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2006 Kia Rio

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San Francisco:  The Kia Rio has been around for years, living at the bottom of the new car market. While offering good, basic transportation, the Rio was never much to get excited about. The 2006 model changes all that. Todayís Rio, available as a four-door sedan or the five-door Rio5, is amazingly appealing, and is still very affordable.

As part of an overall product renaissance, the new Rio is truly all new, not just restyled. A longer wheelbase and greater width and height make it surprisingly spacious inside. Its 92.2 cubic feet of room is the most youíll find in the subcompact department. Thanks to some careful development and planning, the new, larger Rio is actually lighter than the old one, so with beauty comes efficiency as well.

The new look takes todayís styling trends and puts them together in a sympathetic way. Itís hard to get the proportions right on a car thatís just 167 inches long, but those Kia stylists managed to do it. The face wears a little smile and big, friendly light clusters. Black bumper inserts give it a little toughness, and the insert theme is conveyed along the sides and onto the back as well. Surfaces are tightened up from the soft, dated look of the previous car. This little car has dignity, and nothing about it says either cheap or compromise.

Inside, the quality and finish of the materials, as well as the way they are assembled, is a huge step up from last yearís car, approaching the ambiance of the highly regarded Volkswagen interiors. The matte black instrument panel contains attractive gauges with beveled-edge silver needles. The seats wear a sporty cloth that reminded me of Nike athletic gear.

Little extras make a big difference, like grab handles that return gracefully to the ceiling after use, visors that slide to fully shield you from the sun on the side, an adjustable lower driverís seat cushion, and a little slot at dash center for holding toll road passes or parking garage cards.

Most remarkable about the interior, though, is its quietness. Rolling along at freeway speeds, you can hardly hear anything! For a small car of modest cost, this is incredible. Much work was apparently done to cut noise, such as using triple-sealed doors, an underhood insulation pad, and going after the sneaky ways that sound intrudes and shutting them down. A magnesium steering wheel, covered with a nice grippy material, cuts vibration to the driverís sensitive hands.

The Rio acquits itself well onroad. With 110 horsepower on tap from its 1.6L liter four-cylinder engine, it is not a racer, but even with the optional four-speed automatic, I didnít feel helpless. The engine does boom a bit during vigorous acceleration, but quiets down when you reach cruising speed.

With its relatively tall stance and grown-up interior design, the Rio feels bigger on the highway than it really is. Fuel mileage is rated at 32 City, 35 Highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission, and 29 City, 38 Highway with the automatic.

The Rio comes with six standard airbags, including front and side airbags for front passengers and a full-length side curtain that protects everybody. The Rio is the lowest priced car in the U.S. to offer side curtain airbags as standard equipment. Standard front disc brakes could help prevent the use of the airbag system at all. You can upgrade those brakes to four-wheel discs with ABS on models other than the base sedan.

Itís easy to choose which car you want. The base four-door sedan is obviously the price leader, but it is still a worthy vehicle. At $11,110, including freight, itís better than a used car in many ways.

Stepping up to the LX four-door sedan, you get standard air conditioning, AM/FM/CD, power steering with tilt wheel, and a 60/40 folding rear seat. Prices start at $12,985. My Olive Gray test car was an LX, with the optional automatic transmission ($850) and power package (windows, heated mirrors, locks, and keyless remote for $600). This car would leave the showroom at $14,435 (plus tax and license, of course).

The Rio5 SX is a little sportier all around, with a handy fifth door in back, an upgrade from 14-inch steel wheels to 15-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, fog lights, spoiler and jaunty metallic interior accents. It runs about $1,000 over the LX.

That now famous warranty helps buyers feel comfortable buying a Kia. You get five years / 60,000 miles on the main warranty, with 10-year / 100,000 miles on the powertrain and five years / 60,000 miles of free roadside service. Itís easy to spend a lot of money on a car these days, but itís nice to know that you donít have to.  By Steve Schaefer   © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 The new Rio is truly all new, not just restyled
 The 2006 Kia Rio
Word Count:  
Photo Caption: 
 The 2006 Kia Rio
Photo Credits:  
Kia Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 60

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