2013 Kia Rio: Green Light For Fuel-Saving Stop-Start Option

May 4, 2012
The 2012 Kia Rio and 2012 Kia Soul models had been poised to be eco-tech trailblazers, as the first affordable mass-market models in the U.S. to offer stop-start, which smartly shuts down the engine when it would otherwise be needlessly idling and automatically (and quickly) restarts it.

But plans have changed, and now neither of those models will arrive with the fuel-saving Idle Stop & Go (ISG) technology before the end of the model year. It's now slotted in as a new feature for 2013 instead—arriving just a few months, potentially, before EcoBoost versions of the 2013 Ford Fusion, which will have a comparable feature. The reason for the delay is, at least in part, that Kia wanted engineers to make the engagement a little smoother for U.S. customers, who will be paying extra for it.

A green option that won't pay off for everyone

ISG has already been included in some Kia models for overseas markets, however here in the U.S. Kia has been a little more careful in forming a positive impression around the new technology, which will be included as part of a $400 Eco Package. In order to get that Eco Package, though, you'll also need to get a $1,150 Convenience Package that includes alloy wheels, the UVO connectivity system, a rear camera system, power-folding mirrors, a soft-touch dash, and other upgrades—bringing the total for a 2013 Kia Rio with ISG to $18,800.

Although the feature has been rapidly deployed across the luxury market and is now included in various models from Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, it hasn't yet become common in the mass market.

One of the reasons why the rollout has been so slow in affordable models is that U.S. EPA numbers don't represent the gains that some drivers will see with the system. The Rio will gain 1 mpg in the EPA cycle—to 31 mpg city, 40 highway—although those who commute mostly in dense stop-and-go traffic could possibly see improvements of ten percent or more versus Rios without the feature—meaning that there could be an eventual payoff many years down the road, especially if gas prices continue rising.

According to earlier reports—some based on feedback from drive events where the automaker allowed members of the press to drive pre-production vehicles with this system—prior versions of ISG operated with too much driveline shock (and shudder) when the engine would stop and restart.

A few months ago, Kia anticipated that the technology would still arrive in 2012 models, just later in the model year—and that it had to do in part with customer and dealer education.

Since then engineers have gone back and made some important changes to the system that, Kia Motors America spokesman James Hope told us, will provide “a smoothness in transition that we're happy with.”

Minor changes elsewhere for 2013 Rio

Otherwise for 2013, the Rio has just a few changes. There's a revised Kia badge on the hood, trunk lid, and steering wheel, while steering-wheel paddle-shifters have been made standard on the SX model and EX and SX 5-door models now get a cargo-floor tray and net, and their seatback release lever has been redesigned. Prices are up $200 across the board.

Stay tuned, as the 2013 Kia Rio is already at dealerships, and we hope to revisit Kia's Idle Stop & Go technology very soon.

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