I get excited about small, inexpensive cars – especially when they are this good.
Hatchbacks in this segment have improved vastly – most notably for American buyers. No longer relegated to the bargain basement, automakers significantly raised the bar for hatchbacks sold here. Build quality, engineering, safety and performance have significantly increased while prices remain fairly affordable. True, it’s nearly impossible to find any new car for under 11K; cars like this Rio5 give you a lot for a base price of $13,600.
Fully loaded up to the gills with every option box checked, you’ll be looking at less than $21,000.
After spending a lot of time overseas, I see the logic and (potential) fun of owning a slick hatchback. This one in particular reminds me of some of the better European hatchbacks I’ve driven. KIA’s design team truly knocked the overall look of the 2012 KIA Rio5 out of the park. As a package, I truly have a hard time finding a better all-around hatchback.
The KIA Rio5 is an all new design that has little to do with its current sedan cousin. KIA will introduce a modernized Rio sedan, based on the Rio5’s chassis, soon.
At less than 2,500 lbs, the KIA Rio5 is a little heavier than many competitors. The tossable Mazda2, well-made Ford Fiesta and nifty FIAT 500 are smaller and lighter. The 2012 KIA Rio5 provides more power, gears and substance than the aforementioned.
The direct injected, 138 horsepower, DOHC 1.6-liter 4-banger makes 123 lbs-feet of torque at 4,850 rpm. So, you have to rev it to get it… which is typical for many cars in this class. Two 6-speed transmissions are available: a 6-speed manual, that I have yet to test, is only available in the base model and a well-built 6-speed automatic which covers the rest of the line.
What truly sets the KIA Rio5 apart is its remarkable sophistication for the segment.
Satellite, MP3 connectors, Bluetooth, leather, heated seats, automated retracting mirrors, power sunroof, UVO infotainment, sweet-looking LED trimmed front lights with LED taillights and other goodies are available for a nominal price. These are options many competitors simply do not offer. Even the base model offers 4-wheel disc brakes, Sirius XM/MP3/Aux/CD with steering wheel controls and hill start assist control. That’s a lot of swag for your hard earned cabbage.
A “sexy” hatchback? E-gad! Yes indeed Denver-folk… this car has a hint of sexy in its delicate creases.
I love the styling. It is easily one of the best looking cars in its class; especially when gazing at its shapely ass. Seriously, I’m a butt-man and I love the tush on the 2012 KIA Rio5. It looks especially good in white and I usually try to talk people out of that high maintenance color. The design totally reminds me of an Italian hatchback – which is saying something. Italian cars have passion and brio packed into nearly every design and if this little KIA Rio5 is reminiscent… well, you get the point.
The overall driving experience is not too shabby.
This is where the competition catch up to Rio5. The ride, aided by the long-ish 101.2-inch wheelbase is best in class. This can be attributed by my little ones who passed out in the back while I toured a few guests through the sights of Denver, Colorado. Yes, it held two kids and three adults. Fortunately, one of the adults was on the small side. I managed to average 32 mpg over 10 days of brutal driving. At the same time it held a stroller, two backpacks, several jackets and a 12-pack of Coors in the large cargo area. That’s not too bad.
Steering feel is its greatest disappointment. Not that it does anything wrong, but when a car is equipped with electric power steering; road-feel tends to be sacrificed. In the case of the 2012 KIA Rio5, there was nearly no road feel. I would have been fairly pleased had KIA added weight to the steering, which would help the perception of feel. Most people who drive cars for commuting and care little for sporting fun will be fine with the steering setup.
If that is important to you, I highly recommend the Mazda2 – which is best in its class for steering feel.
It definitely loses power up here. Testing 0 to 60 mph times at about 6,000 feet revealed a slow time of just over 13 seconds. Fortunately, powering up to 30 and 40 mph is competitively fast. If you crave oomph with your commute, this car might disappoint. I would recommend the new batch of cheap turbo runabouts. Still, cruising at high speeds seems easy for the KIA Rio5 and passing power was acceptable. Direct injection seems to mitigate some of the high altitude power loss.
There is a lot of car here for the money and I had a great experience thrashing the little guy – so will you. Oh, and don’t forget that fat powertrain warranty KIA provides of 10 years and 100,000 miles. All in all, the 2012 KIA Rio5 represents a hell of a bargain and a car worth testing.