2012 Kia Rio Review

2012 Kia Rio - The redesigned 2012 Kia Rio is a sexier, competent entry level car


Prices: $13,400-$17,700

The 2011 Kia Rio looked plain, but was fairly lively, economical and backed with a long warranty. You either bought it—or maybe a used car.

The redone 2012 model has slicker,European-inspired styling, more power, a better automatic transmission and improved fuel economy—besides keeping Kia’s  10-year/100,00-mile powertrain warranty.

The front-wheel-drive Rio comes in base LX, mid-range EX and top-line SX trim. It’s sold as a sedan or hatchback. List prices range from $13,400 to $17.700, excluding a $750 destination charge.

Standard for the LX are air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, CD Player, satellite radio, adjustable steering wheel with audio controls and large power mirrors.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard in the LX sedan and hatchback, but you can get both versions with a new six-speed automatic for $14,500 (sedan) or $14,700 (hatchback).

The EX adds the automatic transmission as standard, besides power windows and door locks with keyless entry.

The sporty SX has cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, leather-wrapped wheel, lower-profile tires on larger (17-inch) wheels, suspension enhancements, a back-up camera and power mirrors with turn signal indicators.

Rio safety items include lots of air bags and all-disc brakes.

The 2011 Rio had 110 horsepower and a dated four-speed automatic transmission. But all 2012 versions have a 138-horsepower direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts and 16 valves.

The new Rio’s more modern six-speed automatic works efficiently and has an easily used manual-shift feature.

Estimated fuel economy for this new Kia is impressive: 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on highways.

The engine is rather noisy when revved high for the best acceleration, but quickly propels the car from 65-75 mph on highways. Merging into fast freeway traffic is no problem. Cruising is effortless, with little wind or road noise.

The steering is quick, with good road feel, and the Rio has agile handling. (The SX is the best handler partly because it has thicker anti-sway bars.) The ride is compliant, and the brake pedal has a soft feel, but a progressive action.

Traction control, electronic stability control and a vehicle stability management system also helped keep my test Rio on course.

There is a variety of option packages. My test car had the $2,200 Premium package. It  contains such popular features as a power tilt/slide sunroof, navigation system, push-button start, leather seat trim and heated front seats.  

I tested the $17,500 SX sedan, which costs $17,700 in hatchback form. It has a large trunk for a subcompact car, and rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat for more cargo room. However, the pass-through opening between the trunk and backseat area is only moderately large.

The trunk opening is wide, but rather high for the quickest loading. Curiously, the trunk lid has no interior grip to help close it without getting hands dirty on outside sheet metal..

The Rio has large door handles, inside and out, and wide door openings to allow easy entry and exit. Front seats offer good lateral support, and there’s decent room in back for two 6-footers. 

The interior is quiet, but has a lot of average-looking plastic. The backlit gauges can be quickly read, even in bright sunlight. Climate controls are large. Although, smaller, radio controls are easy to use, and all controls are within convenient reach. Front cupholders are nicely placed, but the small-but-deep center console bin is set far back.

Front doors have pockets and rear ones have beverage holders. The glovebox is unusually large.

The outside hood release is easy to find and use, without groping for it and bruising fingers, and the padded hood is held up with a short rod.

The Kia Rio fits nicely in the growing entry level small-car market, which has become increasingly competitive.


Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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