Friday, May 16, 2014

Her Name is Rio

My climb up the platinum ladder of Enterprise Plus membership has had me stray from my early mission of reviewing stripped-down base models. I'm now pushed past the Mazda 2's and Chevy Sonics and into bigger (and only sometimes better) vehicles, lately.

Yet, thongless on a snowy April morning in Chicago, the only Rio I find myself in currently is a white-on-tan 2013 Kia Rio LX. Oba-oba.

Mr. Schreyer and crew did their thing to the Rio's design, thank the stars. From the outside, it's a smart contender compared to its contemporaries, like the Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta, and Toyota Yaris. Open the door and things get even better, with two-tone color scheme, satisfyingly solid switchgear, and thoughtful application of matte and chrome silver touches. Climate controls are especially good, but the base radio has some confusing and illogical buttonstuff. Funny thing is, an interior this good looking gives one a false sense of... equipment. Since Rio makes you feel like you're in a more upmarket car than you actually are, you find yourself constantly surprised at the lack of small conveniences to which you are probably accustomed. More than once I found myself looking for some basic conveniences that simply weren't there!

Yeah, yeah, they have to keep the price down (about $17,000 in case you're curious - which isn't all that low), but I have to wonder about the manufacturing cost logic at play here. Is cruise control REALLY that costly that it can't be bundled in a higher-trim, entry-level? How about Bluetooth? Lumbar, maybe? Yet Kia uses ancient, cabled trunk and fuel filler door releases which must cost more to manufacture and assemble than a manual fuel door and a trunk release button ACTUALLY ON THE TRUNK, as they are on my $38,000 car back home. Ooh. I got all mad there for a minute.

For an entry-level car, Rio is comfortable and powerful enough to keep you from fearing for your life during onramp merges. Around town, it felt as though the back end got happy over road irregularities, though I didn't notice the same when on highways. The fellas never complained about ingress/egress, or comfort from the back seat. And, as you'd expect from a small four-cylinder, fuel economy is in the thirties, highway.

But, for me, the benefit of Rio over many of its rivals is curb appeal. It looks good, inside and out, and therefore doesn't project an image of an entry level car. I myself occasionally have to look hard to distinguish it from its big brother, the Forte.

All in all, My week in Rio wasn't a memorable one. But it was better than my expectations. I'm sure that "other" Rio would deliver much more fun, thong or not.

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