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2008 Kia Rio Review - Photos, Specs, Pricing

by Martha Hindes

2008 Kia Rio
2008 Kia Rio Interior - Review, Photos, Specs

With the entry level field growing more crowded under pressure from escalating fuel prices, the folks at Kia must have scoped out the future when redesigning the front-drive Rio (kissing cousin of Hyundai's Accent) two years ago. That change, to a bolder, yet more refined subcompact sedan and five-door hatchback, left behind a legacy of grumbling by some critics and replaced it with accolades -- including quality awards.

As Kia's entry level Rio and sport inspired Rio5 settle in after a major redo, it has added only minor changes and upgrades for the 2008 model year.

Rio comes in base, LX and newest SX sedans, and Rio5 SX hatchback aimed more at enthusiasts willing to pay the extra bucks for attitude and some extra room inside. New for both LX and SX models is an auxiliary audio input jack to accommodate MP3s or iPods. New cupholders have rubberized "bumper" supports to hold cups in place.

All models get revised shift knob designs for either manual or automatic. All get a molded-in "Kia" logo in the center of the steering wheel for oomph. Fourteen inch wheels are redesigned. (SX models retain their standard 15-inch tires or optional 16s.)

All Rios have standard side curtain airbags among safety features.
Inside, every version above the $10,890 base model gets AC, engine-speed sensitive power steering with tilt function, and AM/FM/CD sound among amenities. Standard or available, depending on upmodel price, are leather wrapped steering and shifter knob, rear spoiler, metal pedals and trim, fog lamps, or keyless entry with power locks and heated power exterior mirrors. Optional tweeter speakers enhance upmodel sound.

Both sedan and hatchback remain unchanged mechanically. All ride on a 1.6-liter, 110-horsepower inline four with estimated 27/32 city/highway MPG (5-speed manual) and 25/35 MPG (4-speed automatic).

While that won't top some high mileage competitors, don't be surprised if a more fuel-efficient Rio comes on scene. A hybrid version, now on roads at home in Korea, is expected to hit the U.S. market later this model year.