Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 Kia Rio Overview
Let's Make a Deal Meets the Price is Right
You've heard the expression "you get what you pay for" right? It's usually uttered by some family member just minutes after that bargain you couldn't pass up fails miserably. There is a great deal of truth to the idea that if you pay more for something, you'll be getting a better product. There are of course exceptions to every rule, and the Kia Rio is a prime example of just such an animal.
The Rio is Kia's smallest, least expensive vehicle. Offered only as a four-door sedan (the wagon version is called the Cinco), the Rio can be had for just a hair over $10K, although Kia advertises it for less, you have to remember that no one escapes the $540 destination charge. Regardless, short of another Rio, you can't touch anything with an engine and four wheels for this price; toss in the Rio's standard 10-year/100,000 mile comprehensive warranty and the last cogent arguments against buying this car fall by the wayside.
Now forget about the Rio's price for a moment and just look at the pictures: this is one sharp looking little car. We looked our test car over with a meticulous eye and found no trace of misaligned body panels or poor workmanship. The paint shone brightly and was even applied to places ordinarily occupied by hard black plastic (such as the fog light cutout covers.) Further inspection revealed a set of dual side-view mirrors, color-keyed flush-mounted door handles and an attractive set of full wheel covers.
The Rio's interior will astound you with its clean appearance, attention to detail and abundant use of quality plastic and cloth. One of the Rio's most impressive features is also one of the simplest: a real set of usable cup holders built into the center console. This remarkable achievement still seems to elude many manufacturers whose pricey vehicles can barely accommodate a 12 oz. soda can.
Though the Rio can seat four adults, if the ones up front are tall, legroom for those in the back nearly vanishes. The driver and front passenger have it best as they are provided a surprisingly comfortable set of bucket-type seats; the driver's seat is even height-adjustable and comes with its own folding armrest and manual lumbar support. One feature missing from the Rio is a folding rear seat, one of the few sacrifices made to the gods of cost cutting. The Rio's tall rear deck provides for a generous trunk that is both deep and easily accessible thanks to the low lift-over height.
The Rio's miserly 1.6-liter engine is no great powerhouse for sure, but it is peppy. The standard five-speed manual feels a bit rubbery with long throws that sometimes make it difficult to hit the right gear. Once you master its shift pattern, the five-speed manual is more than cooperative in helping you achieve maximum acceleration with minimal loss of fuel. The EPA rates the Rio manual at 26-mpg city and 33-mpg highway. Of course, if you are not into shifting your own gears, a four-speed automatic is offered as optional equipment.
You'll find that the Rio returns a pretty decent ride for such a small car, though errant potholes and overzealous attempts at crossing speed bumps will quickly reveal the suspension's limits. The soft springs allow a bit more bounce than we'd like and also causes the front end to dive deep under hard braking. For the most part, you'll find that the Rio returns a capable ride; it won't inspire you to run through turns, but it also won't frighten you silly should you have to do so.
Standard features on the Rio include auto-off headlamps, a five-speed manual transmission, fading interior light, variable intermittent wipers, front-door map pockets and a rear-window defroster. For another $400, you can add an upgrade package that gives you power steering, tilt wheel, a tachometer, overhead reading lights and dual visor vanity mirrors. Toss in air conditioning, power windows and door locks, ABS and the AM/FM stereo with CD and you end up with a fully-loaded Rio for well under $13,000.