When the Kia Rio first debuted, it was advertised as the least expensive new car available. In exchange for the minimal price tag consumers got bland, uninspired styling and laughable handling characteristics. It was the kind of car that cemented the notion, “You get what you pay for.”
Some time has passed since then, and today the Chevrolet Aveo (a Chevy-badged, Korean-built Daewoo) has replaced the Rio as the penny-pincher’s dream car. Plus, there’s renewed interest in the compact car segment, due in part to the emergence of the youth-oriented Scion brand but mainly because gas prices have crested $3 per gallon. The result is a more competitive market that’s home to better cars, so Kia engineers upped the Rio’s game for the 2006 model year with a significantly stiffened body structure, a completely new look, a more powerful engine, and six standard airbags. They’ve also replaced the Cinco wagon with the sporty, five-door Rio5, all while keeping the price competitive and the powertrain warranty unmatched.