The 2006 Kia Rio New Car Review
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
It's the Rio, redesigned and rebuilt for second-generation
issues in the Class of 2006.
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
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
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
The new platform has a wheelbase stretching for
98.4 inches -- which amounts to 3.5 inches longer
than the first Rio sedan.
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
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 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
|For more information visit the Kia website here.
DOHC 1.6L I4/CVVT
| I-4: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
V-6: 221 @ 6,250 rpm
Rio: rack and pinion
LX: power rack and pinion
Braking Rio: power disc/drum
4 (side curtain)
M/5: 32/35 mpg
A/4: 29/38 mpg
M/5: $ 10,570
LX M/5: $ 12,445
LX A/4: $ 13,295