Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Driven: The 2012 Kia Rio EX Five Door

2012 Kia Rio - Subcompact Culture

I was in Austin, TX for the launch of the new 2012 Kia Rio and Soul, and I had the opportunity to spend some time driving both cars. First, I got to drive a '12 Rio EX five-door. (Stay tuned for thoughts on the 2012 Soul.)

The car I drove had the six-speed automatic (with Active Eco System) and the 1.6-liter gasoline direct injection engine, which makes 138 horsepower. Edgy and enthusiastic, solid and sporty, the Rio has come a long way since its original debut in 2001, and should give its competitors a run for their money.

To begin, the Rio five-door’s exterior styling is bold and brave. Its lines are aggressive and stylish and the car comes with some nice extras such as front fog lights, heated body-colored mirrors with turn signal indicators (that also have a power fold-in feature), 15” alloy wheels, and body-colored door handles. The attractive 15” alloys are optional but appear a bit small compared to the SX model’s sexy 17” wheels (on the sliver car pictured above). The Rio five-door has the trademark Kia front grille, and a matte/glossy paint treatment on both the front and rear bumpers. Clean-lined and ready to drive, all-in-all the Rio is a great visual treat.

2012 Kia Rio interior - Subcompact Culture

This Rio’s black and beige interior feels solid, well-designed, and more luxurious than the price tag suggests. This particular EX model came with amenities, such as A/C, power windows and doors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and 60/40 split folding rear seats, but also had a plethora of other goodies to sample. These included features like a multi-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and adjustable seat shoulder belt positioning (good for those folk like me that are vertically challenged).

Technology, technology, technology: this car caters to the tech-savvy crowd for sure with available features like Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary input jacks, rear camera display, and UVO in-vehicle infotainment system. The stereo system’s controls were simple, easy to use, and felt refined. The stereo’s sound was adequate, but seemed to lack a bit in the bass department. The UVO system’s touchscreen was also easy to use and bright, but the screen size seemed a tad small.

Kia definitely paid attention to the car’s ergonomics. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is chunky in all the right places, and it was great to find out that it tilts and telescopes. The turn signal and cruise control are placed perfectly, with no need to reach out as they were right at your fingertips. Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls are also a nice feature. Rio’s seats are nicely bolstered, and comfortable. Bonus points for Kia as the seat foam is made from 100% renewable plant-based castor oil. Non-toxic and sustainable, castor oil is a great alternative to petroleum-based products. Storage compartments are found in several places; the Rio has about the biggest glove compartment one could find! The rear seats fold flat and have a 60/40 split feature, along with adequate trunk room and a hatch cover.

2012 Kia Rio EX five door - Subcompact Culture

The Kia Rio cruises along wonderfully on city streets and at highway speeds. It is a bit taxed, however, going up steep hills and taking off from a dead stop relatively quickly. If you’re like me—a manual transmission enthusiast—I would offer up the option of purchasing the manual transmission LX (the only trim level that offers the manual). Although I didn’t get an opportunity to drive a manual-equipped Rio, I trust it would have better acceleration.

The interior is solid with no rattles, but there was some slight wind/road noise when traveling upwards of 65mph. This five-door gripped the corners wonderfully; I couldn’t wait for the next curvy country road to drive it on. It also had a great ride that absorbed the bumps well. Great fuel economy of 30 city and 40 highway means you’ll find yourself making less-frequent trips to the gas station for sure.

The car had good exterior visibility out of both front and side windows, however, the C pillar at the rear window is rather large. Coupled with the rear window’s drastic rounded curves at both bottom corners, it creates limited visibility when backing up or merging into traffic.

Overall, I was very impressed by the appearance, drivability, and “take notice of me” personality of the Kia Rio five-door. It has many amenities that much more expensive vehicles have, but for the fraction of the price. The Rio EX I drove (pictured below) had an MSRP of $18,345 (including $750 destination and $1,095 worth of options, including alloy wheels, UVO, and more). The Rio should be a serious contender in the subcompact car class. In fact, it stands apart from many of its subcompact competitors given the amount of features and amenities available.

2012 Kia Rio EX five door - Subcompact Culture

1 comment:

Projector Headlights said...

Whew. This car is just pretty. It has nice features and have a promising driving experience.