NY Show 2011 Highlights: 2012 Kia Rio Sedan

Kia's subcompact, the Rio, has always been misleadingly named. A more appropriate—but admittedly less alluring—moniker would have been the Kia Des Moines: a fine enough place to spend a few hours, so long as you can get out after that. With the 2012 Rio, unveiled at the New York auto show, the name is . . . well, it’s still misleading, but there are myriad substantial improvements.

When the outgoing Rio launched, a Kia exec was proud to report that the car would still offer U.S. customers the option of hand-cranked windows. Doing so cost the company more money than if the car had only been available with power windows, but the move was meant to convey the Rio's value. We're happy to say that, while new Rios still will be available with crank windows, the company has higher-tech ways of making the Rio easy on owners' wallets.

First, out comes the old 1.6-liter four-cylinder boat anchor, which made 110 hp, and in goes a new 1.6-liter that uses direct injection to crank out 138 hp. Of more interest to the frugally minded, Kia is estimating that the engine will be good for 30 mpg city and 40 highway when the EPA gets around to officially rating the new car. That means that, in addition to meeting the magic 40-mpg rating (Kia's ad agency will no doubt be thrilled), the Rio will join its sibling, the equally new Hyundai Accent, and the upcoming Chevy Sonic at the top of the horsepower ratings for the class. In comparison, our long-term Mazda 2 is rolling along with 100 ponies under the hood. While the Rio probably won't be as slender as the 2291-pound Mazda, Kia does tell us that the engine in its new subcompact is 29 pounds lighter than was its counterpart in the previous car.

The new Rio will be offered as a sedan or a five-door hatchback (known as Rio5), and in three trim levels: LX, EX, and SX. Both body styles will be offered with the choice of manual or automatic gearboxes packing six forward ratios. Even more underhood tech is available should buyers opt for the Rio's Eco package, which adds an engine stop/start system—we imagine this will be a necessary option to score that 30-mpg city rating.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

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