2001 Kia Rio
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
There are lots of folks without the money—or who don't want to spend the bucks—to buy a new car. That's where the new Kia Rio comes in.
The $8,895 Rio is the least-expensive car offered in this country, but is better in many respects than other low-cost entry-level autos. For one thing, this front-drive South Korean sedan looks good. For another, it has solid, careful construction and a sophisticated engine. This is no technological throwback.
Considering all that, who needs a used Honda or Toyota?
All that warranty goodness comes from South Korea's Hyundai. It happens to own Kia and offers the same sales-boosting warranties here for Hyundai nameplate models. Of course, Hyundai doesn't top the charts for trouble-free operation, and neither does Kia.
Moreover, the Rio has highly questionable resale value. It's best to buy it as a long-term car; drive it for ten years or so and then throw it away.
Limited Standard Equipment
Variety of Options
Don't want to shift the standard 5-speed manual transmission? Then order the $875 4-speed automatic transmission. Air conditioning is $750, and anti-lock brakes cost $400.
But some economy cars don't even offer anti-lock brakes and can be had only with a 3-speed automatic. Add all Rio options—including the $85 body-color rear spoiler—and you're still looking at a low-cost car.
The appearance of the slickly styled Rio doesn't scream "cheap" when you roll up in it. And it has four doors and a regular, fairly good-sized trunk, instead of a cheapo 2-door hatchback design possessed by the old economy cars.
The front seats offer good side support in curves, and there are handy storage pockets in the front doors. But radio controls are too small and the offbeat upholstery pattern in my test car caused eyebrows to be raised. Climate controls are decent, and gauges can be easily read.
The lack of a tachometer shows cost cutting. However, there are four—not just two—washer jets to help keep the windshield especially clean.
The power steering is a little slow, but the ride is decent. As for the brakes, they're controlled by a mushy pedal and need the anti-lock system for decent emergency stopping distances.
Skinny Standard Wheels and Tires
Don't think twice about ordering the $275 14-inch alloy wheels and 65-series tires, which put more rubber on the road for better handling and braking.
Slow Passing on Highways
The engine gets buzzy when asked to work hard and isn't especially fuel-thrifty, considering its size and the Rio's near 2,300-pound curb weight. It provides an estimated 27 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway.
So there you have it—a plucky, inexpensive little car with a wonderful warranty that doesn't look or feel cheap. For many motorists, that will be more than enough.