Test Drive: 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door Hatch

?All-New 2012 Kia Rio provides new fuel saving technology?

Kia has certainly come a long way since their vehicles were first marketed here on our shores. The Korean automaker is now definitely a force to be reckoned with on all levels of their existing stable. We?ll deal here with their latest Kia Rio lineup.

The design for the latest Rio models, which includes both a 4-door sedan and a 5-door hatchback, was conceived at Kia?s design studios in Irvine, Calif. The 2012 Rio 5-door and its sedan counterpart are all-new, and proudly display more appealing styling than ever before, displaying their own versions of Kia?s signature grille, that?s slimmed down to connect to the dynamic headlamp design, which provides a new angle on the Kia family image including a larger air intake, exuding a more youthful face.? Exhibiting highly sculpted, sloping shoulder lines and wedge-shaped exteriors, both the hatchback and sedan showcase attractive and athletic profiles that convey power and agility while mimicking the aggressive lines found on other recently launched Kia products such as last year?s Optima and Sportage models.? The Rio sedan drops the wedge line profile slightly toward the rear door down to the trunk, differentiating it from the outline of the hatchback.

The overall aura of the new Rio serves up a slammed stance and muscular exterior profile. No shortage of standard exterior features are provided, starting with the LX trim. Next up is the EX trim level which adds amenities, and finally, comes the SX trim level with an even higher level of spottiness and added features and equipment.

Moving to the interior, the 2012 Rio delivers a bold and modern cabin, centered on Kia?s horizontal three-cylinder instrument panel and two-tone color scheme, emphasizing spaciousness and a feeling of comfort.? An extended wheelbase (101.2 inches) enhances passenger room and comfort, providing 40 inches front headroom, 37.6 inches rear headroom, 43.8 inches front legroom and 31.1 inches rear legroom for both the Rio sedan and Rio 5-door hatchback. Cargo space amounts to an impressive 13.7 cubic feet for the sedan and 15 cubic feet in the hatchback.

Rio?s allows for an earth-friendly theme, with 85 percent of the vehicle?s materials being recyclable at the end of its lifespan.

Both models and all trims are powered by a 1.6-liter DOHC, 16-valve, GDI, inline four-cylinder engine with CVVT and the option of either a six-speed manual transmission (LX only) or an efficient six-speed automatic with manual shift capability.? One of only two vehicles in the segment to offer a GDI engine, the 2012 Rio provides a combination of power and fuel efficiency, achieving a class-leading 138 horsepower along with 123 pound feet of torque, while maintaining class-leading fuel economy as well – 30/40 mpg (city/highway) for the sedan and hatchback.? Rio also will be the first non-hybrid or luxury vehicle to offer Idle Stop & Go (ISG) technology (available later this model year), which aids in reducing fuel consumption, improving fuel economy by shutting off the engine when the vehicle is not moving ? such as at a stop light or in traffic ? and automatically restarting when the driver releases the brake pedal.

Adding to the Rio?s improved performance, Kia?s engineers were able to reduce engine weight by 29 pounds over the previous generation vehicle by adding an aluminum valve cover and block to this third-generation Gamma engine, while incorporating cast iron linings for increased durability.? The Rio?s all-new platform is longer, wider and lower.

Pricing for 2012 Rio 5-door subcompact hatchback begins at $13,600 MSRP, while the Rio 5-door A/T begins at $14,700 ? both lower than the previous generation.? The EX model lineup will begin pricing at $16,500 while the top-of-the-line, sporty SX trim starts at $17,700 offering an impressive inventory of consumer-friendly and upscale features.

Standard safety fare on all Rio trims include: Electronic Stability Control; a four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System; Hill-start Assist Control; and Vehicle Stability Management, which coordinates the car’s ESC and ABS to help the driver stay in control of the vehicle.

I was able to evaluate both the Rio SX sedan and 5-Door Hatchback. The 5-door hatch came with the 6-speed manually shiftable automatic, with the exterior finished in Signal Red metallic with a Black interior. The base price was set at $17,700 while the final sticker came to $18,545. My 4-door sedan tester was also in SX trim with the automatic transmission, finished outside in Clear White and inside in Black with a base price of $17,500 and final price totaling $20,545 after adding the Premium Package, carpeted floor mats and Destination and Handling.

SUMMARY: ?The 2012 Kia Rio on all levels is no longer an Ugly Duckling?. It is sporty and attractive in either form, though I personally prefer the 5-door hatch styling, and the added versatility that it provides.

Power seems adequate for virtually any scenario except street racing, which is not the Rio?s intended purpose anyway. There is however a Kia race team that fields vehicles in the Grand Am racing Series – witness the recent Kia 200 held at Homestead raceway in Florida. Handling characteristics lean toward sporty, displaying an athletic agility and nimble response.

The ride quality around town may perhaps prove a little too firm for some, especially on rough and uneven road surfaces, however on one of my favorite twisty back roads, this was barely noticeable and the Rio stuck like glue, and manual shifting of the automatic transmission was precise with predictable and smooth gear transitions. One may expect to achieve in excess of an average 40 mpg under normal driving scenarios.

Bottom-line, both the Rio sedan and 5-door hatch are admirable vehicles at an affordable price, with high value and equipment and feature content. The varying trim levels allow consumers to choose the model that best meets their needs and budget. The 2012 Rio and Rio 5-door are covered by Kia?s industry leading comprehensive warranty program. Included in this program are a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the comprehensive vehicle coverage.

SPECIFICATIONS:?Kia Rio 5-Door SX -?12

?Base Price:?????????????? ??????????? $17,700.

Price as Tested:??????????? ??????????? $18,545.

Engine Type and Size:??????????? 1.6-liter, DOHC, 16-valve inline four-cylinder with Dual CVVT and Gasoline Direct Injection.

Horsepower (bhp):??????????? ??????????? 138??????????? @ 6,300??????????? rpm

Torque (ft./ lbs.):??????????? ??????????? 123??????????? @ 4,850??????????? rpm

Transmission:??????????? ??????????? Six-speed automatic overdrive.

Drive Train:??????????? Transversely mounted front engine / Front-wheel drive.

Suspension:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Front – MacPherson type with gas shock absorber.

??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Rear – Coupled torsion beam axle with gas shock ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? absorber.

Brakes:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ABS.

Tires:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Hankook Optimo H425 205/45 R17 mounted on

Wheelbase:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? 101.2??????????? inches

Length Overall:??????????? ??????????? 159.3??????????? inches

Width:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ? 67.7??????????? inches

Height:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? ? 57.3??????????? inches

Curb Weight:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? 2,483??????????? lbs.

Fuel Capacity:??????????? ??????????? 11.4? ??????????? gallons

EPA Mileage Estimates:??????????? ??? 30??????????? mpg city /40??????????? mpg highway

Drag Coefficient:??????????? ??????????? Not listed.

0 – 60 mph:??????????? ??????????? ??????????? Not tested.