All-new for 2012, the Kia Rio5 updates the brand's smallest hatchback, injecting it with some much-needed style and a host of new technologies for the subcompact class. Featuring an advanced direct-injection fuel system, the Rio5 is able to deliver an EPA-estimated 39 mpg highway from its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, 4 mpg greater it than the model it replaces. That engine also produces 138 horsepower and stands as one of the most powerful in its class.
Body styles: Hatchback
Engines: 1.6-liter inline-4
Transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Models: Rio5 LX, Rio5 EX, Rio5 SX
Everything. The Rio5 has stepped up its game to compete against the burgeoning subcompact segment, ditching its old four-speed automatic and five-speed manual for a pair of six-speed transmissions. The Rio5 also brings idle stop and go (ISG) technology to this segment for the first time in the U.S., allowing the car to seamlessly shut off and restart its engine during in-town traffic to maximize fuel economy. It's bigger on the inside without much added to the outside, allowing for a more comfortable, more efficient car than it replaces.
Matching the new corporate look for the Kia brand, the Rio5's radical restyling is swoopy and adventurous in a traditionally conservative class. With standard 15-inch steel wheels and 17-inch wheels available on the uplevel SX, the Rio5 looks positively sporty compared to its staid predecessor. Also on SX models, fog lights and LED driving lights come standard in the new projection-beam headlights. The car has a very European appeal to it, likely because it was styled by the person responsible for Volkswagen and Audi design several years back.
Downmarket but not dowdy, the Rio5 is a vast improvement over the 2011 model in its interior packaging and materials. With what Kia calls a three-horizontal-cylinder dashboard console and two-tone color coordination, the interior looks upscale, especially when optioned with the in-dash navigation system. Aluminum-look brightwork adorns the center console, door pulls, and part of the optionally leather-wrapped steering wheel, adding to the Rio5's upscale appearance.
Performance & Handling
The Rio's ride is taut but not overly firm, going over roads smoothly and capably. While its 9.2-second acceleration from 0 to 60 mph won't set the road on fire, it is class-competitive. What it does offer is superior fuel economy and a comfortable ride to get passengers from A to B in a better-than-expected manner.
Dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags are standard; disc/drum brakes are standard on the base Rio5, but four-wheel discs are standard everywhere else. The Rio5 comes with standard four-channel anti-lock brakes, stability control, and vehicle stability management to mitigate between the anti-lock brakes and stability control to find an optimal level of traction at each wheel.
EPA Fuel Economy
Rio5: 29 mpg city/39 mpg highway (automatic and manual)*
- Roomy interior
High value-per-dollar ratio
You Won't Like
- Slightly less interior room than predecessor
Still some hard plastics in places
High beltline compromises rear windows
A thorough redesign puts it at the front of its class.
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