Kia Rio: Thrifty Fun on the Cheap!

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Kia Rio

For a number of years I shied away from recommending cars built in South Korea, recognizing that the low quality of these vehicles wasn’t worth the cheaper price for the cars.  Models from Hyundai and Kia are typically priced as much as twenty percent less than comparably equipped Japanese cars, but until recently their long term durability was an issue.

Apparently, that issue is no longer a factor.

J.D. Power & Associates, Consumer Reports, and other automotive experts have seen both Hyundai and Kia improve their quality considerably over the past several years, while maintaining their distinct pricing advantage. Even in this tough economy Kia is benefiting, seeing a sales increase for the first six months of this year over the same period in 2007, something few other manufacturers can boast of.

What I do like about Kia, particularly in an entry level vehicle such as its Rio, is that this car isn’t completely stripped even in its base edition. True, at $11,540 the base model may not be as appealing as one with an automatic transmission and air conditioning, but with $500 cash back, a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, and six airbags standard, it is worth a look. Besides, 32 mpg on the highway is a good number, likely a lot better than what most used cars your son or daughter would consider.

What You Get

Kia RioPowered by a 1.6L I4 engine paired to a five speed manual transmission, the Rio’s engine is peppy and thrifty. With the ability to carry as many as five adults (squeeze in, please) the Rio affords more interior room than the Honda Fit, while bringing savings of $2500 when choosing the Kia.

An independent front suspension featuring MacPherson struts, coil springs and a stabilizer bar combined with a semi-independent rear suspension provide good handling while the engine-speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering system adds balanced control which helps to create a smooth, comfortable ride. 14 inch wheels are standard with 16 inch alloys available.

Inside, the sedan offers full cloth trim, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with a fold-down armrest, a rear defroster and dual 12-volt power outlets.  Numerous storage areas, a center stack tray, a front passenger luggage hook and a rear mesh seatback pocket are also included in every model. By choosing the LX trim (there are five trim levels available) an AM/FM/CD audio system, auxiliary audio input jack, rear seat adjustable headrests, and 60/40-split folding rear seats can be added.

Rio’s Roomy Interior

A spacious interior provides 92.2 square feet of passenger volume and about 12 square feet of trunk space. Push down the 60/40 split seat in the five-door version of the Rio and cargo space quadruples — a nice feature when your son or daughter has to haul stuff from home to campus and back.

Kia offers low rate financing or $500 cash back on the 2008 Rio, but you’re probably better off taking the rebate and seeking auto financing elsewhere. Use a auto loan calculator to determine the best financing deal for you.

Even with popular options added (air conditioning and automatic transmission) a nicely equipped Rio can be had for about $14,000 after rebate, but including taxes. Considering the price of many other small cars, you get one for less money and your college student’s vehicle is much more reliable than the old family sedan you thought about buying.

One final thought: the end of the model year is nearing, therefore additional deals may spring up. Do your research and you could shave off a few hundred more dollars and come away with a Kia Rio for less.

(Photos Courtesy Kia Motors America, Inc.)


Adv. — Having a car or truck in college is nice when you consider all the runs you will need to make. It is difficult to shop, go to events, and take in other recreational events without one. But having your own car may not be in the budget, therefore consider looking for a motorbike, scooter or pedal bike as alternatives.

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Categories: Campus Cars