Kia Rio Review (2012)

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Updated July 5, 2022
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83 Expert Rating

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Heading out onto the open road can sometimes feel like brushing your teeth; you just don’t wanna do it. However, if you’re lucky enough to own a relatively new car, which are generally replete with the latest and greatest creature comforts, it can make the drive far less painless and hopefully safer. Such is the case of Kia’s 2012 Rio.

If it weren’t for the race like wheels and eye popping blue paint the Rio would be yet another 5-door hatchback. Yes, it does have a 4-cylinder engine under the hood, which is by no account race worthy, but Kia has successfully tuned it to give the car a spritey feel despite its lack of power or shotgun like effect off the proverbial line. But the real reason Kia let me test drive this car for 7-days wasn’t because of the drive comfort, the look or the price of the vehicle. Nope, they were more interested in having me play with the car’s interior features, which are nothing short of exceptional.

So I have to be candid and immediatlely tell you that the Rio’s stock stereo system is an underwhelming experience that quickly over shadows the car’s other features. There is no oomph to the music and everything just sounded relatively hollow, even when compared to my 2003 GTI’s stereo and the bass cranked to max. However, that is largely the biggest short coming of this vehicle, and last I checked it’s pretty easy to stuff in an after market stereo into any car for a few hundred bucks, though this one will likely take a bit more rigging given the speakers lack of power and range.

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That all said, I tested the top of the line Kia Rio. It retails for $17,900 and comes with what are a fair amount of bells and whistles. I showed my buddy the car and he was quick to point out that Mercedes charges around $2000 for a Push Button start, which is included in this model. It’s a nice touch even though this isn’t a 4-door sedan laden in leather.

That said, I was so pleased with the convenience of the push button start, I’d mod, if I could, my current vehicle such that I never had to remove the key from my pocket. That’s right, the driver and front passenger’s door handles both have a button that allow you to enter the vehicle as long as the key fob is on your person. Push it once and the driver’s door unlocks. Twice and all four door locks disengage – to lock all four doors you only need push it once. Much to my disappointment the hatchback is not motorized, but it effectively has the same features as the front doors.

The interior of the vehicle is comfortable, and those seated in the rear, though not graced with the leg room of a limo or extended cab sedan, stated that it was comfortable. And despite my 6′ 2″ frame, they still had room behind me to sit comfortably (a man of about 6′). Course, the creature comforts of this vehicle are relegated to the front of this vehicle and includes heated seats, a USB plug, AUX headphone jack input and a refreshingly easy to use nav system. The steering wheel has also been outfitted with a variety of media controls allowing you to take a call on the car’s Bluetooth connection and skip tracks or change stations on the radio, or XM Sirius.

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Aesthetically the interior is subtle enough to complement the car’s exterior, yet isn’t cheap or overstated in an attempt to be something it’s not. The front seat moved back quite significantly and boasted so much leg room I didn’t need to place it in the largest position – a nice touch for anyone over the height of 6-foot. That said, the position between the driver’s seat, foot well, and steering wheel felt a bit awkward. That is until I telescoped the steering wheel closer to me. The result was additional leg room without being too far from the steering wheel to drive safely. And as you’d probably expect the front seats can be manipulated in a variety of directions for even the most discerning of drivers and passengers.

Now, in the past many a car that I’ve driven have had infuriatingly slow and antiquated nav systems. Surprisingly, the Kia Rio’s nav is not only easy to use, but reacts very quickly to the touch. Unfortunately, it still uses a multiline system when inputting an address, which is anything like the Google Maps experience I and millions of people have come accustom to thanks to the iPhone. Nonetheless, it’s a caveat I’m more than willing to overlook in light of the simplicity of the system, even though I’m still a bit sore about the underwhelming stereo system.

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Now, when it comes to driving the Kia Rio I was actually pleasantly surprised. By my accounts the car could use more kick under the hood, but as I’ve stated many times before, my daily driver is a turbo charged one, so needless to say, that’s no surprise. The suspension of the vehicle while comfortable wasn’t too soft and provided just enough feedback to make the Rio a nimble ride. Body roll wasn’t a big concern during my driving experience, which is something I still can’t forget about when it comes to Chevy’s Volt. Unfortunately, I was remiss and didn’t record my fuel consumption, but by all accounts the Rio is affordable in that respect.

So we all know that Kia (and Hyundai) have been through a significant over haul during the last decade. And so far, it looks like it’s paid off. The Rio’s aggressive looks, and in this particular case its flashy wheels, help give the car an allure that I generally wouldn’t associate with the brand. But, and yes there is a but, the Rio line up might do better with a Turbo option or a model that has a bit more power. After all, everything else was well suited, so why skimp on the horsepower.

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Bottom Line: A well suited daily driver that boasts interior creature comforts often found on high end vehicles. My only gripe: the engine needs more balls.

Editor’s Rating:




  • Interior creature comforts are on par with some luxury vehicles
  • The nav system, though still a bit old school, worked great
  • A good looking, practical, everyday driver


  • The stereo system has no oomph
  • The engine is slightly under powered
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