The sub-compact segment in the United States is competitive, with every carmaker offering an entry as gas prices rise. But how does a manufacturer break from the pack and impress target buyers? Several dimensions standout — performance, ride quality, fuel economy, driving dynamics, options, styling, price. With the 2013 Kia Rio, the carmaker is concentrating on style, fuel economy, price and value.
Squeezing 138 HP and 123 lb-ft torque out of a 1.6L four cylinder engine with direct fuel injection, the Rio is competitive against the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Chevy Sonic.
Sink your foot to the floor and the Rio does what's expected: a slow ramp-up of power. It won't win drag races, unless it’s against other subcompacts. The acceleration is decent, but not impressive.
Ride quality is decent, but not unexpected among current subcompacts. I renjoyed the steering feel of the Rio, which offers decent feedback and felt substantial but surprisingly not too light at highway speeds.
This is where Kia tries hard to stand out from the crowd, and I think it's the most “styled” offering in market segment. The Rio's lines are not as graceful as the Ford Fiesta, but it looks better than the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris or Chevy Sonic. The details in the headlight units look expensive and “designed,” especially with the included LED daytime running lights.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Interior space on the Rio is surprisingly accommodating. There's plenty of cabin room for a dirver and three passengers, plus gear, A fifth passenger can squeeze in, but it's best if it's a close friend.
Kia does a decent job with steering wheel-mounted controls useful and not overwhelming. The test vehicle was equipped with backup camera and touch screen entertainment center — luxury features for a subcompact. The seats are supportive.
Starting at $16,500, the Kia Rio is not the cheapest in its class, with the Ford Fiesta or a Toyota Yaris available for less. But the Rio is better equipped with rear disc brakes and a warranty. I also like the hill assist feature available with manual transmission. The 2012 Rio offers above average performance in its class and has a unique look that won’t blend in in a parking lot. KIa has targeted a young driving audience with the Rio and it's differeniated itself in that regard.
• Spacious cabin
• Modern styling
• Great 40+ Highway MPG for a non-hybrid
• Good steering feel for a class in this class
• Distinctive styling doesn’t suit everyone’s taste
• Ride quality is rough