2011 Kia Rio

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2011 Kia Rio Review


Rising fuel prices have many people searching around for an economical and inexpensive second car. Finding an economical small car is easy, but finding one that sells for less than $13,000 is another matter entirely. Thankfully, the 2011 Kia Rio Sedan is fuel efficient, affordable and comes nicely loaded, including a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Smartly styled and capable of achieving up to 36 miles per gallon, the Rio outperforms many of its newer rivals, offering more horsepower and standard equipment than the Toyota Yaris and Mazda Mazda2. Those willing to spend a little more money can get a nicely equipped Rio Sedan that includes cruise control, Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls for around $16,500.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you're looking to spend as little as possible, but fear doing so will only buy you a bucket of bolts, think again. The 2011 Kia Rio is efficient, affordable and reliable. Plus, it's backed by Kia's 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain and 5-year/60,000 bumper-to-bumper warranties.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The 2011 Kia Rio is not as modern or youthful as the Mazda Mazda2 or Toyota Yaris, nor does it offer electronic traction and stability control. Although Kia's quality has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, the Rio still takes a backseat to the Yaris and Mazda2 when it comes to resale value.

What's New for 2011

With an all-new model coming in 2012, the Kia Rio sees no major changes for 2011.

Driving the Rio
Driving Impressions

You might not think it looking at the 2011 Kia Rio, but a comfortable ride and easy maneuverability are two of its strong points, even over rough and unwelcoming pavement....

... The light steering allows the nimble Rio to bob and weave through tight traffic with ease, but at highway speed the car tracks true with very little input required to keep it moving in a straight line. Push the Rio to its limits, however, and you'll find plenty of lean and roll, not to mention understeer. When equipped with the SX's 16-inch wheel and tire package, the Rio's handling improves dramatically, almost to the point of being sporty. The Rio's five-speed manual has long shifts and feels balky and rubbery; we think a better choice is the four-speed automatic, which delivers better fuel economy.

Bluetooth Connectivity
Kia continues to add features most other cars in this segment don't even offer. Bluetooth phone connectivity is just one, along with a standard USB port for iPod connectivity.

Automatic Transmission
Unlike some small cars with automatics, the Rio goes through its gears promptly and easily, with no awkwardness or lurching. Automatic shifts are barely noticed, though the manual transmission can deliver slightly more spirited acceleration.

2011 Kia Rio Details

While the government says the 2011 Kia Rio can accommodate five people, we think four is a much more rational number. Front seat occupants will likely find they have plenty of head and legroom, as well as a comfortable set of seats. The same cannot be said for those seated in the rear, however, where head and legroom are only adequate and the rear seatback's rather excessive angle makes it uncomfortable for long trips. Thanks to the LX trim's standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats, the Rio's 11.9 cubic foot trunk can be expanded to hold long or bulky items such as skis or snowboards. Those needing maximum cargo space might be better off with the Rio's sister car, the Rio5 hatchback.


Although the European-designed Rio is supposed to look suave and sophisticated, it actually comes off a bit dull and ordinary when placed beside such cars as the new Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta. Still, the 2011 Kia Rio is larger than it looks, and its wide stance not only helps improve the car's handling, it makes for a wider passenger compartment. Base models ride on 14-inch wheels covered by plastic hubcaps, but the SX trim offers handsome 16-inch alloy wheels, which go a long way in improving the Rio's appearance.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The 2011 Kia Rio features a 1.6-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, anti-lock brakes (ABS), body-colored bumpers, auto-off headlamps, rear defroster, variable wipers, height-adjustable driver's seat, tachometer, AM/FM stereo with MP3-compatible CD player, auxiliary audio input jack and USB port, Sirius Satellite Radio with a free three-month subscription, dual sun visors with vanity mirrors, dual cup holders and front, front side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags. The LX trim adds air conditioning, power steering, full wheel covers, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seat and rear-seat adjustable headrests. SX models include 16-inch alloy wheels, sport seats with red trim, fog lights and a rear spoiler.

Optional Equipment

Options for the Rio include a four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, 15-inch aluminum wheels (LX), dual heated power mirrors, power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, steering wheel audio controls, front tweeter upgrade and a rear spoiler.

Under the Hood

The 2011 Kia Rio is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which drives either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Although Kia has made major improvements in noise, vibration and harshness, the Rio's engine is still buzzy at high speed and lacks the smoothness and refinement of its Japanese competitors. Fuel economy is excellent, and is EPA-rated at 36 miles per gallon on the highway when equipped with the four-speed automatic.

1.6-liter in-line 4
110 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
107 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/34 (manual), 27/36 (automatic)

Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?