Whether consciously or unconsciously, the world as we know it is becoming increasingly smaller and greener by the millisecond. Oversized lavish homes are being downsized for smaller more efficient, well-designed condos. No longer are the fuel guzzling automotive giants, better known as SUVs, roaming the highways and by-ways in massive numbers. It appears that society is now working smarter rather than harder, while destroying less and conserving more. As a natural matter of course, Korean automaker Kia has identified this global trend.
We recently joined Kia in Austin, Texas to experience a different kind of horsepower. Introducing the all-new, 2012 Kia Rio 5-door sub-compact hatchback. It has been completely redesigned featuring Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) and is first in the B-segment to offer Idle Stop and Go (ISG) technology. Rio incorporates a plethora of eco-friendly features while 85% of its materials are recyclable at the end of the vehicle’s life! The sub-compact Kia offers fuel saving technologies along with increased horsepower that delivers up to 40 miles per gallon.
Obtainable in three versions – LX, EX and SX – the 2012 Rio is available with a 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder with the option of either a six-speed manual transmission (LX only) or efficient six-speed automatic. My Rio driving experience took place in the LX manual model. The little guy kept a big presence on the Texas back roads that were full of challenging twists and turns. Built on a uni-body frame, the front-wheel-drive Rio features an independent front suspension system. MacPherson struts, coil springs and a stabilizer bar are utilized up front, with a torsion beam axle suspension in the rear. Its handling was respectable in every scenario. The Rio’s improved performance is attributable to Kia’s engineering team, who reduced the engine’s weight by 29 pounds from that of its predecessor. Rio is also the first non-hybrid or luxury vehicle to offer ISG technology (available later this year), which aids in reducing fuel consumption and improving fuel economy by shutting the engine off when the vehicle is not in motion – such as at a stop light or in traffic – the engine restarts automatically when the driver releases the brake pedal.
Styling was not overlooked in the new Rio, with its arched back, beefed-up exterior and multi-reflector headlamps. My Rio LX had 15-inch steel wheels with 185/65R15 tires that kept us rolling smoothly through the Texas hills and canyons. For buyers in search of a more enhanced and sportier ride, the SX trim level delivers standard 17-inch wheels with 205/45R17 tires, fog lamps, LED accent lights and rear combination lamps, dual chrome exhaust tips, power-folding, heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators and… unique for the Rio 5-door, projector headlamps. Inside, the new Rio features a modern cabin that offers surprisingly sufficient space, especially considering the vehicle’s overall size. An extended wheelbase (101.2 inches) allows for an increase in passenger room and comfort, providing 40 inches front headroom, 37.6 inches rear headroom, 43.8 inches front legroom and 31.1 inches rear legroom for both the Rio 5-door hatchback and the Rio sedan, which will debut at a later date.
Technology features come standard on all trim levels, including an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat audio system with Sirius XM Satellite Radio capability and three months complimentary service, as well as auxiliary and USB audio input jacks for connecting with MP3 players via the audio head unit with steering wheel-mounted controls.
The 2012 Rio’s are covered by Kia’s impressive and comprehensive warranty program. Included are a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan is also part of the comprehensive coverage. Pricing for the 2012 Rio will start at $13,600 for the base model, which can climb upwards to $17,700 for the full Monty. I guess everything isn’t big in Texas!