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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Kia Rio Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Kia Rio Overview

Smart, Cute and Inexpensive; The Kia Rio Is the Perfect Date

As subcompact cars go, the Kia Rio makes quite an impression. It's a stylish little guy with a handsome interior and a pretty comfortable standard equipment list. It's also practical; with pricing starting below $10K, you can pick up a Rio for less than most used cars and you get a 10-year/100,000 mile warranty to boot. If you have a big, gas-hungry SUV as your daily driver, you might want to consider putting a second car in the driveway and saving the big metal monster for weekend road trips with the family. Heck, the Rio even comes in wagon form—called the Cinco—that can serve as a mini-family hauler for getting the kids to and from soccer practice.

Kia somehow mysteriously manages to fill their cars with features that push the prices of similarly equipped competitors well into the mid-teens. We keep looking for areas where the bean counters cut corners, but honestly we can't really find any. The Rio is an honest-to-goodness value in basic transportation that anyone on a budget can truly appreciate. Even if you just buy the base model with no options, you'll still get a center console with dual cup holders, cloth interior, auto-off headlamps, rear-window defroster, 5-speed manual transmission, dual remote control side mirrors and full wheel covers. Toss in the optional air conditioning, power steering, tilt wheel and CD stereo and you have all the basic comforts needed for motoring the American highway.

For 2003, Kia has upgraded the exterior styling with a new front grille and a set of oversized rear taillights that will definitely catch the attention of the driver behind you. An optional set of aluminum alloy wheels and fog lights give the Rio an even racier look that is quite appealing. Inside, you'll find that the four-door Rio can fit four adults, so long as the ones in the rear seats are no taller than 5 foot 6; front seat accommodations are much more adult friendly suggesting the rear seat is best left to the kids. You'll find the front seats surprisingly comfortable, with firm foam padding and long seat bottoms that do a nice job of supporting your lower legs. Again, the interior plastics go well beyond what you'd expect to find in such an inexpensive car; look close and you'll notice little details like the cloth door panel inserts, the height-adjustable driver's seat and the individual driver's folding armrest. Kia has also improved upon last year's dash design with a new, more shapely center stack and new a new instrument cluster.

Storage space is actually quite generous, especially in the Cinco Wagon that features a large flat cargo floor behind the second-row seats and a wide flip-up hatch that allows you to take full advantage of the available space.

The Rio is powered by a peppy little four-cylinder engine rated at 105 horsepower. Though no racecar, the pickup is decent when not fully loaded and once underway the Rio can keep up with the fastest traffic. The standard five-speed manual is the best choice to make the most of the Rio's modest power, but the distance the shifter travels between gears is longer than normal and the gearbox feels loose and vague. The optional automatic might be a better choice in this case. You'll find that once under way, the Rio behaves well, with a fairly decent ride and a light suspension that allows the car to dart in and out of traffic with ease. Again, we think you should opt for the power steering, which makes it much easier to maneuver the Rio, especially when parallel parking. If you opt not to, you can always justify not going to the gym because you've spent the entire day working your arms. See, the Rio saves you money again.

Some popular options include ABS brakes, alloy wheels, power windows and door locks, tachometer and an overhead reading light.

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