By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – The 1.6 liter four cylinder direct injection engine of the 2013 Kia Rio was a tad noisy when accelerating. The subcompact sedan could stand some more sound proofing between the firewall and the passenger compartment.
Still, it was a spunky little engine that moved the Kia Rio smartly. The car never felt overwhelmed from a power standpoint by other traffic. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the test vehicle had an EPA rating of 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
To help get that EPA rating, the Rio’s engine would shut off when the car was stopped and automatically restart to get underway. It was so smooth that the feature went unnoticed. Kia says it is the only non-luxury automobile to offer that technology.
And only once during the week-long test drive did the limiting effects of the 138 horsepower engine appear. There was no burst of speed during aggressive acceleration from 60 mph.
The other quibble was with the satellite radio. The Rio’s audio system kept losing the signal. It was impossible to pinpoint the problem. It could have been the station; it could have been the car’s antennae or the audio system’s receiver. It would take a few seconds to reacquire the signal. This happened several times during each trip in the car.
This quirk didn’t happen with previous test cars equipped with satellite radio. Thus, it would seem that the problem was with the Rio. Those were the only two quibbles that occurred during the Rio test drive.
Other than that, time spent with the 2013 Kia Rio was all uphill and the incline was steep.
The satellite radio was part of a premium package that included a navigation system, moonroof, push button start and stop as well as push button lock and unlock, leather seat trim and heated front seats.
Add Bluetooth that turned a smartphone into handless car phone, voice control that worked pretty well, rear bumper applique, carpeted floor mats, a rearview camera and a non-reflective rearview mirror with compass and the 2013 Rio was chock full of stuff that just a few years ago could only be found in much more expensive vehicles.
The base price of the car was $17,700. With the premium package and freight charge, the sticker as tested was $21,340. For those who need more cargo space, the 2013 Kia Rio is also available as a five-door hatchback.
What’s more, the Kia Rio sub compact sedan looked good, real good; and it handled really well. It had sculpted sloping shoulder lines and wedge-shaped exteriors. The sedan dropped its wedge line only slightly between the rear door and the trunk to differentiate it from the hatchback profile. And it had a great set of 17-inch wheels.
The sport suspension was firm without being harsh. Handling was pretty sharp and sight lines from inside of the car were pretty good. The 2013 Rio even had paddle shifters.
Space in the back seat was close but there was sufficient legroom and surprisingly there was enough headroom to make an almost six-footer not feel cramped. The real surprise was that getting in and out of the rear door was pretty easy.
The front seats weren’t bad either. The instrument layout was simple and dominated by the navigation screen which seemed like a wide screen TV in the subcompact but spacious interior. The dash was grained. The instruments in front of the driver were concise and easy to read. There was also an ambience of quality not often found in a small car.
For 2013, the Kia Rio was a great little car with a low price and lots of content.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com