Kia's redesigned compact Rio sits on a longer wheelbase and a wider track for 2006. In addition to the new front-wheel-drive platform, the Rio's engine now produces slightly more horsepower.
The South Korean automaker says its entry-level Rio has a sportier, more substantial appearance. The car was introduced at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and — like its predecessor — the new Rio's emphasis is on overall value.
Base and LX sedan trim levels are available, but few base models are expected to reach customers. Kia also offers a Rio5 hatchback, which is covered separately in the cars.com Research section. Each Rio has six standard airbags, including the usual frontal-impact devices, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags.
Larger in every dimension but overall length, the 2006 Rio rides on a 98.4-inch wheelbase. The redesigned Rio is wider and taller than its predecessor.
Created with a European-inspired exterior, the Rio features a black mesh grille and swept-back headlights. The bumpers contain black inserts, and black bodyside moldings are installed. The Rio's profile exhibits what Kia calls a subtle wedge shape, with sculpted arches at each fender.
The Rio has an independent front suspension, a semi-independent rear suspension, and front and rear stabilizer bars. Body-colored mirrors and standard 14-inch tires are installed. Full wheel covers appear on the LX sedan, and power steering is standard only on that model. An optional Sport Package for the LX sedan includes 15-inch wheels, all-disc brakes, fog lamps and a rear spoiler. Mudguards, a front mask, a hood protector and wheel locks are among the available accessories.
Increased exterior dimensions translate to more interior capacity in the five-passenger Rio. In fact, Kia claims the Rio has greater interior space than the larger Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. With 11.9 cubic feet of cargo space, the trunk is 30 percent roomier than the prior-generation Rio.
Standard equipment includes an eight-way manually adjustable driver's seat, variable intermittent wipers and a rear-window defroster. Additional features in the LX sedan include air conditioning; a CD stereo with four speakers; a tilt steering column; and a 60/40-split, folding rear seat. An optional Power Package for the LX adds power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors, door-mounted tweeter speakers, twin map lamps and a holder for sunglasses. The LX Sport Package includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob and metal pedals.
Under the Hood
The Rio's 1.6-liter four-cylinder features variable valve timing and produces 110 hp and 107 pounds-feet of torque. Either a five-speed-manual gearbox or a four-speed-automatic transmission can be installed. Base models are available only with the manual transmission.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side curtain-type airbags and front seat belt pretensioners are standard. All five seating positions get three-point belts. All-disc antilock brakes are optional. The standard brake setup includes front discs and rear drums.
Adding a few horsepower can make quite a difference in a small sedan. The prior Rio's performance was decidedly modest, but it's easily adequate now, even with the automatic transmission. Although the engine emits considerable buzz and blare when pushed hard, it's pleasantly quiet most of the time. Automatic-transmission reactions occur promptly and without any lurching or awkward gear changes. The manual transmission makes the Rio even more appealing for lively motoring.
Ride comfort is another plus. Even when the road surface gets rough, the Rio's suspension absorbs many imperfections.
Space is another story, at least in the backseat. Legroom even in the outer positions is marginal when the front seat is moved appreciably rearward. Additionally, the hard rear seatback is reclined too far for true comfort. Still, headroom is passable and foot room adequate, and getting into the backseat isn't too difficult. Despite short seat bottoms, the front seats are rather comfortable. Visibility is unobstructed.
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