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2006 Kia Rio

The 2006 Kia Rio New Car Review

by Bob Plunkett

Kinky cutbacks on the twisty old road climbing to Snoqualmie Pass, pitched high in the Cascade Range of Washington state, show off the taut handling characteristics and precise road manners of a cool new subcompact sedan from Kia that comes with budget-minded price points.

It's the Rio, redesigned and rebuilt for second-generation issues in the Class of 2006.

Kia Rio Exterior

Kia, the crafty automaker from South Korea, rolled original Rio ashore five years ago as an eensy-weensy economy box. It brought a tepid powerplant, a tin-can passen-ger compartment with no frills and no fun, but a tiny price tag.

By contrast, the new rendition of Rio for '06 seems more substantial - it's a larger package with more spark from a bigger engine and more sophisticated mechanical components aboard, plus comfortable and attractive appointments in the passenger compartment.

Rio's new treatment features a new platform with a longer wheelbase and broader wheel track, far more safety gear aboard and class-capping power from the new four-cylinder engine.

In effect, this latest Rio grows up. So too does the bottom line, although it's still a contender for "Most Affordable Car in the Country" honors. Out of the box as the entry edition, the 2006 Rio sedan carries a bottom-line MSRP of $10,570. Tack on the unavoidable delivery fee - $540 - and the drive-it-home figure bumps to $11,110.

This budget edition passes on air conditioning and rolls on modest 14-inch wheels, but the full complement of safety gear is aboard including curtain-style air bags for front and rear seats, and it comes with the impressive Kia warranty program which extends well beyond protection for other vehicles - the powertrain is insured for ten years or 100,000 miles, for instance, and there's a five-year or 60,000-mile shield against defects.

More equipment for comfort (including an audio kit and A/C system) goes into the uplevel Rio LX sedan, which lists for $12,445 with a manual transmission or $13,295 with an automatic.

The additional gear includes power steering and a tilting steering column, a rear seatback that splits by 60/40 percent and folds down plus adjustable backseat headrests, a stereo audio package with AM/FM/CD and four speakers, the air conditioner and 185/65R14 tires with full wheel covers.

And Kia offers add-on options to the LX - anti-lock brake system (ABS) with four-wheel disc brakes, dual heated exterior mirrors, a body-colored tail spoiler and a power package for windows and door locks with a keyless remote device added plus tweeter speakers. The exterior re-do looks clean and simple posing in taut wedge stance with the extended wheelbase but curt overhangs front and rear.

Rio's stubby face features oversized aerodynamic headlamp clusters pinned to the front corners and separated by a narrow grille dressed with black mesh.

Black moldings on front bumpers look serious and mount above a wide air intake vent also in black with parking lamps inset at the corners. Flanks seem smooth but interrupted by bulging round wheelwell flares and a streak of black body molding that stretches to the tail. The roofline draws a smooth arch with canted windshield and tall side glass in the two doors on each side. Rio's tail treatment is blunt and brief, concealing a generous trunk compartment with 11.9 cubic feet of stow space - a substantial increase over the previous edition.

Open a door to climb into a cabin that seems far more spacious than a car in the subcompact class should be.

The new platform has a wheelbase stretching for 98.4 inches -- which amounts to 3.5 inches longer than the first Rio sedan.

2006 Kia Rio Interior

Structure for the passenger compartment also measures wider (by almost an inch) and taller (by more than an inch), which means there's more room for riders - notable particularly in backseat legroom which increases by 1.6 inches to 34.3 inches. In all, the cabin volume expands to 92.2 cubic feet, which beats even some compact-class sedans.

The overall look and feel for cabin materials seems like a substantial upgrade over the previous edition. Layout shows a pair of bucket seats in front of a bench with defined seats for two but room in a pinch for three.

Attractive mesh cloth fabric covers the seats, with the driver's bucket adding controls for a comfort fit moving in eight ways plus a fold-down armrest. Stow spots dot the compartment and the list of stock contents indicates two 12-volt power outlets.

Safety systems are also substantial for the subcompact segment, beginning with a steel unibody structure designed with front and rear crumple zones to absorb and disperse impact energy plus reinforced beams added within side doors.

There's a three-point seatbelt for each seat and the front ones get pretensioners and load limiters.

Standard air bags include frontal and side-impact air bags for front riders and the curtain-style air bags tucked above side windows of front and rear seats.

As for the power picture, Rio's new in-line four-cylinder engine displaces only 1.6 liters but carries dual overhead cams with CVVT (continuously variable valve timing) for high-tech metering of the fuel burn. The plant produces 110 hp at 6000 rpm plus 107 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.

An easy-to-shift manual five-speed transmission is the norm, with a four-speed electronic automatic available on the Rio LX.

EPA fuel economy scores using the manual stick come in at 32/35 mpg (city/highway) or 29/38 mpg with the automatic.

The stiff long-wheelbase platform for Rio employs an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and gas shocks, and a semi-independent rear suspension from a torsion beam axle with coil springs.

Our seat-time driving tests in the Washington Cascades confirm Rio's smooth and stable ride quality, despite the subcompact size, as well as crisp steering action.

Even on a freeway, like our route on I-90 shooting down from the mountains toward Seattle, Rio demonstrates that a modest engine can maintain the pace in a fast lane.

For more information visit the Kia website here.

2006 Kia Rio
Sub-compact 4-door Sedan
Model options:

Rio LX

Engine size:


I-4: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
V-6: 221 @ 6,250 rpm
5-Speed Manual
4-Speed Automatic

98.4 inches

Overall Length:

166.9 inches

Rear/Front Drive:



Rio: rack and pinion
LX: power rack and pinion
Braking Rio: power disc/drum

Air bags:

2 (front)
2 (side)
4 (side curtain)

Fuel Economy:

M/5: 32/35 mpg
A/4: 29/38 mpg


Rio M/5: $ 10,570
LX M/5: $ 12,445
LX A/4: $ 13,295