All this content and modern styling for < $14K? Really! [fimg=left]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/523/2012_Kia_Rio_News2.jpg[/fimg]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Jan. 3, 2012 2012 Kia Rio 5-door - $13,600 to start and a 30/40 mpgUS city/highway rating awaits its new owner. Austin, TX -- In the very heart of Texas, the fiercely independent Capital of Austin has been blessed with more live music venues, bands and musicians than anywhere else in the world. Adding to its musical character, past and current residents that have called the city home include Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Austin is also home to the award winning music TV show “Austin City Limits”. All have helped make the city become the "Live Music Capital of the World”. [fimg=right]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/523/Peter_Schreyer_play-bass.jpg[/fimg]Kia’s Peter Schreyer filling in with a house band at a local live club in Seoul. And this has what to do with the all-new 2012 Kia Rio? Kia’s design led transformation began with the launch of the Soul in 2009 whose all new bold styling remade the Kia brand into a design leader almost overnight. The design blueprint was originated by none other than Peter Schreyer, Kia’s famous Chief Automotive Designer. Similar to how Austin was transformed from a government and education based metropolis to a high tech business center with a vibrant live music nightlife, Kia has evolved from an anonymous automobile brand to an exterior and interior design led powerhouse thanks in part to a forward thinking automobile designer. Peter Schreyer also happens to enjoy live music as a bass guitarist when he feels the need to let loose. Maybe these two transformations have more in common than meets the eye? Kia Rio - What a difference a year makes In 2006, Kia introduced the second generation Rio to the American marketplace. Kia was still learning the US sub-compact automobile customer’s styling desires as this second generation was not about to set the subcompact market sales charts on fire. A facelift in 2009 saw the addition of a semblance of Kia’s signature Tiger Nose grille with only a slim chance to compete against the class sales leading Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit at the time. In a nutshell, the second generation Rio was a homely girl and the last to be asked to the dance. Old vs. New 2011 Kia Rio hatch in sharp contrast to the all-new 2012 Kia Rio hatch For the third generation, Kia’s “Peter Schreyer” design influence into the B-segment was going to be fully implemented and indeed it was! The Rio targets a first time Millennial buyer who desires a stand-out exterior and interior design with a high quality tech interior typically associated with larger and more expensive makes and models. 2012 Kia Rio Specifications The 2012 Kia Rio benefits from a larger passenger and cargo volume with an all-new exterior and interior appearance making it a standout amongst its rivals. It is available in three trims, an LX, EX and SX. Complete specifications, pricing, standard and optional equipment including a standard and optional list of features can be found on the 2012 Kia Rio Specifications page. 2012 Kia Rio Exterior The all-new third generation 2012 Kia Rio’s wheelbase grew by almost 3 inches, its overall length and width grew by over an inch while height was reduced by 0.6 inches compared to its predecessor. This lower, longer and wider Rio looks like a bull readying to charge a matador with its newly sculpted character and aggressive facial expression primed for the task. 2012 Kia Rio Face The hood creases beginning at the far outer edges of the windscreen tapering into the center and shooting straight down to meet the grill opening, the upwardly angled projector headlamps, unique to the Rio SX 5-door, sweep up and to the side and the wide lower grille opening reveals an aggressive attitude. Another unique exterior design feature is the multiple profile character lines and lower cutout. The arrow shaped cutout extends off the wide rear wheel arches sloping downward towards the front wheel centerline providing both a sense of depth and speed. This unique accent then mates with the beltline crease while rising from the lower front quarter panel into the front door handles and sweeping back though the rears. A parallelogram effect is the result with the charging bull theme maintained through to the wrap around rear taillight lenses. While the rear of the Rio does not have the same level of forcefulness applied, the spoiler atop the rear window emulates a sensation of speed even while standing still. Finishing off the exterior design is class exclusive power folding side mirrors on both the EX and SX trims. Why powered folding mirrors? If you are an inner city dweller with close quarter side street parking, guess what you see. About every third block is a car with its driver’s side door mirror either smashed, hanging with only the wires attached or broken off completely? If you have to drive into a small garage space opening, you will be quite pleased that Kia has offered this feature into a market segment not known for such advanced amenities. In other words, do you push a button or get out and fold the mirrors in? Push the button is cool. Getting out and folding is so “un”. The new sporty exterior elevates the 2012 Rio to one of if not the best lookers in the subcompact class and will also help Kia win new customers who are downsizing that would have never considered a Rio before. 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door Hatch Ready to take on any road with you behind the wheel. 2012 Kia Rio Interior Inside, the Rio moved from "cut rate" to "premium cut" in a single generation. A more modern instrument package with warmer and more integrated colors and plastics are the result. 2012 Kia Rio Interior – In the B-Segment, they simply do not come much better than this. The all-new 2012 Rio’s two-tone interior color layout is far more modern, sleek, inviting and less bubbly then the outgoing model. The 2012 Kia Rio’s plastics are not quite the equivalent of a well-appointed mid-size but the new 2012 Rio’s overall interior appointments are a generation or more ahead of its predecessor and provide an upscale appearance to a segment known more for cost cutting. A case in point is the Rio’s headliner which has a cloth texture like look and feel vs. the far more common egg carton with mouse fur appliqué the rest of its competitors are adorned with. The instrumentation and controls are well laid out with an easy to comprehend three-cylinder arranged instrument panel. Chrome surrounds highlight the appropriately sized fan speed, air flow selection and temperature control knobs. Unique to the segment is the addition of HVAC toggle switches for A/C, rear defrost, recirc and outside air control. Ease of use is an understatement as a flick of the toggle engages or disengages the control without you having to take your eyes off the road. A small LED incorporated into each switch indicates if it is active or not. Where the interior appearance falls flat is the small size of the radio/volume, tune/select buttons and the out of place flat black plastic surround housing the head unit on all Rio’s no matter the trim. 2012 Kia Rio center stack. Another highlight of the Kia Rio’s interior is its actual passenger and cargo volume capacities. The 5-door hatch arrives with an EPA rated 89 and 15 cu. ft. of passenger and cargo volume respectively. While the Rio competes in the sub-compact B-segment, its interior and cargo volume actually earn it a Compact or C-Segment size rating per the EPA. Kia Rio 5-door Competitive Comparison Column1Column2Column3Column4Column5Column6Column7Column8Column9Column10Column11Column12Column13YearMakeModelTrimTransmissionHPTorquePassenger Volume (cu. ft.)Cargo Volume (cu. ft.)Turning Diameter (ft)RPM@60 mphEPA city/highway (mpgUS)MSRP (incl. D&H) 2012HyundaiAccent5-Door SE6-speed MT138123220.127.116.11,93030/40$16,555 2012ChevroletSonic5-Door 1LT5-speed MT13812590.419.034.52,38426/35$16,660 2012KiaRio5-Door EX6-speed AT*13812388.615.033.5TBD30-31/40$17,250 2012HondaFit5-Door Sport5-speed MT11710690.820.634.42,82227/33$17,680 2012ToyotaYaris5-Door SE5-speed MT10610385.115.636.72,58130/38$17,950 2012FordFiesta5-Door SES5-speed MT12011285.115.434.42,65029/38$18,295 * Rio 5 EX not available with a 6-speed MT. Infotainment There are three Audio Systems available with the Rio including what I consider the current “best-in-class” Microsoft based UVO infotainment system with rear view camera, standard on the SX and available on the EX. The base LX arrives with an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat audio system with SiriusXM Satellite radio, aux and USB audio input jacks for connecting with MP3 players with full iPod and MP3 controllability via the audio head unit and steering wheel-mounted controls. The EX trim can be equipped with UVO which includes a 4.3-inch color touch screen and rear view camera display with easy to manipulate oversized switches and large legible fonts for control. Pairing and control of a Bluetooth enabled phone is the absolute best in the industry in our experience with the Optima Hybrid late last year. With the SX trim and Premium Package, an OEM Navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic replaces the highly regarded and recommended standard UVO system. 2012 Kia Rio Drivetrain The all new Rio is equipped with a gasoline direct injected 1.6L GDI I4 mated to a standard 6-speed manual on the LX and 6-speed automatic fitted with both the EX and SX. The 138 HP mill distances itself from its competitors -- Hyundai’s similar Accent notwithstanding -- with a 0 to 60 time of slightly more than 9-seconds and a class leading 30/40 mpg US city/highway rating without having to pay for a more expensive fuel economy package. In addition, the Rio EX can be ordered with an integrated starter/generator (ISG) or Start/Stop system via an ECO package. This system shuts down the 1.6L whenever you have come to a complete stop with A/C disabled and the 12V having a standard level of charge. With a stronger and beefier starter motor, it spins up the engine faster but with an all too familiar starter motor grind. ISG is not as smooth or quiet as the most basic mild or full hybrid start/stop systems but is a great addition to a segment known more for decontented penalty boxes then segment leading feature content. With the ECO package and its ISG, the EPA city mileage increases by 1 to 31 mpgUS. While the Rio will make the charge to 60 mph as easy as mashing the pedal to the floor, when stressed, an inordinate level of NVH can be felt through the wheel and cabin. Like all B and C-segment offerings, leave the 0 to 60 dash to the NASCAR and NHRA wannabes and enjoy the all-new Rio’s very relaxed tall ratio 6-speed MT and AT allowing a steady 60 mph to occur at less than 2,000 RPM. This is possibly the Rio’s most important attribute in fact! [fimg=left]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/523/2012_Kia_Rio_with_6-speed_AT_-_54_6_mpg1.jpg[/fimg]2012 Kia Rio Preview Drive Fuel Economy Results The Kia Rio SX with the 1.6L GDI and 6-speed AT – The result was achieved after 50 miles of steep rolling hills and numerous sharp curves on mostly country roads with PSL’s between 45 and 70 mph outside of Austin, TX. All the while driving in what would be deemed perfect dry conditions with temps in the mid-70’s to mid-80’s and minimal traffic. A 54 + mpg result per the OEM averaging fuel consumption display (aFCD) from a sub-compact with an AT would not normally move us. Given the higher speed roads and a short time frame to arrive at driver change points, rise after rise far in excess of a maximum 6% grade we would normally experience on an Interstate and corners sharp enough that in some cases needing a tap of the Rio’s four wheel discs -- another feature addition to the Rio’s list of pluses -- it was more than acceptable. Without an odometer offset study, an aFCD study and some steady state results however, we will have to spend some more time with the 2012 Rio at a later date to find out if it is worthy of being called a standout in the already crowded B-Segment fuel miser ranks. 2012 Kia Rio Ride and Handling With 2.8 inch longer wheelbase than its predecessor, 63% of the body consisting of high strength steel providing a 31% improvement in rigidity, a sports tuned suspension and low profile 17’s, the Rio SX will surprise the average driver. It is not as compliant as a midsize offerings given the wheelbase, the Rio SX corners extremely well with little body roll and decent road feel with the following as a testament to its capabilities. Approaching a corner at 45 mph with a Kia sign maybe 100’ ahead displaying a right turn arrow, I immediately started downshifting to bleed off speed through Fuel Cut while coming into this corner “HOT”! With an entry speed of 28 mph into a 90 degree inside radius turn and possibly close to the edge of adhesion, the Rio rolled around the corner without a screech of the tires, any undue undulations from the rough road surface and a track that I was sure would have me using both lanes to their limits. The Rio simply went exactly where it was pointed and laughed at me after the fact! As a passenger, we were driving around an off-camber left turn with a 25 mph recommended sign just prior at close to 40 mph with a dip just before a harsh rise at the end of the turn. The Rio carved the corner hard enough to fully bottom the right front suspension to the bump stop and the Rio did not jump, skip or even shriek. It was just the suspension compressed to its maximum limits at 85% of its adhesion limits like it was meant for it! The Kia SX tuning team did a really nice job on making the short wheelbase Rio one of the best OEM B-Segment corner carvers available here in the US. On-Center feel was a bit heavy at speed and lightened up just after moving off center. A bit synthetic feeling but something I quickly became accustomed to. 2012 Kia Rio Safety The 2012 Rio is equipped with a good number of standard safety features including a high strength steel safety cage, side-impact door beams, six airbags (dual front, side and side curtains), height-adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions and Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH). Also standard on all trims is 4-wheel disc brakes, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) and a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). As of this writing, the 2012 Kia Rio has earned 5-Stars on EuroNCAP with the IIHS and NHTSA Crash Tests yet to be completed. 2012 Kia Rio Preliminary Conclusions For 2012, the Rio has finally caught up to and in many comparisons surpassed the best of the B-Segment offerings. Two attributes that clearly make the all-new Rio a stand out is its best in segment exterior and interior design. The Rio clearly targets the Millennial whose yearning for style far exceeds that of most and in this regard, Kia has hit a towering grand slam. Given a new automobile will be with us for the next 2 to 10 years or on average between 1,200 and 6,000 hours spent within its confines, is it too much to ask that it has an attractive exterior along with a striking yet functional interior? The all-new Rio delivers that and much more. Similarly, a new automobile should not break the bank on an upfront or total cost of ownership (TCO) basis. With a reasonably low initial purchase price no matter which trim is chosen, its ongoing low fuel and maintenance costs due in part to its excellent 30/40 mpgUS city/highway rating and 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan, and finally its trade-in value which is expected to provide a decent residual, the 2012 Rio delivers value BIG TIME! Adding to the Rio’s high fuel economy and low emission environmental attributes, 85 percent of the vehicle can be recycled at end of life. The only negatives include a somewhat harsh and not so quiet ride on rougher roads or higher speeds, an upfront price that touches the $20K price point if you load up an SX with the Premium Package including Navigation, push-button start with Smart Key, leather, heated front seats and a power sunroof with tilt. It is also a B/C-Segment sized car with rear seat leg, hip and shoulder room at a premium when a taller driver/passenger is seated up front. Additionally, ingress and egress from the rear seats require you to duck and headroom is a bit tight. In LX trim, the lack of a center storage console/armrest is also sorely missed. These missteps are standard fare within the B-Segment and not exclusive to any single make and model including the Rio so take them for what they are worth. 2012 Kia Rio 5-door Hatch Interior Room Just enough rear seat leg room with ingress/egress and headroom being a bit tight. All told, only the Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit and ungainly looking Nissan Versa can stand alongside the all-new 2012 Rio on an overall value basis including TCO. Chevrolet’s Sonic competes well on a size, ride and content for the price but misses on any other number of comparisons. Only Ford’s Fiesta takes on the Rio SX when the limits of adhesion are tested. Where the competitors fall short is the 2012 Rio’s excellent interior and exterior design, class exclusive features and amenities and 31/40 mpgUS city/highway rating with the ECO packages Start/Stop system. Overall, the all-new 2012 Kia Rio does not reside at the top of every comparison category, but does place among the top in each one. In the category of interior and exterior design however, the 2012 Kia Rio blows the competition out of the water with its stylish exterior contours and higher quality interior appointments. All in, the 2012 Kia Rio is one of the most desirable automobiles in the B-Segment. With the all-new Rio, the B-segment has yet another fuel efficient automobile worthy of your drive and mine. And the biggest question mark is what Pandora genre selection can I Bluetooth stream to the Rio’s UVO system to listen in on all that wonderful live music? 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door Hatch Preview A heck of a car for a heck of a price!