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2012 Kia Rio SX Sedan Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Kia, Test Drives


The all-new 2012 Kia Rio SX is priced right for bargain conscious consumers looking for a larger than compact sedan that is roomy, equipment and options offered by more expensive vehicles in its class.

The all-new Rio is available in three trim levels-LX, EX and SX which is the model that I tested.  The new Rio comes with a 1.6 liter GDI (Gas Direct Injected) four-cylinder with the option of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with an Active Eco System to extend mpg’s.

One of only two vehicles in the segment to offer a GDI engine, the 2012 Rio offers consumers an elusive combination of power and impressive fuel economy, achieving class-leading 138 hp at 6,300 rpm/123 lb.ft. of torque at 4,850 rpm, while also maintaining a class-leading fuel economy rating of 30mpg/city and 40mpg/highway.  Adding further to Rio’s improved performance, engineers worked to reduce engine weight by 29 lbs. over the previous generation by adding an aluminum valve cover and block to the third-generation Gamma engine, while incorporating cast iron liners for increased durability.  This all-aluminum four-cylinder engine also features DOHC’s and dual continuously variable valve timing to lower the torque band for excellent performance.

Conceived in Kia’s design studios in Irvine, California, the all-new Rio sedan exhibits highly sculpted sloping shoulder lines and a wedge-shaped exterior, projecting an athletic profile that conveys power and agility while mimicking the aggressive lines found on other recently launched Kia vehicles such as the 2011 Optima and Sportage.  The new Rio Sedan sports its own interpretation of Kia’s signature grille, slimmed down to connect to the dynamic headlamp design, providing a new twist on the Kia family look that includes a bigger air intake to exude a youthful persona. The new Rio is both sleek and muscular.  Standard features exterior cues on the Rio SX include body-color door handles and heated outside mirrors that are attached to the door rather than the plastic triangle like so many others in the segment; 17X7 in. alloy wheels with black painted pockets wrapped with 205/45R17 in. performance tires, LED daytime running lamps, rear combination lamps, and dual chrome exhaust tips.

The all-new Rio brings with it an all-new platform-longer, wider and lower than before.  Its aggressive stance is assisted through an overall length of 171.9 in. with a platform measuring 67.7 in. wide and 57.3 in. high.  Employing high-tensile-strength steel (63%), Rio’s lightweight design offers high-torsional stiffness for improved handling, ride quality and refinement.  Though a more expensive alternative, using these materials also increases crash safety capabilities while reducing overall weight.  To ensure good noise, vibration and harshness reduction, the new Rio was outfitted with hood and dash insulators as well as expandable foam in the A and C pillars and Thinsulate in the A and B pillars.

Built on a unibody frame, the front-wheel-drive Rio utilizes an independent front and rear suspension systems.  Up front are MacPherson struts, gas-charged shocks, coil springs and stabilizer bar.  In the rear is a torsion beam axle setup with gas-charged shocks.  This suspension geometry engages drivers with responsive handling and provides the utmost comfort for a variety of driving situations.  The electric-assisted power rack & pinion steering is also very responsive and easily guides the Rio where you want it to go with excellent feel for the road.  The standard vehicle stability management system uses traction control and electronic stability control systems keep torque steer and understeer to a minimum during spirited driving times.

The new Rio SX comes standard with four-wheel power-assisted steel disc brakes.  Up front are 11 in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 10.3 in. solid discs clamped with single-piston calipers in the rear.  Standard ABS helps to keep you in control of your direction during severe braking maneuvers and when braking on wet or slick pavement.  The new Rio SX also comes standard with Hill Assist Control.

Moving inside, the 2012 Rio envelopes you and your passengers in a bold and modern cabin, centered on Kia’s characteristic horizontal three-cylinder instrument cluster with Supervision gauges in the SX model, two-tone for the 2012 Rio to emphasize a feeling of spaciousness and comfort.  An extended wheelbase of 101.2 in. greatly enhances passenger and cargo capacity for additional comfort, offering 40 in. front headroom, 37.8 in. rear headroom, 43.3 in. front legroom and 31.1 in. rear legroom.  Standard equipment inside the SX include a driver’s seat height adjuster, power windows/door locks, Bluetooth wireless technology connectivity with steering-wheel mounted voice activation controls, leather-wrapped/tilt/telescoping steering wheel, shift knob, A/C, 60/40 split folding rear seats and leatherette door trim.  Also metal pedals, cruise control, variable-speed wipers/washers, dual map lights, dual lighted vanity mirrors, sunglass holder, grab handles above each passenger door, trip computer, UVO powered by Microsoft in-car hands-free communication and entertainment system with rear camera display and chrome-coated accents throughout.  Options in my SX trim test Rio included Navigation system, electric sunroof, remote keyless entry, heated outside mirrors, metal finish trim, AM-FM-CD stereo radio plus SIRIUS satellite with six-speakers, push-button start/stop, leather seat trim, heated front seats and carpeted floor mats.

Standard safety features include dual front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions, LATCH system for child seats, child-proof rear door locks, front/rear crumple zones and steel beams in each door.

The all-new 2012 Kia Rio SX comes well equipped to satisfy the growing needs of young couples looking for an economical, versatile and fun-to-drive sedan.  While it looks like a compact on the outside, the inside comfortably seats five people in style and safety.  Priced from only $17,500.00, the SX trim level Rio is a great investment.



  • Price: Kia Rio Sedan LX Base MSRP $13,400 / Kia Rio Sedan SX Sedan MSRP $17,500
  • Engine: 1.6-liter GDI 4-cylinder 138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm / 123 lb-ft. torque @ 4,850 rpm
  • Track: f/r-59.9/60 in.
  • Ground clearance: 5.5 in.
  • Turning circle: 34.5 ft.
  • EPA passenger volume: 88.6 cu.ft.
  • EPA cargo volume: 13.7 cu.ft.
  • EPA mileage: 30mpg/city, 40mpg/highway

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