2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Introduction
In a recent conversation with Kia representatives we have suggested they build a fully loaded version of the Rio and call it Rio Grande.
Seems like a natural fit to us.
If it ever happens, remember, you read it here first.
Having been completely redesigned for the 2012 model year, the fresh new Kia Rio is a remarkably good looking little car. In fact, its expansive good looks will attract a lot of people to the model.
When they get there the Rio will satisfy in most regards. This car has a lot of positives. However, there is one critical area in which the all-new Rio will leave some shoppers questioning going with the handsome new Kia.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Models & Prices
For 2013, Kia’s Rio is offered in two body styles and three states of trim. The Rio sedan, and Rio 5-door hatchback are the body styles, while the trim levels are LX, EX and SX.
Standard equipment on the LX trimmed Rio is a six-way adjustable driver's seat, a tilt steering column, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a trip computer, electric power steering, 60/40 split folding rear seats, and a cargo cover for the hatchback.
Moving up to the EX trim brings power windows with an express automatic up/down on the driver's window. Rio EX also features cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, Bluetoothwireless connectivity for telephone and audio, steering wheel-mounted voice activation controls to enable hands-free operation for compatible mobile phones, and metallic accents with leatherette door trim.
The SX package takes the Rio in a more upscale and athletic direction with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the automatic transmission. The SX kit also laces the Rio with metal pedals and trim, Kia’s Supervision meter cluster, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual map lights, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, and the UVO powered by Microsoftvoice-activated infotainment system with a rear camera display—based on the WindowsEmbedded Automotive platform.
Pricing starts at $13,600 for Rio LX sedan with a manual transmission; $14,700 with an automatic transmission, $16,500 for Rio LX, and $17,700 fro Rio SX. An $800 destination charge should be added to each price. Rio 5-Door pricing is $200 higher for each trim level across the board. ($13,800 for a manual LX—$17,900 for an EX).
Many of the bits available for the upper level models can be had as options on the lover level models, or as part of packages including the Convenience Package, Eco Package, Power Package, and Premium Package. Automatic transmissions are standard for every trim level save LX, which is the only trim level with which the six-speed manual transmission can be purchased.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Design
As we mentioned above, the Rio is one handsome little car. Graceful, almost Italian looking, the Rio’s exterior treatment features highly sculpted details, sloping shoulder lines and a wedge-shaped over all profile which make the car look simultaneously racy and solid.
In fact, the Rio is one of the few cars offering both a hatchback and a sedan configuration wherein both are equally good looking. The design renaissance at Kia is in full swing and some truly attractive automobiles are emerging from it.
In all honesty, it’s pretty difficult to do a distinctive looking car these days with all cars having to meet essentially the same criteria. If you’ve been wondering why so many modern cars look so much alike, it’s largely regulatory pressures. The hood has to be a certain height to protect pedestrians should the car hit them. Similarly the bumpers have to be at a certain height to match other cars, the lighting also has to be positioned rather precisely. In other words, all of the things that could be used to differentiate a design have to comply with a certain standard.
Of course, the best designers take these limitations as a challenge to deliver something memorable in spite of them. Kia’s director of design, Peter Schreyer, has made his career turning out memorable designs—having previously designed the Audi TT, as well as the VW New Beetle.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
The interior design of the Kia is just as impressive as the outside. Looking around, you’d be hard pressed to say this is a sub-$20,000 car. Yes, if you’re in the base LX model, there’s a preponderance of plastic, but it’s textured in a way keeps it from looking cheap.
Further, spaciousness is an attribute of the unexpected attribute of the Rio models. The tilt and telescoping wheel in the EX and SX make funding a comfortable driving position quite easy. Further, there’s more than enough legroom for taller drivers to fit nicely. If the folks up front are willing to share, rear seat passengers can be comfortable too. Long story short, the Rio is a subcompact, this is true, but it offers more space than you’d expect for the classification.
This extends (no pun intended) to the cargo area too. The sedan features 13.7 cubic feet of trunk space for hauling goods, and the back seat fold in a 60/40 split to enable the transport of even more. The hatchback provides 15 cubic feet, and offers more ready accessibility—in addition to a storage tray under the floor of the cargo compartment.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
In the not so distant past, many of the Kia Rio’s offerings were found exclusively in luxury cars. Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, power folding outside rear-view mirrors, voice activated telematics, a rear-view camera feeding a huge seven-inch monitor in the dash, leather upholstery, a sunroof, keyless entry, and pushbutton start are still pleasant finds to this day, particularly when they’re all found together as in the upper trims packages of the 2013 Rio.
Soft touch materials adorn the dash and door panels and even the Rio’s base-level cloth interior features a sumptuously woven fabric. Tres cool “aircraft style” toggle switches grace the center console for the climate control system. The handsomely styled leather wrapped steering wheel is nicely sized and hosts redundant controls for the audio and communications systems, as well as switches for the cruise control.
The controls are arranged quite logically, it takes very little acclimatization to operate the Rio competently. Most controls are exactly where you’d expect them to be. The layout is indicative of a significant amount of consideration.
We found the Uvo voice activated interface to be a cool thing, particularly in a car in this price range. But it did give us a few @#$%! moments when it seemed incapable of understanding the English language as used by certain members of our testing team.
(OK, it was me—all right?!?!)
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Engine/Fuel Economy
The 138-horsepower, inline four-cylinder engine tasked with motivating the front-drive Rio does an admirable job of setting the 2500-pound Kia into motion and keeping it moving briskly along. The engine makes 123 ft-lbs of torque and in most cases will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is offered, but as we mentioned earlier, Kia’s product planners chose to exile that transmission to the lowest (LX) trim level of the Rio.
However, the 2013 Rio is the first car in its class (that isn’t a hybrid) to offer what Kia terms “Idle Stop and Go”. In other words, the Rio’s engine shuts itself down at traffic signals, or when you stop in heavy traffic. The engine then restarts when you release the brake pedal to move again. Kia’s reps say this feature is good for some two miles per gallon worth of increase in fuel efficiency in city driving.
On that subject, according to the EPA, the 2013 Kia Rio is good for 29 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway with the manual transmission. Automatic transmission equipped Rio models do 28 in the city and 36 on the highway. Kia Rio EX ECO package models (with idle stop and go) return 30 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway.
Rio’s 11.4-gallon fuel tank gives it a theoretical range of 421 miles on the highway on regular unleaded fuel.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Safety/Ratings
In addition to everything we’ve raved about so far, you’ll also find an abundance of safety features — Electronic Stability Control (ESC), ABS, Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) — as standard features.
The Rio’s complement of six airbags includes front side, as well as side curtain. Its “Halo Body” construction scheme is designed to help protect occupants in certain side impact and rollover collisions.
It must work pretty well; NHTSA rated the Rio four out of five stars for overall crash worthiness. In frontal crashes the Rio also earned four out of five possible, while the Rio’s side protection garnered a rating of five out of five stars.
The IIHS rated the Kia “good” (its highest ranking) in moderate front overlap crashes. The organization has yet to report on small overlap, side, rear, and roof strength events for the 2013 Rio.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
Dynamically, the Rio ranks right in there with every other car in its category. It’s a pleasant enough car to drive. Not overtly sporty, but not dull either. The Kia’s steering, suspension and braking systems do a nice job of balancing comfort and engagement. While the 2013 Rio won’t set your eyebrows ablaze with exceptional dynamics, it is an enjoyable car to drive.
If you prefer a firmer ride and sharper handling, you’ll want to go with the SX as that iteration of the car is set up to favor handling over ride. Similarly, if you’re more comfort oriented the EX will give you a better ride, albeit at the expense of a bit of sharpness in terms of the Rio’s reflexes.
Seated behind the wheel, you’ll find the ergonomics of the handsomely styled interior demonstrative of a thoughtful process. You won’t miss your exit trying to find the tuner or volume control for the radio in a Kia Rio. And it’s an especially good thing, because you will need that volume knob a lot.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
Which brings us to the one critical area in which the Rio could leave some shoppers questioning the decision of going with the handsome Kia.
In a nutshell, the 2013 Kia Rio is a pretty noisy car.
And when you think about it, simple economics demand if you load all those premium features in a sub-$20,000 car, you’re going to have to cut corners somewhere. Part of where Kia makes up the difference is in insulation.
Tire roar is an omnipresent Rio traveling companion.
If you’re intrigued by the look of the Kia Rio and truly enraptured with the vast amount of content you can get for so little money, you’d do well to turn the radio off on your test drive, ask the sales person to stop talking about the Rio for a while, and listen to it.
During a long drive in a noisy car your brain works overtime to block out the noise. It’s so effective; over time you won’t notice the noise anymore. But it’s still having an effect on you. Even though you’re physically fine, mentally you can be somewhat fatigued after. Often overlooked, this aspect of a car can be pretty tiring over time.
With that said, if you can hear yourself think and you like what you hear, you’ll likely find the 2013 Kia Rio to be a pretty good deal.
2013 Kia Rio Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Good looking
• Spacious and comfortable interior
• Strong fuel economy
• Reasonably priced
• Strong feature set
• 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty