Every 2012 Kia Rio has at least one thing in common: a 1.6-liter, 138-horsepower four-cylinder with direct injection and a smooth, revvy demeanor. Like our favorites in the class--including the Chevy Sonic and the Rio's near-twin, the Hyundai Accent--the Rio's powerplant seems happy to go about its business, even if it takes nearly 10 seconds for it to push the subcompact to 60 mph from a stop. It's mostly muted and doesn't have much vibration associated with high engine speeds, though there's some ticking generated by the direct injection that could use a damper of its own.
Kia offers a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic on the Rio. They're equally good choices, though Kia thinks only about five percent of Rio drivers will take the manual box. Minus any fancy shift paddles or exotic performance modes, the transmissions simply help the pint-sized Rio turn in excellent fuel economy numbers.