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Kia Rio Test Drive - What Did You Think?

PFFlyer@EdmundsPFFlyer@Edmunds Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,808
edited March 20 in Kia
Post your test drive reviews of the Kia Rio here.


Moderator - Hatchbacks & Hybrid Vehicles



  • I had a brief encounter last night with an '06 Rio sedan at my KIA dealer.

    I've had some interest in looking at a Rio5 for the wife as a daily kid hauler and grocery getter, since I've had very positive experiences (so far) with my 2004.5 Spectra EX and the dealership itself. I've been watching the dealer's lot for the past few weeks to see if any Rios (sedan or hatch) came in.

    Well I finally spotted *one* (a basic sedan) on the lot last night, so I pulled in.

    First impressions: (note... I didn't even get to sit in it)

    1. Exterior build quality looks good, but then the previous Rio never looked bad on the lot either. It is an attractive little car though to be sure.

    2. The interior looks nice, and has a fairly modern motif to it. However I can see BIG thrift measures taken in its design (compared to my Spectra), even when looking through the glass.

    Such as:
    - Only the driver's seat has a middle armrest attached to it. ????? Plenty of room appears to exist for the passenger seat to have one too, but it doesn't. And the one on the driver's seat is *single person* use only. There' no middle console/bin/armrest combo like the Spectra available either.

    - The back seats fold, but the releases appear to be on the top of the seats on the inside of the car, not in the trunk like the Spectra.

    - Big one here...... rear leg room! The rear legroom in the Rio appears to be very tight. I couldn't get in the car to verify if the seats were all the way back (they probably were), but even so my Spectra has plenty of room for people's legs when the seats are all the way back. I can't necessarily say that's true about the Rio.

    3. Brakes are front disc and rear drum. I couldn't try them out, but I do take note that Spectras come with 4-wheel disc - standard.

    4. Tires and wheels. Kumhos with the usual generic steel wheels and hubcaps. Not unexpected UNTIL you read the next section. My Spectra came with Goodyear Eagle LS's btw (made in Japan which I found interesting :-) )

    5. Price. This car had an automatic trans baked into whatever model level it was, but that appeared to be the only major $$$ option I could see. This car had crank windows, MANUAL mirrors, and no power locks. MSRP sticker? $13,950 (or something like that give or take a few $$$)!!!!! It's obvious that there's going to have to be some MAJOR discounting going on to move these, OR the actual selling price of Spectras are going to have to take a MAJOR jump, because from what I can see so far, the Spectra appears to be a more substantial vehicle. I paid $13,373 (before tax/dest) just a year ago for my fully loaded Spectra, and my local dealer has been advertising 2005 Spectra LXs for under $9,000 lately. Granted, the real price is probably closer to $11,000 when the tax/dest and model bait-n-switcheroo occurs, but it would still be a better deal than $11,000 (if you'll even be able to get a deal like that) on an '06 Rio.

    Final Analysis:
    I still plan on test driving a new Rio5 when they come in. There's several upgrades that come standard with that model. The rear leg room is a potential deal killer, but since this would be the Mom-mobile, the front seats will be likely up on their tracks a few notches anyway, thus freeing up rear legroom.

    Interior rear storage is an unexplored variable, and availability of Rio5's with the power window/door lock/tweeter packages will play a deciding role.

    Ultimately the price and availability of discounts and deals will trump everything else. If they try to sell these in the $12,000-$13,000 range, I'll either see what I can get a Spectra5 for, OR I'll pony up a few grand more and start checking out Scion XBs where I know the interior space is better.

    That's it for now!

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,618

    * Scion xA with standard power package, A/C, and ABS starts at $13k.
    * Elantra GLS with standard power package and A/C starts at $13.8k; automatic for about $14.6k (under $13k with rebate and even a minimal discount).
    * Cobalt and Focus with automatic available around $13k
    * Spectra EX with standard A/C and power package available under $13k with rebates
    * '06 Civic DX with power package and standard ABS and side bags/curtains starts at around $14.5k (est.)

    Rio base sedan with automatic for about $14k???? They have got to be kidding!
  • bamacarbamacar Posts: 749
    Then again a base 2005 Rio sedan with just A/C and Auto with manual windows and door locks stickers at 13500. Sounds like a small increase for a much improved vehicle. Sticker should never be paid on the 05 or 06 anyway. The Suzuki Renos have a sticker of 14-15k and go for 9-10 everyday.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,618 shows a MSRP of $12,435 for the '05 Rio base model with A/C and automatic, and a TMV of $11,146 after $1000 rebate. So I expect to see the incentives and discounts flowing on the new Rio soon after introduction. The dealers tried to hold the line on Sportage prices for a little while, but those too came down pretty fast (along with rebates).
  • bamacarbamacar Posts: 749
    Yes but you are comparing a 2006 LX to a base 2005. The 2006 LX with Auto (nearly 14k) includes A/C, CD, tilt wheel, tachometer, and power steering. To get those in 2005 you add Auto, A/C, CD player, and upgrade package. The total is $13385. The actual 2006 price is 13835 with the LX and auto so the difference is only $450. The 2006 has side curtain airbags, a more powerful engine, and much better fuel economy especially with the auto 38/29 versus 32/25. Also rear legroom is up from 31 inches to 34.3 inches.

    The only question is why Kia does not allow the base model to have the auto in 2006.

    I do agree the MSRP is not important as the rebates will quickly follow after release.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,618
    Sorry, I got the impression from your earlier post ("Then again a base 2005 Rio sedan with just A/C and Auto with manual windows and door locks stickers at 13500.") that we were talking about a base model with just A/C and automatic. So $450 isn't much of a bump then, but it's still a pricey proposition considering Kia and sister Hyundai have a reputation for value compared to the likes of Scion and Honda. Looks like Kia is expecting the new Rio to compete with the Big Boys on its own merits, list price notwithstanding.
  • BC said:
    "...Looks like Kia is expecting the new Rio to compete with the Big Boys on its own merits, list price notwithstanding."

    With the previous model Rio's reputation as a "Worst Car" (see: Forbes survey graph here), I think that it will take a few years of sales of the new model coupled with impeccable reliability before the name "Rio" will be truly competing with the "big boys", esp. in the arena of price.

    Much like it is taking awhile for the name "Spectra" to shed its sub-par reputation.

    It's doable (and is being done by the Spectra), but I think the name "Rio" carrys an even bigger stigma with the general buying public.

    BUT..... with a substantially upgraded model coupled with sales of the next few model years at a cheap rate to adventuresome souls like us on here , KIA just might be in the "ball game" as they say.

  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,618
    I completely agree. Which is why we see huge discounts/incentives on the Rio today ("Buy a new Rio for $6999!!") and why we'll see them on the '06 Rio in short order.
  • The MSRP for a 2006 Rio LX with auto and no options (manual windows and door locks) is 13905 (see my previous post). In my opinion, based on MSRP, the Rio is priced too high and their is not enough of a difference between it and the Spectra which is a substantially better car. The fit and finish is pretty good but the material quality on the interior is pretty bad. Its not any better than the 05 Rio and can't compare to my mom's Toyota Echo which is a direct competitor. The Spectra interior is so nice compared to all other cars in its price range that I was really hoping it would be the same for the Rio. The only thing going for the new Rio is it finally has very competitive EPA mpg estimates.

  • bamacarbamacar Posts: 749
    Then again a Spectra auto with A/C (with manual windows and manual locks, no cruise, no power mirrors, no keyless entry) is no bargain at an MSRP of $15350 either. That is why it has a $1750 rebate on it, too.

    In 2006, the Spectra will lose the LX model. Thus the 2006 EX with Auto (will have A/C, keyless, power windows, locks, mirrors but no cruise) will have a MSRP of $15840 at its entry level.
  • Our local dealer has 06 Rios in now as well, all sedans from what I see. All your impressions are similar to mine- better than the last one, but not good enough to charge as much as a Spectra.

    I also saw a review of the new Rio at It concluded with this:

    Hell, if given the choice between a Scion xA or a Rio5, we'd take the Rio any day of the week. It's a surprisingly good car, and we'd recommend the Rio to anyone looking to get into subcompact ride.
  • You're correct. The Spectra LX is no bargain at that price with standard equipment. Didn't realize you could get a Spectra without power windows, power door locks and AC. I would have thought those would be standard as they are with the Elantra
  • And now I've driven one. It was a sedan with AT; the salesman said he had been told production hadn't yet started on the hatchbacks.

    It blows the Scion xA away on several counts: Seats are a little softer but very comfy (with dual knob height adjust); the engine, though buzzy on heavy acceleration, is very eager and ready to go. And even the buzz has a pleasant note. Once you're up to speed it quiets down nicely. The AT shifts *perfectly* for the engine coupled to it. A slight depression of the gas pedal drops the gear and you're goin'! The ride quality is adequate but not great for high speed slalom- but it is just perfect for your highway commute. Responsive but very smooth and quiet.

    You can tell it is an economy car by the quality of the interior; it's nice, but still cheap. My current ride is a Ford Aspire, and the Rio interior surpasses that by a mile. It is more like my son's car- an Escort- but with more power, better seats and a kick-@ss stereo.

    The biggest area in which this car could use some improvement is rear seat leg room. But considering it is targeted at commuters and young families just starting out, they picked the right feature for compromise.

    If the Rio ends up costing the same as a Spectra5, I may *still* buy the Rio because of its tremendous mileage numbers (29/38 with an AT- right up there with the xA).

    Perhaps the thing I like best about the new Rio is it as the same straightforward simplicity of design that my Kia-built Ford Aspire has: you can see that decisions were made and that sometimes the less expensive choice won out, but you can also look at the alternatives and understand why.

    So I had a good long talk with the salesman. He ran my credit numbers and said they weren't good enough for automatic approval of the lowest interest rate, but that we could try to submit an application for it and see if they approve it anyway. If not, we have good enough credit numbers for a decent rate, and then the rebate kicks back in, not to mention competitive bonus and possibly my wife's new graduate discount. I also found out they have a deal for employees where I work of Invoice + $200, then the rebates and stuff apply. So I should do pretty well. The Spectra5 and Rio5 are serious contenders. I found out my local Kia dealer is the #2 sales volume Kia dealer in the U.S., so they have lots of stock to choose from.

    Question: I tried looking up the 06 Rio to find out its Invoice price. Is there somewhere on Edmunds (or anywhere else for that matter) that has Invoice values for th 06 Rio?
  • Doohickie,

    Try They have invoice and MSRP prices for 2006 Rio and Rio5 and optional equipment.

    Good luck!
  • Thanks! I'll look into it. I'm a little closer to buying.... sold my old Ford Aspire today. It was a good car for me. :cry:
  • Nice, matter-of-fact, test drive and review of the new Rio. html


    The Rio is a cute, tidy and Spartan package. There are plenty of people out there looking for the simple luxury of transportation to and from work or school. This car fills that niche well. When you stop and think about it, vehicles like this are all most of us really need. Cars in this class are plentiful in Asia and Europe. Honda and Nissan are bringing cars in this class to the U.S. soon.

    Obviously, Americans are accustomed to much more car powered by cheap gas. Recent pump prices have people re-thinking their driving choices. Will the gas crunch of 2005 vault the Korean brands into the minds of consumers the way the energy crisis of the 70’s propelled the Japanese? The next few years will be interesting.
  • ...And I'm happy. I am 6'3". It's not easy for me to find a car in which I actually fit. I drove it, and it was relatively smooth with a pep that I remember from my old '87 Civic.

    The dealer's going to let a friend of mine know when the Rio5 gets in, which they estimated about 3 weeks. Then I will get that sucker and drive it till the warranty runs out.

    Well laid-out vehicle. :D
  • did you drive a 2006 Kia Rio 4-door sedan with the automatic tranny or a manual tranny? Good for you to get a test drive in one. Report more as you go so we can all learn along with you, OK? :D

    2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

  • I test-drove the a/t 4-door. I didn't have to slam my foot to the floor (and hold it) to get it up to merge with traffic.

    It felt very roomy, and the meters weren't strangely placed like the Scion's. It most definitely had MUCH better pickup than a Scion Xb a/t.

    Again, I was shocked that I fit in the thing.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,618
    I finally got to drive the new Rio today! Here are my impressions:

    backy, "The Forums Test Drive Team" #171, 8 Oct 2005 9:41 pm
This discussion has been closed.