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New Car/Review


KIA Rio (2001)

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price               $ 8,595
     Price As Tested                                    $ 11,439
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 1.5 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                  91 cid/1493 cc
     Horsepower                                    96 @ 5800 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                                98 @ 4500 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   94.9"/65.9"/165.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     2472 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  11.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                              175/70R13 T-rated
     Brakes (F/R)                                     Disc /drum
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Four-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                  0 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            25/31/28
     0-60 MPH                                       11.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                    18.0 @ 75 mph
     Top-speed                                           100 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - In a world filled with high-priced luxury cars and overpriced SUV's, Kia has found a way to sell a quality car and sell it at a price almost anyone can afford. The 2001 Kia Rio is the "other" Korean auto company's entry-level vehicle and in a basic form, comes in at just under $9000. This gives it bragging rights to call itself the lowest priced new car available in the United States.

MIKELE - According to Kia history, it traces its roots back to Seoul in 1944. The first Kia went on sale in America in 1994, and they have since sold over a half million units. It has stuck by its original doctrine of providing high-quality, high-value vehicles at prices that dip way under the competition and backs its products with a long warranty program and a customer-first policy that works. I've seen lots of its Sephia sedans and Sportage SUV's on the road, and now with its Sedona minivan, its Optima large four-door, and this really reasonable Rio on the market, I look for Kia to make a big impact on future automobile sales here.

BRENDAN - Our Rio is pretty conventional by current standards. It's powered by a 91 cubic-inch, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine, and it makes the most of its seemingly small 96 horses. Dad says it wasn't too long ago that more than one horse per inch was phenomenal. It has considerable pickup for a sub-compact, and it had no problem keeping up with the other "mini" cars I encountered. It's really small, but at six-foot-four and well over two hundred pounds, I fit pretty well in the Rio. I wouldn't recommend it for a sumo wrestling team, however.

MIKELE - The four-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly, but being a stick-shifter, I think the five-speed would have given it a little more zoom. It was still fun to drive though, and it handled well. I learned from its press kit that it has MacPherson struts, an anti-roll bar, and a torsion beam rear axle. Someday maybe your brother Andy will put one of these new cars up on one of his hoists and show me what all of these things are. Now that I work at home, I didn't have a chance to test the Rio in commute traffic - not that I'm complaining. I'm sure it's an ideal commuter for rush-hour rides.

BRENDAN - Power-assisted front disc and rear drum brakes are the usual fare for small econoboxes like the Rio and anti-lock brakes are available. It's an option I recommend. Optional air conditioning and the AM/FM cassette player are necessities, unless the buyer likes to suffer. Our test vehicle came with Kia's upgrade package of power steering, tilt wheel, full wheel covers, body side moldings, and visor vanity mirrors for an additional $380. Inside, the Rio has the ever-present dual cupholders that can double as a holder for a container of doggie treats. Fortunately, the full cloth seating cleaned up well when our "children" spilled some of them. The three-speed windshield wipers worked as they should, but it needs a time delay system. Its driver's seat height adjuster and height-adjustable front safety belt anchors were needed to help me feel comfortable in the cockpit, and the passenger assist grip helps in climbing out. Its body-colored bumpers are also stylish, and the rear-window defroster helped on those cold, frosty mornings since we have to park outside. Maybe I should empty out the garage.

MIKELE - Don't do anything rash, Bren. The Rio wouldn't seem to be the safest car on the road due to its size, but it has front and rear crush zones to help absorb impacts, along with steel beams in its doors for side collisions. Dual airbags, a collapsible steering column, child-safe rear door locks and energy-absorbing bumpers would also protect people inside if there was a problem. It even has an internal emergency trunk release, just in case Brendan locks himself in.

BRENDAN - I haven't done that for a long time, Mikele, but it might be interesting to see if I could fit. I'd be reliving the old days of sneaking into the drive-in movies with my brothers. But it wasn't my fault. I was the littlest and they made me do it.

MIKELE - Sure they did, Bren. I imagine that's the story you gave your mom when you got caught.