the cheapest car sold in the United States today, undercutting the hatchback Daewoo Lanos by about ten percent, or $900 (which, in this class of car, is a bunch of cash). Air conditioning, cassette stereo, and the upgrade package (including power steering, tilt wheel, wheel covers and visor vanity mirrors) will take the tab to $10,045, still less than the base price of most of its competitors. Stand-alone options include an automatic transmission, cassette or CD-equipped stereos, a rear spoiler, alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes as well as air conditioning.