Less than ten years ago, less than two generations ago, the thought of a Kia Rio entering The Good 12would have been so unthinkable as to not even be laughable. The 2001-2005 Kia Rio’s automatic shifter slammed into drive with the charm of an ox running through a chain link fence. The engine, rough and cacophonous, struggled to be heard above the excessive wind and road noise created by a car that seemed to have left the factory without sound deadening materials. It was slow, crude, painful, and embarrassing.
The 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door, on the other hand, is now being recommended as one of the 12 cars you should consider in 2012, and not just for buyers with the bare minimum to spend. The Rio’s interior is a winner: ergonomically correct, filled with well-built buttons, even fitted with some visually interesting switches. There’s space to be found in the rear, and believe it or not, it’s easier to get comfortable back there than in the 2012 Accent.
The interior may be what keeps your attention, but it’s the exterior that brought you to a Kia store in the first place. From the scalloped body sides to the SEAT Leon-like tail to the aggressive nose and the fancy wheels, the 2012 Kia Rio hatchback is – subjectively, of course – the best-looking car in its class, and by a healthy measure.
A true measure of whether an automaker nailed it or not is found by asking yourself if you’d be willing to pay even more than the asking price. Don’t tell Kia, but the loaded Rio 5-door SX (EX Luxury in Canada), with its backup camera and leather seating and heated seats and navigation and automatic climate control and UVO, is worth more than $21,000 CDN.
Engines: 138 horsepower; 123 lb-ft of torque from a 1.6L four-cylinder
Base USD/CAD Price: $13,600 / $14,095
City Fuel Economy: 30 miles per gallon
It’s Not Perfect: Big wheels and bulging fenders do not a hot hatch make. The Kia Rio 5-door looks like a fine candidate for the Hyundai Veloster’s upcoming 1.6L turbo, but in the meantime, the Rio’s humble subcompact roots are apparent in its on-road demeanor.
Sales Stats: In recent years Rio sales have taken a tumble, falling 29% in the United States and 30% in Canada in 2010. The Rio may end up falling under the Hyundai Accent’s shadow despite its handsome lines, but Rio sales are surely about to improve. Monthly and yearly sales figures for the Kia Rio hatchback and sedan can be viewed here.