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

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Kia Canada

Six-speed manual transmission

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Kia Rio

Related review:
2012 Kia Rio LX+ with automatic transmission

There is certainly some money to be saved by choosing the Kia Rio’s standard manual transmission: a base Kia Rio LX with the manual starts at $14,095 while the optional six-speed automatic transmission ($1,300) brings the price up to $15,395. The EX manual is $16,995 while the automatic is $18,295. And the top-of-the-line SX comes only with the automatic for $20,795. A Freight charge of $1,455 is on top of these prices.

Other than a cheaper entry price, choosing the manual transmission adds a bit of driving fun by giving the driver more control over shift points – although it could be argued that the automatic transmission’s “Steptronic” manual shift mode also allows “manual” shifting. Another advantage of the manual transmission is the Rio5’s lower curb weight, some 36 kg (79 lbs) less than the Rio5 automatic. The Rio5 manual also offers slightly better fuel economy in the city: 6.6 L/100 km compared to the Rio5 automatic with 6.8 L/100 km (Natural Resources Canada figures).

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

I found the floor-mounted shift lever nicely positioned for reach and the vinyl shift knob fits nicely into the palm of the hand. Shift action is fluid with well defined gear positions and medium shifting distances – not overly long but not short either. Clutch pedal effort is light and clutch engagement is gentle and smooth when starting off. The six gear ratios are evenly spaced and with 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque at 4,850 rpm, the 1.6-litre motor is torquey for a small non-turbocharged engine, thanks in part to its variable valve timing system and variable air intake system. As a result, you don’t have to keep dropping gears to find more power on slight inclines. Cruising down the highway in top gear, the engine turns over a comfortable 2,600 rpm at a steady 100 km/h.

Though official fuel economy numbers with the manual transmission are 6.6/4.9 city/hwy, my onboard fuel consumption gauge was showing about 6.8 L/100 km in freeway driving and between 7.0 and 8.5 L/100 km in city driving.

The manual transmission features a handy hill holder feature which keeps the car from slipping back when starting off on a hill. When you release the brake pedal, the car stays in position for a few seconds while you move your foot to the gas pedal and engage the clutch. I wish I’d had this when I was learning to drive! To engage reverse gear, you squeeze up on a button under the shift knob, and move the lever to the left and up.

The driving position is aided by a wide footwell and a footrest for the left foot, and a height adjustable driver’s seat. However, LX and LX+ models only have a tilt steering wheel which means that if you have long legs and short arms, your legs will be splayed out sideways so that your arms can reach the steering wheel. Fortunately, you can get a telescopic steering wheel by moving up to the EX and SX models, but you’ll have to pay more.

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