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2012 KIA Rio SX 5-Door Hatchback

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, May 16, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door hatchback

By Joseph Manalili The 2012 Kia Rio SX packs quite a punch in a little package: a nicely-powered engine, great premium features, and amazing gas mileage. Combined with a price tag of around $18,000, the Rio is a terrific value and would make any young person looking for his or her first new car smile from ear to ear. Years ago when I purchased my first car, I was perfectly content with power windows, air conditioning and pretty good gas mileage. I could only envy those with navigation, satellite radio, and leather seats. But how times have changed and in such a short time. Fast forward to the present and see how the subcompact market has grown increasingly competitive over the last few years. Such competition has, thankfully, benefited the driving public. New models feature amenities that only a few years ago would only be found in the high-end luxury models. Kia seeks to break from the pack with what may be an ideal subcompact. The Kia Rio performed well on a week-long test drive in the city and a long highway drive up to Santa Barbara. Powered by a 1.6 liter gas direct injection four cylinder engine, the six-speed automatic transmission produces 138 horsepower. It’s quite zippy in drives through busy city streets. It weaves in and out of lanes of traffic with ease and accelerates smoothly with no hint of sluggishness or jerkiness. My test car came with 17-inch alloy wheels and a sport-tuned suspension that made long drives fun. The Rio confidently hugs the road and maintains good stability, particularly at high speeds. Braking is solid, but a little more sensitive than I prefer.


There are some negative impressions of its performance, but many cars in this class share them. While the Rio is peppy in city driving, it takes some time to build speed in the longer drives. When entering the Pasadena Freeway at a dead stop, it’s best to provide some extra cushion of time to accelerate, or else face an impending rear end problem from the fast-moving cars already on the freeway. You’ll definitely want to do that with the Rio. Plus, the engine noise is so loud that you cannot totally drown it out by blasting the radio. Although the handling is good, the tires squeal loudly when making quick turns and make you question its limits. The sport suspension takes a bit to get used to, but performs well. The Rio provides a pretty good drive overall in the city and highway. What I find particularly satisfying with all that driving is the great gas mileage that the Rio produces. With an EPA estimated 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, the Rio is a commuter’s dream. However, the reality is that I was only able to get about 26-28 mpg in mixed driving conditions. That’s still pretty good, especially when gas prices are so high right now. The Rio’s exterior features seem to be tailored for the young driver. It has sports car styling with a high rear and short back windows. A colleague commented that it seemed like the designer had drag racing in mind. This car was made for the new college graduate or young professional. The trunk was raised a bit so it seemed roomier than it probably was. It fits a couple of small suitcases but not more than that.


Interior seating is very roomy for such a small vehicle and continued the sports car theme with large front bucket seats that could be easily adjusted in various ways. My passengers seemed to have good leg room in the rear seats but a tall person might have concerns over head room. One annoyance with the car’s design is the high rear, which shortened the windows and raised the trunk reducing the driver’s view of the rear. Thankfully, Kia addresses this issue with a rear-view camera that you would not expect in a subcompact. Speaking of not expecting, you would also not expect the Rio to also have satellite radio, Bluetooth wireless technology, leather-wrapped steering wheel, USB jacks, and remote keyless entry. Yet it has these and many other features. The Bluetooth is particularly nice, because it’s easy to set up, make phone calls and play all my favorite songs right from my phone without any wires. Plus, the touchscreen interface made programming user-friendly. The climate controls and other items on the dashboard were easy to find and use. Kia has produced a great subcompact at an incredible value with the 2012 Rio. With many features usually reserved for higher end vehicles, the Rio is a great first car or commuter vehicle. It also has an amazing warranty of 10 year/100,000 miles limited powertrain and 5 years/60,000 miles for roadside assistance. It’s definitely a car to look at carefully if you’re in the market for a subcompact. For more information about Kia products, go to Link opened into new tab:


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 KIA Rio 5-Door Hatchback Price: $13,600 (base) &17,700 (SX model, as tested) EPA fuel economy ratings (miles per gallon) 30 city/40 highway Engine: 1.6 liter DOHC 16-valve direct injection four-in-line with variable valve timing Horsepower: 138 @ 6300 rpm Torque: 123 pound-feet @ 4850 rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic with sequential shifting manual mode Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Front independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar Rear torsion beam with stabilizer bar Electronic stability control, Traction control, and Electronic brakeforce distribution Wheels and tires: 17 X 6.5 alloy wheels and 205/45R17 all-season tires Dimensions Length: 159.3 inches Width: 67.7 inches Height: 57.3 inches Curb weight: 2483 pounds

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