2012 Kia Rio — Flash Drive
This 2012 review is representative of model years 2012 to 2013.
By Staff of MSN Autos
The Kia Rio is the one disappointment in the entire Kia lineup. It feels like the oldest vehicle they make. Where every other Kia I have driven lately is a revelation and a surprisingly frugal leader in its class, the Rio just feels average. The styling is a little frumpy. The interior is a bit boring. The rear cargo space is nothing special. The fuel economy is about average for the class. I guess it does feel well made, and the driving experience is fun in an economy-car kind of way, but that's typical of similar cars from other manufacturers. The Rio is just average. If you want to know why Kia is on a roll and people now rave about the cars they make, look at any Kia other than the Rio. –Paul Hagger
For 2012, the Kia Rio gets a new look, with the sedan taking on some cues from the midsize Optima while the 5-door hatchback gets a more aggressive front fascia and a sweeping roof line. The 5-door ends up looking more like a hot hatch than the superpractical subcompact that it is, and it gets Kia's direct-injection 1.6-liter engine to back that impression up. The 1.6-liter has enough power for a pretty sporty ride for a car in this category, and the standard 6-speed automatic does a good job of keeping it in the power when needed but remaining focused on fuel efficiency. The steering and the chassis also feel good for an entry-level car. On the highway the Rio is a little noisy inside, but that is to be expected from a hatchback this size. The Rio's interior is updated with a new center-stack design with rotary dials and toggle switches. There is a useful storage area in front of the shifter with power outlets and auto plug-ins. The Convenience Package seems to be a great value for $1,000, adding desirable options that include alloy wheels, fog lights, UVO infotainment system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a rear view camera. –Mike Meredith
The Koreans just keep turning out hit after hit, and the Rio is another one. With its new styling and front-end treatment, it nicely fits in with the rest of the Kia lineup. It may be Kia's entry-level model, but it doesn't fit the mold of the entry-level economy car. The two-tone color treatment of the interior makes the car feel upscale, and our EX tester came well equipped with Bluetooth, a good audio system and UVO, Kia's voice-activated media interface. The Rio even has a backup camera. The rear seat has decent legroom and can fit two adults easily, but trying to get three into the back would be tight. Cargo space is surprisingly large for such a small car, adding considerable utility to the Rio 5-door. My only issue is with the engine. It provides adequate power, but it doesn't feel very smooth. A steady throttle does not result in smooth power, and the engine is rather buzzy under hard acceleration. Fuel economy is reasonable - I saw around 28 mpg in mostly city driving - and the Rio is rated at 40 on the highway. Priced just under $17K, the Rio EX makes a great first car, and it certainly won't embarrass the new driver. –Perry Stern