Kia Rio was setting new standards for subcompacts even before last year's complete makeover. Now this roomy little car is better than ever. Rio has received Autobytel's "Editor's Choice for Most Improved New Car," and ranked highest for initial quality in the subcompact segment in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Initial Quality Study. Rio has also been recognized as one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market by both the Environmental Protection Agency and by J.D. Power.
The '06 Rio that earned all that acclaim was offered as a practical sedan or as a more deluxe and sporty five-door hatchback called Rio5 SX. For '07, Kia has added an SX-trimmed sedan featuring all of the hatchback's sporty equipment: front fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, metal-finish interior trim, metal pedals, black mesh sport fabric seat inserts and door panels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and red stitching and highlights throughout.
All '07 Rios come with new shift knobs (manual and automatic), a chrome Kia logo on the steering wheel pad, and an illuminated ignition-switch surround. The SX models' 15-inch alloy wheels have been redesigned, and 16-inch rims are now available. SX models also feature new chrome accents on their instrument panel air vents.
Rio competes against a wave of new subcompacts that includes the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Aveo, along with Rio's corporate cousin, the Hyundai Accent. All of these cars are smaller than market-dominating compacts like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, but many offer better fuel economy with little loss of interior space. Rio rates as high as 38 mpg on the highway, while delivering agile handling. And Rio comes standard with six airbags, a safety feature normally associated with expensive luxury cars, not subcompacts.
Mechanically, there isn't much to distinguish a Rio from a Hyundai Accent. That's no bad thing, as both are state-of-the-art small cars. Rio is a bit more boldly styled than Accent, and the five-door variation is a Rio exclusive. Chassis tuning is a little different as well, with Accent biased toward ride comfort and Rio toward handling.
The stigma attached to owning a small car in America is becoming a thing of the past and the latest iteration of the Kia Rio is among the reasons why that's happening.
The Kia Rio sedan and five-door hatchback are powered by the same 110-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It's a sophisticated, modern engine, complete with dual overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. Safety features for all models include front seatbelt pre-tensioners along with six airbags: dual frontal, front seat side-impact and full-coverage side-impact curtain.
The Rio sedan is still available as a very basic base model or in more mainstream LX trim. New for '07 is the sporty SX. The Rio5 five-door hatchback remains available exclusively in SX trim.
The base Rio sedan ($10,770) comes strictly with a manual transmission, wind-up windows, and manual door locks. Tires are 175/70's on 14-inch steel rims. There's no radio or air conditioning, not even power steering. But it does come with a sporty mesh fabric on the seats, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat with a fold-down armrest, tachometer, rear defroster, dual 12V power outlets and a convenient shopping bag hook on the back of the front passenger seat. It also comes with the same six airbags and other safety features found on all Rio models.
The Rio LX sedan ($12,695) is likely to be the most popular model as it adds air conditioning, power steering, and an AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers; plus a tilt steering column and 60/40-split folding rear seat. Tires upgrade to 185/65R14 with full wheel covers. LX comes standard with the manual gearbox, but a four-speed automatic transmission is available ($850). LX buyers can also add a Power Package ($600) that includes power windows, power door locks with keyless remote, power heated outside mirrors and tweeter speakers; four-wheel antilock brakes ($400); and, new for '07, dealer-installed 14-inch wheels. The two remaining options on the list, a rear spoiler ($300) and carpeted floor mats ($85), are also available on the base model. The Rio5 SX hatchback ($13,750) and new SX sedan ($13,495) come with all the standard equipment of the LX, plus 195/55 tires on 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, metal-finish interior trim and metal pedals. The spoiler is standard and 16-inch wheels with 205/45 tires are available ($200); otherwise SX models offer the same list of options as LX.