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The 2011 Kia Rio is now one of the most aged designs in this class, and it's looking passable but bland inside and out. The Kia Rio has changed very little in appearance and retains pretty much the same styling and design that was introduced for 2006.
Inside, the look sure isn't daring in any way either. It's basic but straightforward, and while it's not upscale, it's not chintzy either. The design is still sound, with the climate and audio controls and most other switchgear up high and within easy reach.
Considering the Rio's low price, the driving experience is surprisingly good, with a peppy feel in most respects. The Rio handles reasonably well, brakes seem strong, and there's enough gumption from the powertrain and 110-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine for most driving, aside from high-speed passes.
The 2011 Kia Rio offers a well-designed interior, but it doesn't step outside its small-car roots or offer any packaging magic. There's space for four adults on board—or three kids across in back, in a pinch—but there's not a lot of legroom back there and the bench seat is rather hard. Front seats are a bit short but otherwise comfortable, with a good driving position. Across the model line, engine noise can be an issue; it's obtrusive during acceleration and when cruising at higher speeds.
Throughout the interior, materials and finishes are very impressive. At the time the Rio was introduced, its trims and overall cabin look were at the leading edge among the lowest-priced small cars, and they still stand up reasonably well today.
Because of lackluster crash-test scores, combined with the lack of key safety features on some trims, you'll want to think twice about the 2011 Kia Rio if safety is a priority. With 'poor' ratings from the IIHS and a three-star showing in the former, more lenient federal tests, the Rio's side impact protection clearly isn't impressive. And electronic stability control, which is now standard even on many inexpensive small cars, can't be had at all in the Rio.
While the base-model Rio strictly offers reliable transportation on a tight budget, the 2011 Kia Rio and Rio5 come well-equipped in their upper trims. The Rio SX model gets a sportier suspension, alloy wheels, fog lamps, and a spoiler, plus sport seats, leather trim, and Sirius Satellite Radio. LX and SX models have a USB audio port, and while there aren't officially any factory options, a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface is available at extra cost.
- Perky driving feel
- Conservative but pleasant interior
- Versatile Rio5
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- Boomy engine
- Imprecise manual shifter
- Worrisome safety ratings
- No stability control