Big on content, small in stature
1st place - 2012 Kia Rio (83.8%)
This subcompact Queen is a hit no matter how you look at it. With Euro-inspired styling inside and out, a dynamic drive and impressive levels of kit, the Rio is a sparkling car that all can appreciate.
$14,095 will get you behind the wheel of a base 5-door Rio. The supplemental bucks over its non-identical twin, the Accent, are explained by it having a few extras such as standard 15" wheels over the Accent's 14-inchers. An LX+ with automatic box, at $16,895, provides a perfect balance of car, budget and pleasure.
The 2012 Kia Rio ultimately beat out the Accent style-wise because of its wholly Euro-inspired outer shell. On the inside, it was a little more of the same. The Accent's flowing design is replaced by somber lines and funky switches - very German.
The seats turned out to be comfortable and, as with the Accent, cabin room was excellent. The exemplary fit and finish perfectly complemented the very good visibility provided by the car.
Our tester was equipped with the base transmission, specifically a 6-speed manual. Incidentally, only the Koreans, in this lot, offer manuals with 6 speeds; the other three have 5 gears. Despite a good driving position, heel and toe was difficult to achieve smoothly but shifting action was easy.
All 138 hp (same powerplant as Accent) were accounted for. With the 6M, the Rio clocked the quickest 0-100 km/h time as well as consuming only 0.1L/100 km more fuel than the frugal Yaris.
Generally speaking, the Rio's road behavior mimicked that of the Accent except that nearly all aspects were heightened. The tight and precise steering was far less weighted down, which made it more pleasant to toss around. The suspension provided more control and less roll, while brake-pedal response was better.
The major downer was the presence of road noise in the cabin. The biggest culprit, as with the Accent, were pebbles, twigs and whatever else lied on the road. The Rio was the worst in this department.
The Kia Rio, of all the cars in this exercise, is the only one that was unanimously voted in its current position: #1. On that point alone, it is clear that Kia has played its cards right.
With downright affordability, value, styling, drive and versatility, the 2012 Kia Rio is a real winner. Throw in an excellent warranty and typically great incentives, and it's a wonder why we're not all out there driving one.
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