2nd Opinion - Wardlaw
This is a great little car for the money. Don’t expect quick acceleration, entertaining handling, or lots of creature comforts when you get into one. But as an argument for competent, comfortable, cheap transportation, it might not get much better than the 2006 Kia Rio/Rio5.
After my first test drive of a Kia Rio in 2001, this is what I said about it: “It is, without question, the most horrible new car I've ever driven in my life.” Now, after my first sampling of the redesigned 2006 Kia Rio, such thoughts are the furthest thing from my mind.
This is a great little car for the money. Don’t expect quick acceleration, entertaining handling, or lots of creature comforts when you get into one. But as an argument for competent, comfortable, cheap transportation, it might not get much better than this. And with standard side-impact and side curtain airbags, a ten-year/100,000-mile warranty, and average fuel economy over the 30-mpg mark, the 2006 Kia Rio might just redefine “bang-for-the-buck.”
As far as the driving goes, our cute little Rio5 sampler was quick enough off the line, with a light clutch and a rubbery shifter not nearly as floppy as the one in the old Rio. Four-wheel-disc brakes produced smooth, short stops and good pedal feel, and though the steering communicates like it’s talking with its mouth full, it responds quickly enough and the Rio5 corners with a reasonably flat attitude if speeds are held in check. The ride quality is soft and absorbent without being wallowy, and the Rio5 is a breeze to park in the tight confines of metro L.A. The tires are quiet, but have a tendency to hunt on SoCal’s grooved freeways, and they lose grip early if you try to push the car too hard.
Interior comfort is decent, with a standard driver’s seat cushion height and tilt adjustment and an inboard-mounted armrest. The steering wheel rim is thick and pleasurable to hold, and there’s good leg space up front. Rear passengers will be cramped a bit if tall folks are sitting in front, but otherwise the seat cushion is tall and supportive, just like up front. The fabric even feels durable. And I like the utility of the Kia Rio5’s hatchback, though with the rear seatbacks folded the cargo floor isn’t flat.
Our test car had manual locks, manual windows, and manual mirrors – I didn’t know they even built ‘em like that anymore. But outside, the Rio5’s fog lights, alloy wheels, and jaunty good looks make it look a little more expensive than you might guess. The dashboard is laid out well, and there’s plenty of storage space for a car this size.
Kia did a terrific job with the Rio’s redesign. And with gas prices climbing a dime a day as I write this – just after Hurricane Katrina – Kia’s timing couldn’t be better.
Photos courtesy of Kia Motors America