One of the best and most surprising features of the 2012 Rio is its available voice-activated audio and telephone functions, standard on the LX+, EX and SX models. Even the base Rio5 LX model comes with an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with satellite radio, USB and auxiliary ports, steering wheel audio controls, and four speakers. But the optional voice-activated audio and telephone system in the LX+ is the real treat in such a low-priced subcompact. Using voice commands, the driver can change radio stations, access music files on their iPod, or make and answer phone calls.

2012 Kia Rio5 LX+
2012 Kia Rio5 LX+
2012 Kia Rio5 LX+
2012 Kia Rio5 LX+
2012 Kia Rio5 LX+. Click image to enlarge

It works like this: the driver presses the “speak” button on the right side of steering wheel, and says a command which is repeated back to them by a rather serious-sounding female voice. Drivers who aren’t familiar with the available voice commands, can simply say “Menu” and the voice will list the available commands. These include “radio”, “FM”, “AM”, “Sirius”, “media”, “CD”, “USB”, “aux”, “mymusic”, “ipod”, “Bluetooth audio”, “phone”, “call history” and “contacts”. Follow-up commands can be made to make or cancel calls or select CD tracks, radio stations, satellite radio, or iPod tracks. For example, the driver can say, “Phone”, then “Call (telephone number)”. To switch to Sirius satellite radio, the driver says, “Sirius”, then “Channel 19”. It’s pretty simple.

In addition to standard USB and auxiliary ports for hooking up an iPod or other music device, the Rio5 also has Bluetooth audio which allows the driver to play music wirelessly from their iPhone or Android device. Once the phone is paired with the system, the driver can choose the artist and song they want by using voice commands or inputting it on the radio controls. Bluetooth audio has the advantage of not needing any physical cords or connections and the fact that you can keep your smart phone in your pocket so that you don’t forget it when you leave the vehicle. It’s also hands-free for safer driving.

2012 Rio5 EX+ and SX are also available with a more sophisticated infotainment system developed by Microsoft called UVO. It includes a larger touch-screen and an in-dash hard drive to store your songs, and a rear-view camera. SX models are also available with an optional navigation system.

In fact, the 2012 Rio5 can be had with many features that were previously unheard of in an economy car, such as automatic climate control, two-tone leather interior, push-button ignition, music hard-drive, heated seats, power windows with obstacle detection, rear-view camera, trip computer, projector head lights, rain-sensing wipers, power heated mirrors, and cooling glove-box.

Most people don’t need all these options though, and would probably be happy with an LX or LX+ trim level. Even the base $14,095 Rio5 LX includes standard height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, Sirius satellite radio with three month’s free subscription, USB and auxiliary input ports, steering wheel audio controls, power windows, power heated side mirrors, variable intermittent wipers and fixed intermittent rear wiper, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and six airbags.

The volume seller, though, will probably be the $15,595 LX+ which adds air conditioning, hands-free Bluetooth phone and audio, steering wheel cruise control, remote keyless entry, heated front seats, and front fog lights.

Pricing: 2012 Kia Rio5 LX+
  • Base price: $15,595
  • Options: None
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,455
  • Price as tested: $17,150

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Kia Rio

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