TO THE POINTSelling Points: Six standard airbags, appealing styling, improved power and handling, that unbeatable powertrain warranty Deal Breakers: Power features optional only, more expensive than some of the competition Our Advice: A “must consider” for any new car buyer on a budget, but be prepared to pay extra for luxuries like power steering and radios.
If there’s one thing we Americans have plenty of, it’s choice. Take television programming, for example. Not too long ago there were only 13 standard channels, most of which went off the air during the wee hours of the night. Today, there are hundreds of channels churning out content 24/7. That’s a great setup for couch potatoes, but it creates a do-or-die scenario for TV producers looking to rise above thousands of other viewing opportunities. Many shows, some brilliantly written and directed, come and go amongst the cutthroat competition, never able to find an audience.
Kia executives face a similar dilemma – as impressive as their current crop of cars may be, they aim to succeed in a market saturated with great cars at good prices and good cars at fire sale prices. Such an environment makes it that much harder for impressive vehicles, such as the totally redesigned 2006 Kia Rio and Rio5, to end up on shoppers’ lists. However, this Korean automaker is confident that once it gets people in the door and behind the wheel, the cars are capable of selling themselves.
After a 1,400-mile test drive along the Pacific coast and a week commuting around Orange County, Calif., in a 2006 Rio5 SX, we count ourselves among the first to be pleasantly surprised by what Kia has brought to the compact car segment. With an as-tested price of about $14,500, we’re obviously not talking about Lexus-like refinement, but with an abundance of airbags, attractive styling, and a comfortable interior, the Rio and Rio5 put some heavy muscle on the Chevy Aveo and Scion xA in vying for buyers’ attention.