Wasser: Rio thrills in $3-per-gallon gas era

Discussion in 'Other Manufacturers' started by tigerhonaker, Apr 25, 2006.

  1. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor

    Wasser: Rio thrills in $3-per-gallon gas era

    Monday, April 24, 2006

    Let's not kid ourselves. Two years ago, most of you wouldn't have read this column. One thing I've learned in 16 years of writing it is that the most popular subjects are flashy, sporty or expensive vehicles.

    Although many of us drive comparatively bland vehicles, it's generally more fun to read -- and write -- about exciting ones. Excitement takes different forms. Sometimes it's a car that does zero-to-60 in less than 5 seconds. Sometimes it's a vehicle with a cool feature, such as a minivan with center-row seats that fold flat into the floor.

    But for the past year or so -- especially over the past few months as we've begun to accept that $3-per-gallon gasoline is here to stay -- a great number of Americans are beginning to find excitement in vehicles with great fuel economy.

    That's why you're reading about the 2006 Kia Rio LX, a vehicle I wouldn't even have had a desire to test a year ago. But one look at the large numbers posted at gasoline stations and at the bottom of the Rio's window sticker -- 29 city and 38 highway miles per gallon -- and the Kia compact becomes exciting and enticing.

    Hmmm. At 38 mpg, the Rio would use 20 gallons of gasoline for, say, a 760-mile round trip to Williamsburg, Va., for Memorial Day weekend. An SUV averaging 19 highway mpg would consume 40 gallons of gas for the same trip. If gas prices hit $3/gallon by Memorial Day, driving the Rio instead of an SUV to Williamsburg would save $60 -- about the price of two adult tickets to Colonial Williamsburg.

    But enough of the SUV comparisons, which make sense only as a down-and-dirty example of the Rio's fuel efficiency. When Kia redesigned the Rio for 2006, it didn't do so with the idea of providing an alternative to SUVs. Its goal was to deliver a compact car that could compete against old consumer favorites like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, and new entries such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Nissan Urge.

    Based on my test, the folks at Kia succeeded. The Rio is a well-rounded economy car with several attributes that help it stand out in its class. Among these are its roominess and six standard airbags (front, front-side, and full-length side curtain). And Kia's standard warranty -- 5 years/60,000-miles basic with roadside assistance, and 10years/100,000 powertrain -- is among the best in the business.

    Other major Rio attributes are its price and value. At the time of its introduction last year, the Rio Base model reportedly had the second-lowest sticker price of any car sold in America. Although its lack of features such as air conditioning and automatic transmission limit that model's desirability, it costs just $1,875 to step up to a manual LX (add $850 for an automatic).

    All LX models come with a nice package of goodies for this class. In addition to the six airbags, there is air conditioning, split rear seatbacks, AM/FM/CD player, power steering with tilt wheel, height-adjustable driver's seat, rear defroster, intermittent wipers, auto-off headlights, three cupholders, visor mirrors and a digital clock.

    Adding $600 for a "Power Package" consisting of power windows, door locks, mirrors and keyless entry, and $400 for antilock brakes that are available only when the Power Package is ordered, gave my test vehicle a sticker price of under $15,000.

    That's a good value because the Rio LX is a pretty good car. There are smoother riding competitors, those with more power, and a few with more sporting personalities. But the Rio LX proved unexpectedly comfortable and accommodating on a 350-mile trip, and its small size and decent handling made it more fun to drive around town than a lumbering SUV.

    There I go with the SUV comparisons again. But SUV sales have been plummeting, and many analysts believe that compact cars will replace them as the auto industry's hot sellers over the next few years. If they're correct, Kia's Rio is good enough to help fuel that growth.

    Scott Wasser is a freelance auto writer who has been reporting on cars and motorcycles since 1988. E-mail him at carguysw@aol.com.

  2. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor

    Hi Terry:

    ___Hey, I haven’t finished with all the available yet reasonable FE US car specs just yet you know ;) Maybe I can up the Kia’s and Hyundai’s later on this week?

    ___Good Luck

    Actual Post was done by Xcel: Added now by Tigerhonaker: 4/25/2006 5:33 PM

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