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There is a lot to be said for small cars. They certainly are easier to maneuver for last-minute parking lot decisions, and they are easier to see out of and park. But then, they tend to wander a little in crosswinds, and it seems the Rio does this a fair bit on the highway. That situation is made worse by vague steering that needs lots of small corrections to keep the car on the straight and narrow.
Rowing your own gears is always fun—at least I think it is, and the Kia Rio is no exception. The shifter certainly is no superstar or high performance gem, and although power out of the little 1.6L is a good number on paper (138 hp), it feels like less, perhaps due to the gear ratios… Hard acceleration in first gear feels good, but the shift to second kills all momentum, and the fun ends there.
The fun picks up again when you hit the corners, though. Sure, the Mazda2 or Ford Fiesta most likely handle better (I’d have to drive them back to back to truly judge) but the Rio is no slouch and, well, honestly, how many consumers are buying Kia Rios to head out onto twisty backroads or down to the local track?
The suspension is on the soft side, with a considerable amount of body roll. This means cornering is a little more challenging if you think you are Michael Schumacher, but it also means that for heading to the grocery store and your commute to work, you will not be beaten up in the kind of tin can that economy cars used to be.
Visibility is good all around and the Rio is easy to drive. Even for stick-shift novices, getting going from a stop requires nothing more than to release the clutch, so for manual lovers everywhere, don’t be afraid to take this one for a test drive!