By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.7
If the subcompact category were a movie, the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent would be the stars, soaking up the highly sought-after screen time, each exuding their own unique talents to draw in the audience. But what about the Kia Rio? Well, it would probably be that one guy in that one scene with that one line that no one really remembers. Until now. For 2012, the Kia Rio has been revamped and restyled in an attempt to gain more notoriety in the sub-compact ranks. Like Matt Damon going from Good Will Hunting to The Bourne Identity, it might be a little weird at first, but its audience will be more accepting in time. And maybe a short time, at that, thanks to the 2012 Kia Rio's new talents and eccentric styling.
The 2012 Kia Rio is an inexpensive sub-compact that delivers a great value and superb fuel economy backed by an outstanding warranty.
While the 2012 Kia Rio is a well-rounded car, it doesn't excel in cargo capacity like the Honda Fit or driving fun like the Ford Fiesta.
The Kia Rio has been completely revamped for 2012 and has an even lower price tag. It's still available as a 4-door sedan, but adds a 5-door hatchback design, both of which sport a new look, a new engine and enough tech-savvy features to make others in its class jealous.
Driving Impressions Our time behind the wheel of the 2012 Kia Rio consisted mainly of highway driving, but it was enough to get a feel of what the front-wheel-drive sub-compact has to...offer – and it didn't disappoint. The eager 1.6-liter engine has more than enough power for passing slower trucks, although most of the power can be felt in the higher-rpm range. We were surprised at how comfortable the car rides considering its small size, but the soft ride doesn't compromise its handling abilities. In sorting out the suspension, Kia's engineers used the Ford Fiesta as their benchmark to ensure some sporty footwork and, while we can say they got pretty close, we can't say they exceeded it. The 2012 Kia Rio is agile and confident in the turns but, in the overall sense, we wouldn't equate it to the same athletic feel as the Ford Fiesta or Mazda2. Aside from the driving dynamics, we're happy to report that even after two straight hours of driving, the Rio was just as pleasant as when we first stepped foot inside. The seats are comfortable and only minimal road noise could be detected, another pleasant surprise for a car in this class.
Idle Stop and Go (ISG) Technology
It's a little disconcerting at first but, once we got used to the sound of the car starting after every stop, we took comfort in the added fuel savings that the feature entails.
Factory navigation systems are uncommon at this price point and we like that the Kia Rio blazes the trail by offering this feature.
Aesthetics aside, what really sets the 2012 Kia Rio apart from the competition is its lavish interior and impressive list of standard and available features. The Rio incorporates a 3-cylinder instrument panel and wraparound dash design that is simple and user-friendly. Some of the more notable available features include Bluetooth, a 7-inch navigation system with a rear-view camera, push-button start, a UVO voice-activated infotainment system and leather seating surfaces for a more upscale feel. While most, if not all of these features can be obtained in the Rio's competitors, we were more impressed in the fact that the Rio offers them in the first place. A shockingly good surprise.Exterior
Our time with the 2012 Kia Rio was limited to the 5-door variant, which shares the same features and mechanical details with its 4-door sibling but just looks better, in our opinion. Kia's design engineers went back the drawing board and wedged the edges, sloped the shoulder lines and sculpted a new look for the Rio using design elements from its Optima and Sportage brethren. The Rio incorporates Kia's signature grille flanked by slanted headlights and a large air dam. Sweeping side character lines slope up to the high-placed taillights and steeply-raked rear window. The base Rio sits on 15-inch steel wheel or alloys, but stepping to the up-level SX brings more stylish 17-inch alloys. All things said, it looks like the product of some serious Optima and Sportage canoodling.
The 2012 Kia Rio LX comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission (a 6-speed automatic is available), air conditioning, a radio with auxiliary/USB input, steering-wheel audio controls and four speakers and that's about it. Power windows and door locks are optional. Stepping up to the EX and SX trims includes the power accessories and adds many other features: Cruise control, UVO audio and rearview camera, AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio, Bluetooth, power door locks, power windows and other visual and convenience upgrades to the interior and exterior.
Options for the 2012 Kia Rio come in the form of packages. For example, notable features in the SX Premium Package include push-button start with Smart Key, a navigation system, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats and a moonroof. The ECO package includes the ISG (Idle Stop and Go) technology and Active ECO system for optimal fuel-efficient driving.
The 2012 Kia Rio's sole motivator is the same 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder engine that powers its Hyundai Accent cousin. With automatic transmission, the power plant returns projected gas mileage numbers of 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. But the Rio has an ace up its sleeve in the form of ISG technology. The acronym stands for "Idle Stop and Go," which is a fuel-saving system that turns off the engine when the car is stopped and seamlessly turns it on again when the brake pedal is released. This eco-smart mechanism is good for approximately one more mpg across the board, according to Kia.
1.6-liter in-line 4
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
123 lb-ft of torque @ 4,850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/37 (manual), 28/36 (automatic)
By steve-o on Monday, April 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "handles great"
Cons: "no power windows or locks and no arm rest"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Not bad for a manual transmission that will not roll back on a hill. Great for drivers who are learning to drive a manual transmission for the first time. Put an aftermarket intake on it and get 44.2mpg on the highway going 70mph. only costs around $30 to fill up when almost on empty."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By cyd on Friday, March 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,005overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "good price, reliable"
Cons: "blind spots, road noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"the only 2 things I don't love about it are the fact that it has so many blind spots and the road noise. Other than that is great! I like it!"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By turtleteach on Thursday, January 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent gas mileage!"
Cons: "Front passenger seat too low, can't raise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"A great car for the price. Love the loaded premium package that turns it into a luxury vehicle. Good looking inside and out. Wish it had a real spare tire instead of a can of sealant and a front passenger seat that could be raised."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Dotti on Monday, January 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, economical"
Cons: "none that I can think of"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I purchased this car in 2012 for daily travel of 50 to 100 miles a day. The mileage is great much better than the sticker indicated, comfortable and fun to drive."
By shadyg24 on Wednesday, January 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "needs a bigger gas tank"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"very nice gas saving car evening sporty has plenty of power wife loves it..but like i said i wish for a bigger gas tank."
By Rio904 on Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, good gas mileage, easy to maintain,so cute!"
Cons: "small back seat, rear speakers"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the first new vehicle I have ever owned and I am so happy I chose Kia. The Rio is small but comfortable and really great on gas! I use it for my daily commute and I have no complaints at all. This car is adorable and I get compliments all the time! Definitely would recommend!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful