Monday, October 20, 2014

A car that gives other subcompacts a run for their money


When I first tested the Kia Rio 4-door back in 2012, I wondered what the car would be like in hatchback form. Well, I got the answer earlier this year, when Kia was gracious enough to loan me a Rio SX 5-door for a week. This tester came with painted in Signal Red, with a black interior. It should be noted that this vehicle was tested during winter, so the maximum performance potential can't be noted due to safety reasons. With all of that having been said, let's take a look and see if the 5-door version of the Rio is a more fun, yet more practical car for you.


     After taking a look at both the 4- and 5-door models right next to eachother, a lot remains the same on the exterior of the vehicle, including the somewhat bug-eyed look that many will love, or hate, depending upon your taste in design. One major, and one could also argue, the only difference on the outside of the vehicle would be the rear. Whereas the sedan has a traditional trunk, the 5-door does not, as its' name would indicate. The rear hatch is rather easy to open, and it yields a surprising amount of cargo space for the small car that the Rio is.

     As mentioned earlier, this vehicle is painted in Signal Red. If you happen to remember, the 4-door model that was examined last year was also painted in the exact same color. It is a fantastic color, and when clean, it shows remarkably well. Wheels are also the same, and they still manage to look fantastic on the 5-door, as well as the 4-door. Kia design did a fantastic job on this one. With little on the outside being different, let's take a look at the inside of the vehicle and see if anything has changed here.


 Initial looks might give you a false impression on this vehicle. While yes, little has also changed on the inside of the 5-door, it easily feels more open to the sun, thanks to the window on the rear hatch. Seat materials are the same, and like the sedan, additional padding might be needed for larger folk to remain comfortable for rather extended drives. Another small complaint is the plastic-feel to everything on the dash. While they feel like they are made of somewhat quality materials, they do still have a cheap feeling to them.

     Blindspots are kept to a minimum, but they do still exist, although you will have them on any vehicle, no matter what. This test unit was not equipped with the extras that the 4-door tester from last year was, but it was still a rather pleasant space to spend some time. A bonus for some people; Kia offered the 2012 SX 5-door model with a manual transmission, but that feature was dropped for the 2013 model year, at least in the Cleveland area. Check with your local Kia retailer for more info, or go to


 As mentioned in other articles on other Korean vehicles, they aren't really the first brands that come to mind when you think of performance vehicles. This remains true of the Rio 5-door, as you won't be winning many stop-light drag races. However, this tester came equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission, which made for a vastly more enjoyable daily drive. The manual transmission comes attached to the standard 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine, which produces and astounding 138 horsepower, and 123 lb.-ft of torque. I say astounding because the 2010 Hyundai Elantra that I own makes 138 horsepower as well, but that vehicle has a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine. All things aside,the Rio is not a rocket ship by any stretch of the imagination, but it does provide ample power for everyday driving situations.

     Handling, if you will pardon this pun, is not the Rio's Forte. While the steering wheel does provide some feedback, you still feel as though you are being left out of a rather important conversation with your mum, and that could lead to horrible, horrible things later on down the line. Also, when going around some of the sharper curves in the Cleveland area, the car will have a tendancy to understeer a somewhat hefty amount, although that is the nature of front-wheel drive vehicles. To save some face though, the brakes did feel rather strong, even after several hard, and I do mean hard, stops. Also of a positive note is the shifter. While some throws did feel a bit on the long side, the were still of a quality feel, although it is hard to match the feel of a slick shifting Audi. A downside to this shifter, however, was the ability to go from 5th gear, back to 4th gear, when you really want to be in 6th gear. This is because of a slight dog-leg that was not discovered until a few seconds later. Oh, the joys of driving many different types of cars in a months' time. 

     Safety is of a major concern of many drivers these days, and rightfully so. Rest assured that Kia has packed this vehicle full of safety measures like: 6 standard airbags including full curtain airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, ESC, VSM, EBD, HAC, and TPMS. I will add in the note that the TPMS does indeed work, as there was a tire going flat due to a faulty plug in a really awful location where a tire plug should never be installed. Safety ratings for the Rio are: Good for the moderate overlap test. This is the only crash test ratings available for the IIHS at the time of writing. As you can see, Kia takes your safety rather seriously, as all car companies should.


Overall, the Rio SX 5-door can make for a fun, sporty, yet practical small family car, especially if you can find one that is equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission. However, even if you can't find a manual transmission model, the gas mileage is still impressive at 28 city/36 highway. You will be able to pass as many gas stations as you want with numbers like that. Yes, performance does leave a bit to be desired, that was not the Rio's main mission. It's mission was to be a small, economical to purchase, and operate car for the young high school, or college graduate, and introduce them to the Kia brand, and hopefully transition them to life-long buyers. Will it's mission be a success? That is something only you, the reader can decide. Like most vehicles, it certainly warrants a closer look, considering the amazing warranty package that also comes with the vehicle that will provide you with many, many miles of worry free motoring. Check it out, you just might be surprised.

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