The light weight of the car and the healthy output of its engine in conjunction with the rigid feel of the Rio’s chassis, and a suspension tuned slightly to the firm end of the spectrum, give the Rio a sporty feel. So while the Rio can happily see duty as a cross-town commuter and urban runabout, it can also be entertaining on more challenging roads.

First Drive:  2012 Kia Rio sedan reviews kia first drives
First Drive:  2012 Kia Rio sedan reviews kia first drives
First Drive:  2012 Kia Rio sedan reviews kia first drives
2012 Kia Rio sedan. Click image to enlarge

The seats are supportive but comfortable with good headroom, and the interior is surprisingly spacious. The Rio Sedan accommodated two journalists of husky build in the front seats without even a hint of constraint, and space for the rear passengers is also generous. Instruments are easy-to-read and controls are simple to identify and operate. Exterior visibility is good, although some drivers may find the rear window is somewhat small, along with the rear view mirrors.

Interior fit and finish appears first-rate, using materials of pleasing appearance and texture throughout. The standard interior for all models except the EX Luxury is black cloth, with EX Luxury buyers are able to choose from two-tone beige/black, and two-tone beige/brown.

These cars are so well equipped even in the base and volume trim versions that Kia Canada didn’t even mention the auto-repeat lane changing turn signals and auto up/down feature on the power windows, although they did point out the standard sliding centre console, active ECO mode to further improve on the already excellent 6.6/4.9 L/100km (city/highway) estimated fuel consumption, Vehicle Stability Management that enhances the electronic stability control system, and the Hill Start Assist (“hill-holder”) feature to prevent the car from rolling back when starting on an incline (manual transmission models).

It’s quite an accomplishment to make a subcompact car that feels so substantial, and has such a spacious cabin with excellent trunk space, while retaining its small footprint and making it look good, too. Granted, today’s subcompact is yesterday’s compact, but still, consumers are getting a heck of a deal with the Rio given its long list of standard and available features and very competitive price.

You may wonder, though, why a trim level like the EX Luxury even exists. After all, aren’t subcompact buyers also budget buyers? Not necessarily, says Kia Canada. They see a growing number of consumers moving from well-equipped larger vehicles to compacts and subcompacts, and those buyers are accustomed to features like rear view cameras, smart keys, navigation systems and leather upholstery. The Rio offers these features at a price barely breaking $20,000.

But one feature that’s missing and that might entice a friend of mine out of her midsize near-luxury sedan is a blind-spot warning system, which is now de rigeur for her. Given the Rio’s comprehensive equipment list, one supposes that this option may only be a matter of time.

Full marks to Kia for the 2012 Rio sedan.

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