2013 Kia Rio SX Long-Term Update 5
Little Cars Have It Good These Days
The Kia Rio SX is not as small as a Fiat 500 or Scion iQ, and back-seat riders appreciate that size discrepancy. Nevertheless, old mentalities die reluctantly. When the Rio is bunched into the same cluster as the smart fortwo in the minds of consumers who believe all cars smaller than a 1990s Ford Taurus are inherently unsafe and lacking in features, it faces an uphill battle in perception. You wouldn't believe how many people automatically assume all it has going for it is bright Signal Red paint, 17-inch alloy wheels, and spunky personality.
Our limited-availability model has the six-speed manual transmission and a selective list of equipment, but I wouldn't consider it ill-equipped. To begin, it has hill-start assist control. This feature is not unique to the Rio, but that it even exists today is good indication that small cars receive a lot of attention when manufacturers are checking customer wish lists.
Years ago, I learned to drive manuals in and around many hills. At first I made heavy use of the parking brake to prevent the car from rolling backwards while climbing steep grades from a standstill or when parallel parking on an incline. Hill-start assist control copies this action without the driver needing to yank and then release the parking brake handle. It provides two seconds of breathing room for the driver to start moving by keeping the brakes applied as the right foot moves from the brake to the gas pedal. I may deem this safety function trivial now, but the younger, novice-driver version of me would have found it handy.
The navigation system works exceptionally well. You can put in and change destinations on the fly. The 7-inch center-stack screen's touch sensitivity is comfortably calibrated -- I can promptly type in addresses and never find myself double-tapping the onscreen keyboard in frustration. The digitized keyboard buttons are large and legible. Physical "Route" (to see the currently selected route) and "Destination" (to change the destination) buttons sit on the touch screen's right border. Those might sound similar but serve entirely different purposes. I can't imagine blending the two into a single menu without adding complexity.
Items of displeasure: I can't rest my left elbow comfortably on the door's armrest. My seating position uses maybe half of the available seat travel, yet my left elbow finds the hard, plastic storage pocket instead of the padding located a few inches farther back. It appears I need to either grow longer arms or get taller. If I'm in a parking lot and try to turn the steering wheel from one direction to another quickly while the car is stationary, it momentarily feels like the power assist has gone away. While attempting to hastily back into a space, the steering effort abruptly goes abnormally heavy as the wheel rotates from one way to the other, as if the column-assist electric motor can't initially keep up with my request before feeding in assist.
Also, our observed fuel economy is consistently stuck between 34 and 35 mpg. If the next-generation Rio improves on these three fronts, it'll be a good day.
|Service life||30,528 mi|
|Average fuel economy||34.3 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.57 lb/mi|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ||29/37/32 mpg|
|Energy consumption||98 kW-hr/100mi|
|Maintenance cost||$125.74 (3-oil change, inspection; 2-tire rotation; 1-cabin-air filter)|