By on March 18, 2012

For members of the North American Small Car Love Association, this might seem to be a golden age. Lately every manufacturer (with the notable exception of Volkswagen) seems to be taking the B-segment seriously. GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, and Kia have all recently introduced new or substantially redesigned models. Yet, amidst this orgy, where’s the love? With so many new cars, why aren’t we lusting after ANY of them? Case in point: the 2012 Kia Rio SX.

Not a problem for the Rio: styling. Though Hyundai controls Kia, and the two share platforms and powertrains, the latter company retains a high level of independence. So the redesigned-for-2012 Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio have substantially different exteriors and interiors. The latter has a cleaner, almost German appearance. The athletic stance and taut surfacing are very VW, while the ovoid shape suggests what VW might do if it weren’t so intent on recreating the 1970s Golf over and over. The Rio comes by this resemblance semi-honestly, via ex-VW designer Peter Schreyer. The SX has 17-inch alloys, an inch larger than those on the Accent SE.

The Rio’s interior strongly resembles that in the Sportage crossover. Though less sexy than the exterior and less overtly futuristic than the Accent’s cabin, it’s subtly stylish and logically laid out. A MINI-like touch: a row of four prominent switches at the bottom of the center stack, including one more than is necessary for switching between fresh air and recirc. A canted center stack as in the Optima would make the rightmost audio controls easier to reach

Interior materials and features approach the top of the segment. Intelligent design artfully combines a padded instrument panel face with a hard plastic instrument panel top. You won’t be touching the latter, so why spend the money to make it squishy? (Toyota had the same idea with the new Yaris, but a much less attractive execution.) The headliner is woven. The steering wheel suggests that the Koreans have finally grasped that the point of a leather wrap is to facilitate your grip. The pedals have metal faces. Features on cars with the $2,200 Premium Package include heated leather seats, a sunroof, a steering wheel that both tilts and telescopes, keyless access and ignition, lighted visor mirrors, a UVO voice-control system that integrates external devices, nav with a rearview camera, and even power-folding mirrors. The last isn’t common on cars with prices in the thirties and forties, much less those that list for $20,650. A puzzle: even on this fully belled-and-whisteled car you’ll find button blanks. Will they be adding even more content in the future or elsewhere?

The tested car’s sticker might seem steep for a B-segment hatch, but it includes about $3,000 worth of features you cannot even get on a Hyundai Accent. Equip the car like an Accent SE and adjust for remaining feature differences (using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool) and their prices are about the same. You can get many of the high-end features on a Fiesta, but the Ford is about $1,000 more before adjusting for feature differences, and about $2,200 more afterwards.

The driving position is passable. I’d personally prefer a less distant, less aggressively raked windshield that didn’t require windowlettes ahead of the doors (as on the Accent). But this architecture does enable a sleeker, swoopier exterior and roomier-feeling interior. A very small rear window (also found on the Accent) visually pancakes other cars. The front seats, though they provide little lateral support, are comfortably firm. This being a B-segment car, the rear seat isn’t expansive, but it’s at least roomier than that in the Fiesta. The average adult male will fit with perhaps an inch to spare.

Thus far we have an attractive, well-equipped contender, and the specs suggest that the Rio will drive as well as it looks. A direct-injected 1.6-liter four kicks out 138 horsepower, tying the Accent and Sonic for segment leadership and well ahead of the 120-horsepower Fiesta and 100-horsepower Mazda2. A six-speed automatic (unlike with the Accent, a manual is only offered with the base trim) offers plenty of ratios. In practice, acceleration is only adequate and the engine sounds thrashy when revved. The automatic is slow to react to manual inputs, and downshifts with a firm tug when slowing to a stop. Engaging the “active eco” system quickens upshifts to the point of mildly lugging the engine. This powertrain will serve, and even outperform the segment average, but it won’t bring a smile to your face.

Despite the engine’s impressive specs, its EPA ratings are also at the top of the segment, 30 miles-per-gallon city and 40 highway. The problem: C-segment cars do about as well, leading potential buyers to rightfully wonder about the payoff of the lower curb weight (about 2,500 pounds) and smaller engine. In typical around-town driving with a moderately light right foot the trip computer usually reported about 30, with a high of 33. I observed roughly equal numbers in the new 240-horsepower 328i—and much more impressive numbers when hyper-miling the BMW in “eco power mode.” Trip computer error? Stay tuned.

The Accent suggests that Hyundai is finally figuring out how to properly tune a suspension. Not that its ride and handling are excellent, but they’re not the weakest aspect of the car—that would be the manual shifter (which I nevertheless prefer to the automatic). The Rio, unfortunately, neither rides nor handles as well as its sib. Its ride feels lumpier—the car’s wider, lower profile tires might play a role—and less expertly damped. The chassis feels stable, and even serves up some mild entertainment in casual driving, but lapses into a vague plow when rushed. The steering remains mute throughout.

Of course, most current cars suffer the same dynamic shortcomings. The Rio is far from a bad car to drive. In fact, it’s quite pleasant and certainly offers a lot of style and stuff for not a lot of money. But, like a number of others in the segment, the most diminutive Kia is so intent on behaving like a larger car that it drives too much like a larger car, sacrificing the tossability that made the best small cars of the past such a delightful alternative. Granted, most car buyers aren’t looking for “fun to drive.” But plenty of larger cars offer what they’re looking for. Why not have a small car focus on what small cars do best–and that larger cars can’t do? As it stands, we have buff book comparison tests where the judges seem excited by none of the cars and the contender that sucks the least wins.

Kia provided the tested car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

66 Comments on “Review: 2012 Kia Rio SX Take Two...”


  • avatar
    James2

    Memo to Hyundai/Kia: Lotus is for sale. Mastering suspension tuning might be the last step towards achieving world domination.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Indeed. Also will net them the know how to produce world class sports cars.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Actually, Hyundai has done a pretty good job on the suspension tuning on the new Azera and i30/i40, it’s just the lack of steering feel/feedback that kills them (aside from the Genesis coupe which is pretty good).

      And Kia Australia does a real good job with the suspension tuning and steering feel, so it behooves Kia to use the calibrations from their Australian division for the US, but that probably won’t happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      Has anyone bought Lotus yet? That would be an interesting mix – Hyundai/Lotus. Oh well, dream on.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Does it have a spare tire? I was looking at Soul, but I won’t buy a car that has no provision for a spare tire.

    • 0 avatar

      No spare.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        Is there a well for a spare tire in this car, or in other cars without a spare?

        Wouldn’t bug me too much if there were a place to put a spare tire and jack I bought. OTOH, I own a car right now with over 130K miles and an unused spare.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        I haven’t used a spare tire in a very long time, either. It still doesn’t mean I want to drive around without one.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Being in the same boat with my BMW (that does not have run-flats on it), I have to say I don’t care. The last time I had a flat was on an ’84 Jetta GLI in ’89. Why drag the wieght around, and I am not going to get killed on the side of the road changing it by some moron talking on the phone. A cell phone and AAA will get you on the road again.

      • 0 avatar
        stroker49

        No no, you don’t understand the purpose of a spare tire. A spare tire work like rain gear when riding motorcycles. If you bring a spare tire you won’t get a flat. If you forget your rain gear when taking your motorcycle for a ride you could just as well make a rain dance. Same thing with condoms, bring them and no girls!

      • 0 avatar
        vgordon

        No spare and be careful if you have an after market alarm system installed . My 2012 Rio Lx is now giving me problems due to the wiring harness . Dealership estimates over $1800.00 and not covered , of course , by service contract.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      No spare. Hyundai offers a spare tire kit through the parts dept for about $300. Perhaps Kia offers the same.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      To save money, free up space in the back, and get slightly more mpg, most car companies have done away with spares.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    “As it stands, we have buff book comparison tests where the judges seem excited by none of the cars and the contender that sucks the least wins.”

    http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/best-small-cars-two-great-two-good-and-two-more-comparison-test

    The two great cars they were talking about were the comparison winning Honda Fit and the high feature Chevy Sonic LTZ. They didn’t say that they sucked the least, nor did any part of the article suggest that was why they won. The Fit has also been a regular 10 Best list member, which isn’t usually going to happen for a car that is considered the least flawed in a weak class.

    • 0 avatar

      They use “great” rather loosely. Read between the lines. Also not the only such test.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I can read between the lines. I looked for other comparison tests. Fit won Motor Trend’s Fiesta welcome comparo with glowing praise:

        http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/hatchbacks/1006_ford_fiesta_honda_fit_toyota_yaris_nissan_versa_comparison/viewall.html

        Fit has won two comparison tests at Edmunds. Here is another with admiration for its kart-like handling and space efficiency:

        http://blogs.edmunds.com/karl/2010/02/comparison-test-honda-fit-vs-kia-soul-vs-nissan-cube.html

        You are loath to praise Hondas. Pretending the Fit isn’t so good that it transcends its class and ranks as a genuinely superb car is getting ridiculous though. It isn’t as quiet on the highway as a 3,200 lb compact. That’s a small price to pay for its packaging, handling and class competitive performance achieved without any engineering features of questionable durability. There are plenty of people that feel betrayed by the size of Accords and the lack of spec sheet bragging rights for the Civic that point to the Fit as a representation of what Honda should be doing in other segments.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        In this class I believe the Fit to be the best, with the new Prius c a rapid riser.

        But this class of car is aimed at the type of buyer that wants fuel economy above all and doesn’t mind having to mimic a contortionist to get in and out of the car.

        Still, every car in this category and class gives up a lot in comfort, NVH, ride and handling. Some execute a little better than others but the overall better value IMO is the Fit.

        Unless money is a real problem, the better choice in overall value would be the Prius c. Next, IMO, would be the Mazda5. Both start below $20K and will reward the buyer with their own perks and lots of standard equipment for the money.

        For the daily commute the lethargic Prius c saves you plenty on gas while the Mazda5 rewards you with lots of room, seating for SIX and zoom-zoom driving fun.

        The Rio may win on price point, but doesn’t give much back either. There are better choices out there in this class.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Highdesertcat,

        I think you are using a lot of generalities here when it comes to B segment cars. Today’s B segment car is NOT like the ones built 20 or 30 or more years ago so being a contortionist to get into one isn’t nearly the issue as it once once, up front at the very least anyway and many of those DO have telescoping steering wheels too along with their tilt mechanisms.

        The back seat? That may still be an issue with many models.

        I’m 5’10″ and find myself fine in cars as small as the Fiat to as large as a small C segment vehicle, like my 03 Mazda Protege5. I’d prefer cars that size though my Mom’s ’04 Stratus, a D segment sedan is OK, but it’s a bit large for my needs though, as was the Mazda 5 and even Mom noted that at the time I test drove an ’08 model, right after the P5 test drive.

        There are many who want or need a car as small as a B segment and thus the Rio may make sense for many. I see cars this size all over Seattle. In fact, a lot of the Hyundai Accents, the Fit etc are in abundance here on Capitol hill where I live.

        Just because you don’t like them, does not make them any less of a car for others.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        ciddyguy, this has nothing to do with me liking or disliking these cars. We have been looking at just this segment of cars because we have grand kids that are graduating from HS this year as well and we’re pitching in with their parents to buy them a new car for graduation gift and college next year.

        Last year we pitched in and helped buy our grand daughter a 2011 Elantra. That was what she wanted. She loves it! We looked at most of them in the class of the Fit and larger but clearly the Elantra was the better overall value for the money although it is in the next class up.

        The year before that we pitched in and bought our grandson a 2010 Tacoma 2dr 4X4. That’s what he wanted! It was the best value for the money.

        I’m not knocking what people choose to buy or can afford to buy. That is a personal decision. However, if you consider best overall value, this Rio is not it. It might work great for you, but if you look around I do believe that there is better value for the money.

        As the starting point I always consider the best sellers in the class we are looking at, like subcompact, or compact, or midsize. There is a reason why they are the best sellers in each category. All these people can’t be wrong!

        Next I look at what the competitors have to offer and at what price point. I’m not made of money so I have to be prudent in what I can contribute to my grandkids transportation needs.

        I consider their personal favorite. Sometimes their choice meshes with mine, like in the case of the Elantra and the Tacoma. Clearly the best value for the money.

        This year I do believe that my graduating grand daughter will be getting a 2012 Prius c from her parents and us. It may be slower than dirt but it has a lot of plusses going for it. Lots of value there for the money and great mpg for the commute.

        Her twin brother who is also graduating has his heart set on a 2012 Jeep Wrangler 2dr soft top in Dozer Yellow. He’s joining the Marines in June and will be stationed at Camp Pendleton. Great off-road area for Jeeps.

        We’re trying to swing the Wrangler although I am cautious about the reliability of Jeep/Chrysler products. (We own a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee that has had no problems so far. My reluctance stems from my previous experiences with Jeep products and their rich history of epic breakdowns)

        So my comments are rooted in actual comparisons and not just mere running at the mouth. There are better choices and value out there than the Rio.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Highdesertcat,

        I wasn’t saying the Rio was the car to go with, but your apparent comment about B segment cars in general and how you have to contort get in them, which isn’t necessarily true is all.

        I would agree, it would have to be what is best in that segment but to say, as if all B segments cars are difficult to fit in is not it.

        The Rio looks nice enough, but I would not know if it’s for me either as right now, I have a nice car I like, an ’03 Mazda Protege5 I recently bought.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @highdesertcat — sounds to me like you ARE made of money… :)

        4 brand new cars in 3 years for teenagers?? And who is paying the insurance on those cars? My teenage daughter’s older Honda is around $250 a month for insurance and thats not even with full coverage. Wranglers are notoriously expensive to insure for adults, I hate to see the premiums for an 18yo boy.

      • 0 avatar
        ezeolla

        @ mnm

        I have a wrangler and am in that magic single male under 25 group (the most expensive insurance bracket if I am not mistaken) and my insurance is the lowest of anyone I know (including males and females over 25 in 10 year old cars). And yes, I have full coverage.

        Also, those kids are pretty lucky to get brand new cars for graduation. My parents just matched whatever I saved by the time I got my driver’s license so I drove away in a $5k Chevy Blazer with close to 100k on the clock

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @ezolla — good to know about the Jeep. I have never owned one so I don’t know about the insurance personally. Also, I think I live in an area of high insurance rates, especially for younger drivers like my daughter. Other places might be very different.

        And yes, they are lucky, very lucky kids! Hopefully they are responsible and appreciative of the generous gift.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        mnm, I’m not made of money. I am a retired Air Force Master Sergeant making it on a military pension and social security, living in the high desert country of southcentral New Mexico.

        When you split the cost of a new car with the parents of the kids, it isn’t bad. The 2011 Elantra was $16K out the door, and our share was $8K. The 2010 Tacoma was $14K out the door and I was $7K out of pocket. That’s chump change for a new car with a warranty.

        There’s a trick to lowering the car insurance rate by bundling Homeowners, Life, and Car insurances, and increasing the deductible for full coverage on each.

        As an example here are my rates: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2008 Highlander together, $256 every six month, with a $1000 deductible. The 2011 Tundra with full coverage is $179 every six months, with $1000 deductible. I also have homeowners and life insurance with the same company.

        And anyone can drive my cars, even my teenage grand kids, if I let them.

        My grand daughter’s Elantra is on her mom’s policy and both those cars have full coverage and a $500 deductible for around $200 every six months, bundled with Homeowners and Life insurance.

        My grandson’s Tacoma is on his dad’s policy and runs about the same. As long as you don’t have a lien against a vehicle you are more flexible to choose the terms that will cost you less. If I had financed a car, the lender would probably require a $250 deductible and my rates would be two to three times higher every six months.

        I keep around 110 gallons of Shell Premium gas in two 55 gallon drums at my house for my AC generators (for when the power fails) and my grand daughter tanks up her Elantra twice a week, so I’m paying for her gas too. It’s all part of my cost of living.

        I know first hand what it was like to be young and poor and have to buy used, and I don’t ever want any of my grandkids to have to go through that crap.

        I had to buy used for my kids when they lived at home and I did a lot of tooling and wrenching to keep those cars going. I’m too old for that now. I don’t bend well around the middle anymore, and I can’t get as low to the ground as I did in my younger years. So, new it is!

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @highdesert — Very cool, I am also former AF, although I didnt do the smart thing and retire. I have USAA, and I know all about the tricks to bundling, raising deductibles, etc. My rates are not dramatically higher than yours, I am guessing that being retired and living in the desert helps with that. And yes, anyone can drive my cars and be covered, even teens.

        Here is the thing… legally, as soon as my daughter got her license we have to add her to our policy. When we did that, immediately, my rates went up almost 3x; I pay my premium monthly and my monthly bill increased about $250 just from having her on there. and that was with $1000 dedeuctibles and minimal coverage limits. So when you say your grandkids cars are on the parents policies and only cost $200 every 6 months, I am extremely skeptical that they are doing it the legal way. They even specifically ask us if we have a child in college who is driving our cars, so even if she went away to school we would have to pay the extra premium. I also have many friends with teen drivers… none of them can get full coverage insurance on a teenage driver for $2-300 every 6 months.

        BTW, your premium wouldn’t increase 2x or 3x by reducing your deductibles… we have found that we can reduce our deductible from $1000 to $250 for only around $20 a month. If you have USAA, they have an online cofigurator that lets you play around with the different coverages.

        And it sounds like the boys get a better deal than the girls there… $16k for an Elantra is fine… but you are not getting a Toyota 4×4 or a Wrangler for anything close to $16k! So lets call it an average of $10k per kid per car… and you are doing 4 of them in 3 yrs… thats $40k and thats a lot of money for gifts. I am happy you have the resources to do that for them and I hope they are grateful for you providing for them, but thats still a big chunk of cash in this economy. And gas too?? Premium? Man I wish I was your grandkid!!

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        highdessertcat

        The Honda fit is like entering the 4th dimension – love it or leave it it’s very roomy. I don’t think you’ve actually tested these cars.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        Probert: I previously had a fit (and at the moment am riding shotgun in mom’s fit). My experience is that the Fit has terrific steering feel, almost to the point of twithiness, and great cargo space thanks to the relocated gas tank, beyond that, nothing is that spectacular about it… The mileage ratings are so-so, the interior is cramped, and the features extremely lacking (no sunroof, for instance, let alone leather seats.) The interior is the biggest letdown (hello hard door armrests). It is the winner for engaging driving, but a letdown in most other areas.

        My girlfriend has a Versa… The difference is phenomenal. It feels like a real car, the interior quality is top notch, and while it’s less exciting to drive, it’s far more pleasant to live with.

        The fit does some cool things with forced perspective, making the interior seem visually larger than it is. If you are fit well in it, it feels massive. When you can’t slide the seat back enough to get room, and see the dash perilously close to your kneecaps, the effect falls apart.

        And highdesertcat: Air Force TSgt here. :thumbsup:

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        mnm, the Wrangler will cost about $26K out of the door from a dealership in Phoenix, AZ, where we bought my wife’s 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee, with our share being half that ($13K).

        Yeah, it’s a bit steep, but my grandkid is worth it, and he did well in HS, aced the ASVAB, and knows how to assemble an AR-15 and Beretta 9mm blindfolded when I taught him.

        But you know that old saying that it is only money, and frankly, I haven’t seen a hearse with a U-Haul behind it. That eagle flies over my bank every month and sh!ts into my account regular as clockwork. I’d rather put it to good use, as long as I have my burritos and cold Sam Adams.

        The insurance rates and mandates vary from state to state and New Mexico is pretty lax in that you can insure a car in the parents’ name and list a child as an additional driver. If you make a child the primary driver that bumps up the rates because of increased miles driven and increased risk.

        It’s legal. It worked that way when my four kids were living at home. All of our cars, as many as 6 primary vehicles, were listed in my name with the kids as additional drivers. Our agent set it up that way.

        Not all of our cars were covered with Full Coverage insurance. My wife’s Towncar was, and so was my F150. But none of my USED cars the kids were driving had full coverage.

        I bought several of them from the Lemon Lot at the nearby Airbase. Some of you AF guys must remember that as a place to get pretty decent wheels, cheap. A guy having to go PCS is under a time constraint and will sell that car for less.

        Those used cars only had the absolute minimum coverage required by NM law. And it wasn’t until a few years ago that insurance was even mandated in New Mexico. Taking the HS Driver’s Course also gets a healthy discount.

        Every little bit helps, but since necessity is the mother of invention, we have found a way to make it doable, just as we have found a way to provide for our grandkids. Hell, nowadays parents cannot do it on their own. That’s where grand parents come in, to lend a helping hand.

        So far, it’s manageable but since my wife quit working as of Oct 1, 2011, we are without that sizable source of income since her social security isn’t near what she brought home when she was working. So we reach back into savings or life-insurance asset funds and let social security replenish those funds.

        In today’s America you simply have to give your kids and grandkids the best leg-up you can. And that’s how I choose to do it.

        probert, I ride as a passenger in all the cars that we have bought for our kids and grandkids over the years, including the Fit. I wouldn’t buy one for myself, but if my grand daughters like them, I would help spring for one.

        afflo, right back at ‘ya!

      • 0 avatar
        CV

        Michael,

        Have you driven the 2012 Fit Sport? I’ve read Honda added more sound insulation, thicker window glass and some other tweaks to the 2012 Fit to make it quieter and enhance the interior. Just wondered if you’ve had a chance to evaluate those changes.

  • avatar
    Marko

    How does this compare to the new Yaris? Also, how about the Prius C, since the fuel economy of the Rio is notably good (though not quite Prius level)?

    And then there is the Honda Insight…

    I have to say, to me the Rio is the best-looking car in its segment.

    • 0 avatar

      The Yaris looks and feels cheaper, but is much more fun to drive.

      Others…

      The Mazda2 also feels much more agile than the Rio, but is almost tragically underpowered.

      The Fiesta and Sonic (in LTZ trim) also handle better than the Accent, much less the Rio, but don’t feel as agile as the Yaris and Mazda2. They are the most refined members of the segment.

      Many people really like the Fit. The two times I’ve driven one it hasn’t impressed me. But the minivan-like driving position could be a large part of the reason.

      I’d be easier to please if I didn’t have a Mazda Protege5 to refresh my memory of how fun a small car can be to drive. Every once in a while (though not in the Rio) I find myself thinking, “this steering isn’t bad, and the car feels agile.” Then I drive the Mazda again. None of the above cars compare in this regard. They are all much smoother and quieter, though.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      Rio SX and Prius C has a fairly large difference in fuel economy. The Prius C does a whopping 23 mpg better in the city and 6 mpg on the highway based on EPA numbers.

      As far as the Yaris, it simply doesn’t have the full feature set of the SX. But at over $20k as this car was tested, this car, as well as the Prius C, the calculus of ‘value’ gets fairly subjective.

      To get all the features of the Rio SX, you would need to pay significantly more for it on a Focus or Prius C. However, the Prius C gets much better mileage, which will impact cost of ownership depending on how much you drive.

      The reality is that B-segment cars are a poor value in the US. When you start going over $20k you are nudging into C-segment, and even into entry D-segment cars. There are a lot of options to choose from in that price range. And it comes down to the individual consumer to decide where s/he sees their ‘value’; size, mileage, sportiness, features, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Interesting enough, in the Euro reviews, the Rio betters the Yaris – but they get different calibrations/powerplants over there.

  • avatar
    RegistrationPlease

    It’s been time for a new car for me. Having seen the spy shots of the car well before it came out, I was very interested in it. BUT…. no manual in the “sporty” SX means no sale. Too bad really. The local Kia dealer is 3 miles away. Guess I’ll be traveling the 20 miles to a Hyundai dealer now.
    Kia did the same thing with the Forte SX…

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Nice review of what is a very nice sounding car indeed.

    I like the looks of the current model, as I did the older KIA as I test drove a 2009 back in January when I had to buy another car to replace my dying truck. Liked it then but with the automatic, the motor began to intrude into the cabin in as little as 2000-2500rpm when getting up to freeway speeds and is considerably noisier than the 2003 Mazda P5 I ultimately bought.

    Sad that automakers are now limiting manuals to just a trim level, the base one at that, which is I think their self fulfilled prophecy in reducing manuals in sake of an automatic, thankfully many cars now give you a shift gate for their automatics as a nice alternative, as long as they do what Mazda has done, let you hang in gear before you decide to shift up (unless you let it go to redline, at which point it’ll likely upshift for you).

    That, to me is an acceptable compromise in this day and age.

    I really don’t know what the fuss is for lower rpm motors, unless they peter out way too early to be truly useful but to me,it’s much more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow.

    • 0 avatar
      sixt5cuda

      Lately, the car industry seems to be full of self-fulfilling prophecies like you describe here. Manual trans on base model only = no demand for manual trans. The one I’ve seen that has been going on for too long:

      Nearly every B or C segment car introduced, doesn’t include a 2- or 3-door model. Therefore, there is no demand for 2- or 3-door cars.

      (Proud owner of Ford’s last 2-door FWD car)

      • 0 avatar
        otaku

        (Proud owner of Ford’s last 2-door FWD car)

        The Focus Coupe right? Me too; I currently own an ’08 Focus SE coupe and it’s a very nice ride. My previous cars were a 1991 Escort GT, 1994 Ford Probe SE, and a 2000 Escort ZX2. All were either two or three-door models and are now extinct. I don’t get why almost every automaker has discontinued coupe versions of their B & C segment vehicles. Don’t they realize that not every customer looking for a two-door model is interested in a 4,000 lb, rear-wheel drive, V-8 muscle car that only gets 15 mpg?

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I agree, especially coming from a K-car coupe, Cavalier coupe, and later Grand Am coupe in my younger days. I think the only coupes to be had in any domestic segment are pony cars, not practical for many.

  • avatar

    How are the buttons and controls in the little Kia compared to Hyundai? I assume they use some of the same parts inside. That extreme close up of the button blanks makes the switches look really chintzy and flimsy.

    • 0 avatar

      The buttons looked and felt fine to me. I was just surprised that they had blanks, as this car already had everything on it.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Just because it had everything available in THIS market does not mean it has everything available in other markets. For example, somewhere there would be a headlight height adjustment switch if they sell it in most of the EU. And a rear foglight switch that probably is not on the US-spec car either.

      • 0 avatar

        Hence the “or elsewhere” in the review. But are they commonizing low-dollar parts like this one globally? And even then they’ve got to make a part with the blanks in it, so the savings are between small and non-existent.

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    I reckon the ride and handling would be much improved if the car was on narrower 16″ or even 15″ wheels.

    17 inches on a small car like this may look good but you pay the price in other areas.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I am unhappy with today’s hatch styling, finding that in most cases I prefer the sedan version of these little cars. The looks of the Rio hatch beat the Sonic or Fiesta, in my opinion.

    Do you think we’ll see a review of the Rio sedan, or is it really not much different other than rear headroom and trunkroom?

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Yes. It is a shame VW does not bring the Polo here. What is a bigger shame is that the Renault Clio is not available here because that is a very good little car.
    The motor industry is it’s own worst enemy when it comes to putting manual’s only in the base models. It creates a stigma that will be hard to break which is a shame because small cars just do not make sense with an automatic. A double clutch system would be OK but they are heavy and very complicated.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The interior design and layout looks very nice. It seems in every class where Hyundai and Kia both put out a model based on the same platform the Kia comes away with the best interior by far.

    • 0 avatar
      sixt5cuda

      Exterior design as well. When Hyundai and Kia merged, the Kia designers were putting out better designs.

      Comparing the current Optima and Sonata, I think the Optima looks like Art, and the Sonata looks like someone stepped on it.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        True, Kia has come a long way from cheap anonymous designs (Sephia, previous Optima) to direct ripoffs of other companies (Spectra5 compared to Protege5 is about the closest I’ve seen to a carbon copy of a model from a different manufacturer) to finally having a unique and good looking design language.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      While I think Kia is a hit or miss when it comes to interior designs (unlike exterior designs which are all pretty much hits), they generally tend to have better quality interiors than the Hyundai counterparts since the models, save the Forte, are also for the European market whereas Hyundai pretty much has a separate European lineup when it comes to cars.

      It’s why the interiors of Kia, Ford and Chevy (Cruze, new Malibu) tend to be nicer than the rest of the segment which have a US specific lineup.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I’m surprised the Fiat 500 isn’t considered part of this competitive set. The size and price are in the same ballpark, and it looks to be reliable so far. If I were shopping in this segment I would at least take a 500 for a spin.

    I just looked at one of the Chinese made Fits at the local car show on Friday, and wasn’t impressed. I thought the door handle felt cheap and flimsy, and there was a weld on the door frame that didn’t look to be up to the standards of past Hondas. There could be some confirmation bias at work here, as I wasn’t expecting much of the first Chinese built Canadian market car.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    “Granted, most car buyers aren’t looking for “fun to drive.” But plenty of larger cars offer what they’re looking for. Why not have a small car focus on what small cars do best–and that larger cars can’t do?”

    I agree with this, and personally if I wanted smooth and quiet rather than agile and fun I would get a Camry, Impala or some other such car. But I suspect that this new generation of B segment cars is mostly aimed at people who want smooth and quiet, but can’t necessarily afford a larger car or the fuel needed to run it. I expect this applies to many new car buyers in emerging markets, as well as people in North America who are worried about the price of fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The fuel economy difference between subcompacts like the Fiesta, Rio, Accent and Fit and compacts like the Focus, Forte, Elantra and Civic is pretty minimal.

      In fact, the difference in fuel economy between compacts and midsizers is starting to diminish.

      Looking at the Kia lineup going from a Rio to an Optima the difference in cost for fuel per year is only $450 assuming $5 a gallon gas and 15,000 miles per year.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Nullomodo,

        Remember, most A and B segment cars carry less gas than their C segment cars.

        I know the Fiat 500, an A segment car has a 10.5Gal tank, most B segment cars have more like 12-12.5 Gallons and C segment cars closer to 14-14.5Gals, which is what my Mazda Protege has (with 2.0L 4).

        My old Ranger truck would normally have 16.5Gals unless it’s the 4.0L V6, in which it gets at least 18.5Gals, if not closer to 20 Gallons.

        That means more $$$ in the tank to fill and that makes a difference in how it costs to run without even considering maintenance costs in with it and the car’s ultimate gas mileage and cruising range on a tank while on the highway.

        That said, I take the EPA estimates with a grain of salt and use as a loose guide to what I might get but it all depends on how I drive and where I drive and how fast I drive, it all depends on whether I get less or more than the EPA estimates and that could mean the car is more fuel miserly than the EPA lets on.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        ciddyguy –

        The size of the tank is irrelevant for purposes of fuel economy. A car that gets 30mpg combined and has a 20 gallon tank will cost twice as much to fill up as that same car with a 10 gallon tank, but it will only have to be filled half as often.

        Basic maintenance costs shouldn’t differ too much between B/C/D segment cars – oil changes will be under 5 quarts for all of them and thereby qualify for the specials every oil change place offers, brake pads should be about the same, the only real difference will be cost of tires with subcompacts usually using 15″/16″ wheels at most and midsizers being available with 18″ wheels a lot of the time.

        I agree the EPA tests aren’t perfect, but they are the only standard metric we have to compare the various vehicles. In my experience they are generally pretty close, but driving style can bring about a lot of variation.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Part of the difference is in the the technology. The many of the B class cars still use 4 speed autos while most of the C class cars have gone to 6 speeds, hence the similar fuel economy – Hyundai, Kia and Ford not withstanding. Comparing Elantra vs Accent with similar EPA ratings, the Accent beats the Elantra 4 mpg based on driver reported mpgs on fueleconomy.org. Chalk it up to the the high tech GDI motor in the Accent and lighter weight.

  • avatar
    dundurrbay

    I own an 07 spectra, and while it is related to the old elantra and not the rio, I do agree that suspension geometry was kia/hyundai’s weakness. the driving experience in general isnt bad, i use the vehicle as a pizza delivery vehicle and it serves its purpose well, but i just wish the car’s suspension was a little more refined.

  • avatar
    colin42

    Michael. Thanks for the review – I’ve been waiting for this one for months.

    What I’m interesting is how the EX trim stacks up which has the smaller wheels and non sport suspension – this is the one that Jack Brath drove
    (http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-2012-kia-rio-5-door/)

  • avatar
    replica

    Unfortunate the Mazda2 gets overlooked again. I really enjoy mine and I don’t agree with the criticism that it’s underpowered. With the manual transmission it gets around plenty good. It’s at least class competitive. I think they run a mid 16 1/4 time or so. In a stroke of luck, I hit 39.7 mpg last tank. I’m usually around 35-36, so I doubt I can do it again.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Sounds like almost every compact out there at the moment, ugly, not fun to drive, and the rear-windows too little.

    But it does get decent gas mileage at least.

  • avatar
    probert

    ” But, like a number of others in the segment, the most diminutive Kia is so intent on behaving like a larger car that it drives too much like a larger car, sacrificing the tossability that made the best small cars of the past such a delightful alternative.”

    I think this sums up the problem. Americans – despite their protestation – don’t really like to drive. (half the comments here are about spare tires for the love of mike) Most cars are dedicated to isolating the occupants while their exteriors exude a mind numbing aggression.

    It’s hard to make a small car seem stupidly angry and once you numb it there’s not much left.

    The Honda Fit and Mini show 2 successful strategies without pandering. Once the “make a small car feel big” syndrome diminishes we can get this party started.

  • avatar

    I like the looks too, and compared to the Smart is down right sexy! In fact, everything about this car seems (can’t say for sure) better than the Smart 4 doors, 4 passenger, more cargo room (rear seats down), better styling.
    Sweet looking ride.I can’t wait to test drive it!
    bmxrv.com


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India