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    2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door


    By Chris Doane

    January 29, 2013

    I know I won’t get much, if any, sympathy when I say that, sometimes, there are letdowns when you review cars. Last week, the car I was evaluating was a $100,000, 400hp, German coupe. (Read my review of the 2012 BMW 650i xDrive coupe here) I’ve now stepped directly from that into a Kia Rio.

    I’ll pause for your laughter.

    For the price of the super coupe, you can buy 5.4 Kia Rios. You could keep that .4 for spare parts?

    But don’t let price fool you. Oddly enough, there is something about the way the Kia drives that beats the German car hands down.

    gallery_10485_562_116142.jpg

    If you guessed power, speed or luxury, then you’re either not familiar with these cars, or you’re three martinis into “lunch” at the bar. What the much cheaper Kia does have over the German car is steering feel. The coupe from Deutschland has 262 more horse power, yards and yards of leather, but in the Kia, I actually have some sense of what the front wheels are doing via what I feel through the steering wheel. And I’ll take some feel over none any day.

    If driving is something you enjoy, steering feel is pretty useful information to have when zipping through the corners. Even if driving is nothing more than a task for you, it’s pretty nice to know when the front wheels feel like they’re about to lose traction. While no one would ever mistake the Rio for a sporty, corner carving car, the Rio SX model has a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, and light, responsive steering that, somehow, make this small, underpowered car a little bit fun to drive.

    It’s a bit like a go-kart, only with airbags, a trunk and room for five passengers. Well, 4.5 anyway.

    The main reason I say “a little bit fun to drive” is because of the 1.6L, 138hp four cylinder motor in the Rio. Those hot, 17-inch wheels on this Rio SX might make it look quick, but this hatchback ain’t going anywhere fast. While there is certainly power to be had from this little four-banger, you’ve got to rev the snot out of it to reach that power. Once the tachometer reads 4500-5000rpm, then you approach something that could be considered acceleration.

    In regular, everyday driving, the lack of power isn’t really an issue. You’ll get through the city, and around the highways, just fine. But in some situations, like passing on even a modest incline, you might think twice. As I attempted to pass an older, slower Nissan on a slight uphill, the pass happened in such slow fashion that I would’ve had time to say hello to the driver, ask if he was hungry, make a sandwich, and pass it over. Wait, did he want Grey Poupon?

    gallery_10485_562_63409.jpg

    So we don’t have speed, but that should come as no surprise since this car is intended more for fuel efficiency. The Rio is rated for 28mpg city, 36mpg highway, and we observed a 31mpg average with sporty driving habits and more highway driving than city driving. There is also an “eco” button you can press that reigns in the engine, and transmission shift points, for increased fuel economy.

    Even though the fuel economy is fairly good, the tank in the Rio is pretty tiny at 11.3 gallons. If you have a long commute, you’ll still be filling up a lot, but at least you’ll only be pumping in 11 gallons each time.

    If you want to know when that tank is about to run dry, it’s not a good idea to rely on the digital, remaining range readout in the gauge cluster. One moment, the Rio SX told me I could drive another 31 miles before I was out of fuel. Less than 5 minutes of regular driving later, it told me I had no range remaining.

    Inside the Rio, it’s about what you’d expect in a $18,545 car. A nicely designed, mostly hard plastic interior, but with soft touch material in the right spots and a backup camera. Wait, what? A backup camera in a $18,545 car? Touch-screen nav too? Don’t forget the power fold mirrors. Though, in a car this narrow, I’m not really sure why you’d ever need to fold in the mirrors.

    gallery_10485_562_191278.jpg

    Of those features, it’s the backup camera that is almost a necesity due to the massive blind spots the stylish C-pillars create. Without a rear-facing camera, backing out of a parking spot involves more prayer than driving skill.

    Normally, in cars of this price range, the seats suffer when it comes to comfort. Somehow, the chairs in the Rio manage not to do that. They certainly aren’t heavily padded or bosltered seats, but after three hours of wheeling, I was perfectly comfortable, and ready for three more.

    Frankly, the best part of the Rio is how fantastic it looks. If you venture back even a few years ago and look at the cars Kia was producing then, you’d never have guessed this company was capable of designing something this good looking.

    Not only does the exterior design trump the Scion xB, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, but it certainly holds its’ own against the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta as well.

    gallery_10485_562_255414.jpg

    2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door - $17,700

    -Carpeted Floor Mats - $95

    -Destination - $750

    TOTAL - $18,545

    tn_gallery_10485_562_255414.jpg

    Album: 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-Door

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    SHOOT, I forgot about the Rio... you know, I've always liked the European looks of the current Rio, and with Kia's warranty and the nice features... maybe I should look at one. With a manual transmission and mostly highway commute, I would hopefully beat the tested fuel mileage average. Off to Build&Price!

    EDIT: nevermind. They suck. No manual transmission available on the nicer trims. So thankful Sonic and Fiesta are available with a fun, manual transmission in LTZ and Titanium trims.

    Edited by ocnblu
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    Interesting Jelly Bean of a car. While it tends to just blend in like all other commuter cars, I do apprecaite the Chris talked about a very important feedback. I love to drive and I want to feel what the auto is doing. If you do not know where the car is at any given point, then do not waste money on performance cars. The whole Idea is to becomeone with the machine and push the limits as long as you get proper feedback.

    Pass on the car, but glad it has some feedback via the wheel. :P

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    stylish for what it is, inside and out. some cheapness that just comes in that price range.

    Kia has done a very good job.

    I think it was stupid for kia to change the Spectra name to Forte. I think they lost a lot of customers on that move. The Spectra was gaining a lot of traction in the market, and then they pulled it.......started selling the "Forte" and it got lost in translation.

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    that is not the only reason.

    i think the styling was a bit amiss and there was some interior cheapness. It was trying to be too cool. This Rio is slightly cool, but still has a proper amount of mainstream.

    At the time, Spectra name was gaining a lot of traction but it was not cool enough, Forte killed all the brand equity in the Spectra name. If the next Forte had the looks of this Rio enlarged, and had been named Spectra all along, I think it would probably doing serious volume and making huge cuts into Corolla and Civic sales.

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      Trim: Touring L
      Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 287 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/28/22
      Curb Weight: 4,330 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
      Base Price: $34,495
      As Tested Price: $36,880 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Audio Group - $895.00
      8 Passenger Seating - $495.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      There is one vehicle that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has to get right the first time - the minivan. The company is credited for creating this vehicle segment back in the eighties with the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Each subsequent version brought forth some new improvement or feature that put it ahead of the pack. But due to the bankruptcy in 2009 and subsequent merger with Fiat, plans for the next-generation Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan were pushed back. This left the old model struggling against some fresh competition in the form of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. 
      But last year, Chrysler surprised everyone with a new minivan. Wearing the Pacifica nameplate, the van was unlike anything that had come before. It featured a sleek design, handsome interior, and the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The bigger surprise was that Chrysler would be the only brand getting the new van. The Dodge Caravan would continue in its current incarnation for a few years to provide a low-cost option for those shoppers. Has Chrysler pulled a rabbit out its hat or has the unthinkable happened and the Pacifica trails the competition?
      The first thing to take in about the new Pacifica is how good-looking it is. The design comes courtesy of the 700C that debuted quietly a few years back at the Detroit Auto Show. The rounded front end is reminiscent of the recently departed 200 with a narrow grille and headlights, chrome trim along the edges of the grilles, and a sculpted hood. The side profile shows off two character lines; one running from the front fender to the chrome trim for the windows and another running through the door handles and curving into the rear fender. We would only make one slight change to the Pacifica. Our Touring L tester featured 17-inch wheels that looked a bit small for a vehicle this size. We would go for the larger 18-inch wheels that fill in the wheel wells much better.
      Anyone who has been in the last-generation Chrysler Town and Country or Dodge Caravan knows the interior was well past its sell-by date. When pitted against competitors, the two vans came up very short in terms of design, materials, space for cargo and passengers; and infotainment. Step inside the Pacifica and it is clear that Chrysler has done its homework. The design is much more modern with flowing lines and contrasting colors. It also feels more spacious than the outgoing vans thanks to some smart decisions such as the removal of the center console to allow for an open floor between driver and passenger, and the use of a knob for the transmission. Material quality has also seen a noticeable improvement with many surfaces now boasting soft-touch plastics. It wouldn’t be crazy to say the Chrysler Pacifica is ahead of everyone when it comes to the interior.
      Depending on the trim, you can order the Pacifica with seating for seven or eight people. Our Touring L featured the eight-seat layout with a removable middle seat for the third row. It will take you a few moments to figure out how to remove the seat, but once you do, it is quite easy to remove and install the seat. The rest of the seats feature Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go folding system where the seats can fold into compartments in the floor to provide a flat load area. Cargo area is in line with the current crop of minivans with 32.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 87.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 140.5 cubic feet with both rows folded. As for passengers, both rows of rear seats provide an excellent amount of head and legroom. Getting into the third row is much easier thanks to second-row seats offering a tilt function.
      FCA has equipped the Pacifica with the newest version of their UConnect system. The interface may look similar to the older UConnect system, but there are a number of changes that help catapult this new version towards the top of the infotainment system list. First, the new system is much sharper thanks to the new fonts and an updated screen that provides improved brightness levels. FCA has also improved the overall performance of the system, meaning no slow downs when going between various functions. One item we cannot comment on is navigation as our test Pacifica didn’t come with it.
      Power for the Pacifica comes from the 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission that routes power to the front-wheels only. It might not be the fastest van on the road (that honor falls to the Toyota Sienna), but Pacifica comes very close. Power comes on a smooth and steady rate. You’ll find yourself not wanting more power when merging onto a freeway or trying to make a pass. FCA has seemed to get its act together with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Issues with clunky shifts and gear hunting have been mostly ironed out. The transmission now features smooth and quick upshifts. The only item we would want FCA to work on is the transmission’s hesitation to downshift in certain situations such as making a pass.
      EPA fuel economy for the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is rated at 18 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. Our week mostly spent in the city returned 23.2 mpg.
      The primary concern when it comes to a van’s ride and handling characteristics is providing maximum comfort and the Pacifica delivers. The suspension delivers a smooth ride even on some of the rough roads on offer from Metro Detroit area. An added bonus is how well the Pacifica isolates road and wind noise from coming inside. At highway speeds, only a whisper of wind noise makes it inside. But the Pacifica becomes a bit of a surprise when it comes to handling. Despite its large size, FCA’s engineers made the Pacifica feel quite nimble. The steering might not give that impression as it feels somewhat light when turning. But go around a corner and the van feels more like a midsize sedan than a van. 
      It has been a long time coming for a new minivan from FCA and the good news is that they haven’t dropped the ball. The Pacifica may not have ripped up the rulebook when it comes to minivans, but it sure has expanded or rewritten bits of it. From a surprising balance of ride and handling characteristics to the best interior in the class, it is clear that FCA wants to reclaim the crown of the best minivan. But there one thing that we need to address and that is FCA’s poor reliability history. No matter which survey or study look at, more often than not, FCA’s core brands are towards the bottom. What does this mean for the Pacifica? We can’t say for right now, but this could be the one thing that makes or breaks Chrysler’s new van.
      For right now, the Pacifica is at the top of the class.
      Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Chrysler
      Model: Pacifica
      Trim: Touring L
      Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 287 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/28/22
      Curb Weight: 4,330 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
      Base Price: $34,495
      As Tested Price: $36,880 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Audio Group - $895.00
      8 Passenger Seating - $495.00
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