Luxury on a budget
On the road
We spent the morning drive in a manual, mid-level EX and switched to an automatic LX+ after lunch. The latter rides on 15” wheels and the tires were noisier than the 16” gumballs on alloy wheels of the EX.
With the exception of the noisy base tires, the Rio’s cabin is impressively quiet, allowing me and my driving partner to engage in conversations without raising our voices.
The Rio sedan has the same dimensions as the five-door, except for the trunk that adds 320 mm to the overall length, and rear headroom reduced by 5 mm. The Rio’s front legroom is tops in the subcompact segment, although rear legroom is among the worst.
Loads of features
The 2012 Kia Rio LX with the manual transmission will list for $13,795; for that, you get a lot of standard equipment, such as four-wheel disc brakes with antilock, traction and stability control systems, 15” wheels with covers, power door locks and windows, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback, power heated mirrors, a four-speaker CD/MP3 player with USB port and voice command as well as wheel-mounted audio controls.
Moving a step up, the $15,295 Rio LX+ is Kia’s expected volume seller and adds air conditioning, fog lamps, heated front seats, cruise control, keyless entry as well as Bluetooth connectivity.
The $16,695 Rio EX gets 16” alloy wheels, a power sunroof, a telescopic steering column, leather-wrapped wheel and shift lever, six speakers, power-folding mirrors with integrated LED turn signals and soft-touch padding on the dash. The automatic transmission can be added to the LX, LX+ and EX trims for $1,300.
If that’s not enough content for you, there’s the EX Luxury trim that piles on the automatic tranny, 17” alloys, a sport suspension and larger brakes, an intelligent key system with push-button ignition, heated steering wheel, upgraded instrument cluster, leather upholstery (with your choice of black, beige/black and chocolate/black), automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a UVO infotainment system, a rearview camera, LED driving lights and taillights as well as solar glass. All this for as little as $20,495. A navigation system is optional for an extra $1,200.
Raising the bar
When a car is redesigned, we obviously expect it to be a notable improvement over the previous generation. Compared to the old model, the 2012 Kia Rio is a complete transformation, and one that should unsettle the segment leaders. And with its equipment content, it might even steal sales from compact sedans. It seems as though several manufacturers take turns raising the bar in the subcompact segment, and now it’s Kia turn to do so.
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