2012 KIA Rio EX 5-door Test Drive

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For the past 2 weeks I’ve been lucky enough to test drive a new car. The first car was a 2012 Mazda Mazda 3 and this past week it was a KIA Rio EX 5-Door. I loved the KIA Optima I test drove last year, so I was excited to try the smaller, more economical Rio.

Note: Click the images in this review to see a larger view.

I want to start this “review” out like I’ve done the other 2 test drive articles, by letting you know that this isn’t going to be a super detailed vehicle review like you’d read in a car magazine or see on a car show. I don’t know much about engines and don’t care. I just like to drive cars and know what I like and don’t like about them. If you want more info about gas mileage, horsepower, torque and all that, you’re going to be disappointed in this article. But if you want to know what it feels like to sit in and drive the 2012 KIA Rio, you’ve come to the right place.

Style, Fit and Finish

The Rio is a cute compact car with a style that is familiar to me because it has the same hatchback shape as my 2006 Mazda Mazda 3 5-door. They brought me the Signal Red version of the Rio and the color is an eye turner.

Close up, the paint has tiny sparkles, with flat Black accents in the grill and around the windows.

For such a small car, it has a nice sized trunk. I had meant to test loading some of my luggage, but completely forgot about it. Sorry. That said, it I had no problem loading it up with groceries one night.

The Black interior which seems to be the norm for cars these days, feels roomy and comfortable. Although this Rio model lacks some luxury features like heated leather seats, I have to say that the cloth seats are probably the most comfortable that I’ve sat in. The driver’s seat felt like it was made just for me and really contributed to how nice it felt to drive this car.

The back seat has a nice roomy bench seat.

This is the first car I’ve driven that has a button that will automatically fold in the side view mirrors. I don’t park in many parking garages or other tight spaces, but that feature would come in handy if you do.

I liked the little extra bit of daylight offered in the front corner of the driver and passenger windows. I think it helps make the interior feel larger than it really is.

The optional leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob add some class and comfort.

The gauges for fuel and speed are easy to see day or night.

Tech Bells and Whistles

I found the touch controls for the stereo and cruise control to be laid out well on the steering wheel. But I didn’t like the location for the call start and end buttons because I couldn’t easily activate them with my thumb while my hands were at the standard 10 and 2 positions.

The temperature controls were easy to use and see in sunlight and darkness.

The week I had this car, the temps were pretty cool, so I didn’t get a chance to really test the air conditioner.

The SiriusXM stereo with CD/MP3 and 4 speakers is a standard feature on the Rio EX. New owners are eligible for a 3 month free subscription.

FYI, I have no idea what that square shaped slot is to the right of the stereo display. It’s not quite wide enough for an iPhone. I’m not sure what it is meant to be used for.

The standard radio didn’t have a GPS navigation system, but it did offer a rear view back up camera which automatically switches views when you back up and goes back to the screen you were on when you put the car back into drive.

Also included is a Bluetooth hands free speakerphone that is controlled through the steering wheel and an Aux In/USB jack with 2 12V sockets. There’s even an iphone sized tray in the center console area.

I made calls and streamed music using Bluetooth and my iPhone 4S and was very happy with the audio quality/clarity.

Behind the Wheel

All these switch blade style key fobs I’ve been seeing and using lately are making me jealous 🙂 I want one for my 2006 Mazda <pout>.

Driving the KIA Rio was much more fun that I thought it was going to be. After being slightly underwhelmed with the 2012 Mazda Mazda 3’s performance, I didn’t think the Rio was going to be exciting. I was really surprised to find its 1.6L 4-cylinder engine to be nimble and peppy. I had a lot of fun driving it around town, on the highway and on the curvy rural roads I live on. I felt comfortable driving it in the day time and night time. It had accurate steering, good brakes and just enough get up and go to make trips enjoyable.

I didn’t have the Rio long enough to comment on gas mileage, but it’s rated for 30 city / 40 highway.

I think KIA really knows what they are doing when it comes to designing cars. My Dad loves his 2012 Sorento, Jeanne still loves her 2007 Sorento, I loved the 2011 Optima I tested last fall and I wouldn’t turn down the 2012 Rio EX 5-Door if someone wanted to give me one. When I decide to trade my 2006 Mazda for something new, I will definitely consider a KIA.


Product Information

Price:Starts at $13,600. $18,345 as reviewed
  • Comfortable seats
  • Peppy
  • Roomy for a small car

About The Author

14 thoughts on “2012 KIA Rio EX 5-door Test Drive”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Julie,
    You are no longer suppose to use the 10 and 2 position!!!! Air bags can brake your arms in that location!!!

  3. I have never heard a change from the 10 and 2 position either…although it does make sense with the air bag coming straight out and expanding. I imagine it would throw your arms up into the air at an awkward angle.
    I’m guessing 8 and 4 might be the correct angle for cars with airbags? or maybe 9 and 3?

  4. @Julie,
    You’re supposed to cruise with you right hand at the 7 or 8 position, while holding your cell phone or a cigarette with your left hand… oh wait… oh oh… watch out for the police car following you.

  5. The correct positioning now is 9 and 3; alternative is 8 and 4. Ten and two went out years ago. As previously mentioned, the 10-2 position interferes with the correct deployment of the airbag.

    1. @tech I have asked my PR person and am waiting to hear back. He said it might take till next week though…
      He says his delivery guys think it’s just for “general storage”.

  6. I am beginning to like your car reviews. Keep them coming. It’s fun to read them from your perspective rather than the snooty guys from Car and Driver! But I have been reading C&D for 15 years though…

    1. @Thedigitaldoc Thanks! That’s a very nice compliment. I’ve been a little worried that my “reviews” haven’t been covering enough. I think I can do a little better. I have some ideas for the next one. Hopefully there will be a next one 🙂

  7. Bought mine on October 3rd, and I love it to death. Has a peppy little motor that scoots me around town with ease. No troubles getting out in traffic, that was one of my fears with a smaller car… 3/4 of a tank of gas as only $20, and got me 275 miles… no complaints, only praise.

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