For 2006, Kia’s entry-level Rio is completely redesigned. Sharing its platform with the equally redesigned Hyundai Accent, the Rio is surprisingly spacious for its footprint, well-made, and a definite improvement over its predecessor.

The Rio is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that mates to a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic. Body configuration is a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback called the Kia5 (Kia counts the hatchback as a fifth door). Both sedan and Kia5 come in EX and Convenience trim lines, and the Kia5 tops out with the Sport.

The EX lines include CD/MP3 player with four speakers, tilt steering column, manual remote mirrors, 14-inch steel wheels, tinted windows, variable intermittent wipers, cloth seats with driver height adjuster, and 60/40 folding rear seat back. The Kia5 adds an intermittent rear wiper and folding rear seat cushions.

The Convenience lines add power locks with keyless entry, power windows, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, and seat warmers.

The Kia5 Sport adds four more speakers, fog lamps, rear spoiler, 14-inch alloy wheels, metal grain interior accents, leather-wrapped wheel and gearshift knob, sport cloth seats and metal pedals.

The Rio is an excellent around-town car: peppy even with the automatic, relatively inexpensive even in its upper lines, and with the Kia5, the cargo-hauling convenience of a hatchback. It’s relatively large inside; the company says it has more interior volume than Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. The lack of ABS and cruise control may turn off some buyers, but add in Kia’s long warranty and this one’s a low-buck winner.

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