Rio Thoughts: First Impressions of the New Ride

For the past two years, I’ve been looking to replace an aging, second-hand Hyundai Elantra with something newer and more technologically-equipped. This quest has spanned all kinds of brands, and I ended up test driving a lineup of cars diverse enough to include the Kia Rio, the Volkswagen Jetta, and the BMW 325i. At the end of the day, though, the Kia Rio represented the best bargain for the price negotiated, and so I ended up financing the subcompact and making it my own. After nearly a week of driving both city and highway stretches, I thought I’d document my initial impressions of this new set of wheels.

Active ECO / Idle Stop & Go

The Rio comes with two key ways to boost fuel economy. The first is Active ECO mode, which “learns” how you drive and operates the engine smartly enough to save gas during both city and highway driving. The second is “Idle Stop & Go,” which actually turns the engine off when the car is stopped at a sign, light, or in a traffic jam. Combined, both modes help the Rio achieve between 36 and 40 miles per gallon. Idle Stop & Go freaks me out, but Active ECO has been a real benefit. So far, I like both.

UVO Infotainment

The UVO system is comparable to Ford Sync, and roughly as useful. I can command the car to read text messages, make and receive calls, find directions, and more. With integrated Bluetooth music streaming, my phone can become the epicenter of the car. The UVO system also features a USB port, an AUX port, and two charging ports, perfect for wired connections. AM/FM stereo and built-in Sirius make the system even more versatile, as does an included hard drive for MP3 storage.

On the Road: Not a Subcompact

The great thing about the Rio is that it feels nothing like what one imagines a subcompact to be. It accelerates quickly, rides smoothly, and rounds corners with ease. Included traction control and stability control enhance the ride, as does a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Elantra had a four-speed transmission and it was, let’s say, painful. Just painful.

Cabin Thoughts: Not a Kia

You buy a car like this expecting mediocre road performance and a bare-bones interior. This is not what Kia delivers with the 2013 Rio, though. The interior has a soft touch dashboard, comfortable bucket seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel, a large center console, and spacious back seats (for a subcompact). Of course, the Rio competes with the Fiesta, Accent, and Sonic, all three of which are considered stereotype-defying subcompact models. Maybe a new era in automobile design is finally upon us!

The Conclusion

I didn’t set out to buy a Kia. I’m notoriously snooty and I love luxury sedans. But something has changed within the Kia brand. A spunky engine, an attractive design inside and out, a great riding and driving experience, and a spacious interior, make this the smart choice. I’m as surprised as my friends are that I bought a Kia, but so far I certainly do not regret my decision.