Photo Gallery:
2012 Kia Rio

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Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
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Last week, I got to drive a really, really fast car slowly around town. Perhaps this week may actually be more exciting, as I drive a slow car faster on the highway, and have some fun shifting the gears of its six-speed manual transmission. Yes, you read that correctly—this week my tester, the 2012 Kia Rio Sedan, is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission—a treat for me, as usually these types of vehicles are sent to us loaded up with an automatic transmission.

My tester is a Rio EX sedan model; for those not familiar with Kia’s nomenclature, Kia typically labels their vehicles LX (Base), EX (mid), and SX for the fully loaded version. The Rio sedan is also available as the LX+, and the SX trim adds UVO for their high-end stereo/entertainment system.

Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
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So, for just over $18,000, including A/C tax, freight and PDI, this Rio offers a good amount of equipment. Obvious features to me when I first stepped in were the sunroof, cruise control, A/C, heated seats, Bluetooth, and Jukebox stereo system (UVO). Later, I noticed that this vehicle also features a backup camera, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, side mirrors with LED signal lights, leather steering wheel, leather-trimmed door panels, and 60/40 split folding rear seat.

For an extra $1,300 you could option this vehicle with a six-speed automatic transmission, but then what fun would that be?

MSRP as tested (including destination): $18,750

For more information on Kia and the Rio visit Kia Canada

For even more on this car FOLLOW James on Twitter

Day 1| Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
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To be honest, I’m not sure why anyone would buy a sedan over a hatchback, given the choice. I do know a few people with some weird “security” issues who think that a sedan’s trunk is somehow a safer place to store their belongings than a hatchback. But this brings me to my rant of the day: I headed to a local store to pick up a lawn sweeper, but at the time, I didn’t realize it was going to be a rather large box.

No problem, I thought; the seats fold (60/40) in the Rio, so this shouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, the trunk itself is rather large, as well. When I got the box to the car, I folded the seats, stuffed the box in and… it didn’t fit. ARGH! The cutout for the trunk pass-through is just slightly too small, but wait: if the seats folded flat—as it is, there is a rather large hump—it would have fit! What a nightmare. In the end, the box fit in the back seat, luckily.

Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
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A hatchback would have solved that one issue, or fold-flat seats, or a larger cut-out… but I digress. The rest of the interior is rather well put together, with soft-touch plastics basically anywhere you might touch or coming into contact with on a regular basis. The radio, HVAC, and other controls, such as the seat heaters, are large, clear and easy to understand and operate.

The steering wheel boasts Bluetooth, stereo controls, and the cruise control switches, and again, all are easy to operate. The tilt and telescopic steering wheel and height-adjustable seat are worthy of marvel in a subcompact car, and make it easy to find a comfortable driving position for most drivers.

From the outside, this Rio looks like a mini-Optima and from the inside, things are not that much different. This car seems like great value in the class, and so far, I’m liking it.

Day 1| Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
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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.

Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews

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!

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Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
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Upon further reflection on my comment about power, I have to retract, the Rio actually pulls pretty darn good for a subcompact vehicle. My senses were a little askew after having driven a vehicle with over 500 horsepower the week before. Compared to my personal vehicle, a Yaris, I found the Rio got up to speed much smoother and with less effort on the highway—those extra 30 or so horses make a difference.

And surprisingly, fuel consumption was most excellent as well; I averaged 6.4 L/100 km over the course of the week with the Rio. Looking back on previous testers, in the 2012 Yaris I averaged 6.7 L/100 km and in the hybrid Prius C I averaged 4.8 L/100 km. The Rio stacks up well against the established competition and offers more features, more comfort, and less noise for a similar price.

*Rating out of 5:

2012 Kia Rio
Acceleration Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
Handling Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
Comfort Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
Interior Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
Audio System Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
Gas Mileage Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews
Overall Day by Day Review: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan car test drives kia daily car reviews

*Rating based on vehicle’s classification
MSRP as tested (including destination): $18,750

For more information on Kia and the Rio visit Kia Canada

For even more on this car FOLLOW James on Twitter




About James Bergeron

James Bergeron is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).