The 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door

TorqueNews review of the 2012 Kia Rio 5-door

There was a point in the not-so-distant past where buying an affordable compact 5-door meant that you were sentenced to a bland, amenity-free driving experience but the 2012 Kia Rio 5-door is a great illustration of how much you can get for your money in the modern compact segment.

The Kia brand as a whole has come a long way since their early days in the North American market with an influx of more powerful and luxurious models like the Optima and the upcoming KH Concept but even the 2012 Kia Rio 5-door (the least expensive model in the Korean automakers lineup) offers a surprising level of quality – from the peppy 4-cylinder engine to the loaded up interior packed with modern amenities.

The Exterior
The 2012 Kia Rio 5-door offers an exterior design that is very similar to the rest of the brand’s lineup, with a uniquely shaped upper grille area and large, bright headlights. My test car came in the striking Electronic Blue with the big, bright 5-spoke wheels that are standard for the SX package. The Rio 5-door has a very compact exterior shape but the large greenhouse and short bonnet area allow for a sporty shape while also improving the amount of interior space – both for people and cargo. The Rio 5-door features a unique lower front fascia from the 4-door models with the center section separated from the outer fog light areas and those fog light bezels hold small, projection style lights in a black surround rather than the larger mirrored bezels of the Rio sedan.

Along the sides, the Kia Rio 5-door wears black pillar covers that accentuate the sporty feel of this compact 5-door hatch and out back, the lower fascia sports more black trim. The shape of the 5-door Rio allows Kia to mount large, rounded taillights that are also unique from the 4-door models – all of which are points that make me prefer the 5-door over the 4-door models. I’m typically not a wagon/hatchback lover but in the case of the Kia Rio, 5-Door SX models are my favorite of the model lineup.

The Interior
Inside, the 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door really shines with amenities that were once reserved for high end performance and luxury models but they have now become common in compacts that are appropriately growing with the industry. This begins with power everything; including the door locks, windows, and drivers seat. Gone are the hard rubber and plastic panels that once dominated the compact car segment and Kia has replaced those with leather surfaces and soft-touch padding on the dash and armrests. Leather is included in the Rio SX 5-Door Premium Package but standard premium knit cloth seats – although the leather trim added a touch of class and the heated seat feature made for a great addition during the coldest days of Michigan’s 2012 winter. Most importantly with the heated seats, they heat up very quickly even in temperatures nearing 0.

The rear cargo area of the 2012 Kia Rio SX 5-door offers enough room for an average family shopping trip but if you need to haul bigger items or simply more than will fit in the rear hatch area, the rear seats fold down to greatly increase the amount of cargo space. You can fold down on side of the rear seat at a time in case you need to have a rear passenger but for optimum cargo space both seats fold down – allowing you to pack things into the Rio right up to the front seats.


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Couple of things: There aren't any power seats in the SX or any other model and the mileage isn't quite up to the marketing claims in real world driving. On a recent trip to Key West I was able to achieve a way more than respectable 30 mpg driving at 80 mph, AC on with the car carrying two 6 foot plus men with all our luggage. In city driving off the freeways comes in at 25 mpg. Again, more than respectable. It should be pointed out that the SX's tuned suspension rides a bit more firm than the other two models. Might note appeal to everyone but the improved handling is super for this little car. I love my fully loaded Bright Silver SX and its fun factor. Test drive one.You won't be disappointed.