First Test: 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door EX

Old 10-07-2011, 06:14 AM
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Default First Test: 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door EX

With the 2012 Kia Rio, Kia has proven that reasonably priced subcompact cars don't have to suck. The Rio name has been around since 2001, and before the 2012 model year arrived, the Rio hadn't been redesigned since 2006. This year's all-new car, available as a sedan or a five-door hatch, has a new look that gives it more edge and attitude. The Rio is based on essentially the same platform as the Hyundai Accent, but is very different visually. This is without a doubt the best-looking Rio ever, and a far cry from the rental-car appliance previous generation models had become.

The Rio small sedan and hatch's new to the Rio platform has a longer wheelbase -- 101.2 inches as opposed to the outgoing car's 98.4 -- and the hatch is wider by 1 inch, longer by 1.2 inches, and sits 0.6-inch lower. The Rio 5-door (the name also changed for 2012) may be longer than the 2011 Rio5, but its overall length is 12.6 inches shorter than the 2012 Rio sedan. The increased 5-door size means more headroom and legroom in front.

While the Rio still is powered by a 1.6-liter four, this one is Hyundai/Kia's all-new, DOHC unit with direct injection and four valves per cylinder. Horsepower has increased from 110 to 138, and torque went from 107 to 123. A six-speed manual transmission is offered, but only on the base LX. The six-speed automatic is standard on the EX and SX, optional with the LX. The horsepower and torque numbers look small, but when you're talking about a 2500-pound subcompact, they make a big difference. We recently took a 5-door Rio tester to the track, where it reached 60 mph in 8.9 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 16.7 seconds at 83.5 mph. Motor Trend's most recent test of the previous Rio5 was of a 2006 SX with the five-speed manual; back then, it took 9.4 seconds to reach 60 and 17 seconds flat to finish the quarter at 80 mph. The 2012 engine's new technology and power also contribute to the huge improvements in fuel economy -- the 2011's 27 mpg city, 36 highway sound impressive enough until you note that the 2012 numbers are 30 and 40, respectively.

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