$10,770 - $13,495

Expert Review:Autoblog

The following review is for a 2006 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

I remember the first time I saw a Kia. There it was, a matte red Sephia, abandoned on the side of a highway with a bright orange sticker stuck to its window. The sticker bore a warning that if the vehicle was not removed in a timely manner the local municipality would turn it into a square foot brick of base metal. Kia's come a long way since those days of the disposable Sephia, and the 2006 Kia Rio5 SX represents the most folks can get for the least. Is it enough, or does $13,500 not go as far it once did?

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

Older gentleman who apparently find retirement an unsavory activity often transport the vehicles we review. They drive all over creation and deliver keys into the grateful hands of us journalists who regard their arrivals as sacred events. A gentleman named Alan delivered the 2006 Kia Rio5 SX to us, and the first thing he said after his three-hour road trip was, “This is a great little car!” Coming from a guy who has driven every make and model under the sun, that’s a ringing endorsement. So it was with Alan’s approval that we slid behind the wheel of the Rio5 and began our time together.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AGThe Rio line is the least expensive Kia has to offer. Having built its reputation on inexpensive transportation, one could argue that Kia is the king of cheap transport. Despite the fact that our North American market isn’t wild about wee little cars, the Rio does have a couple of competitors, most notably the Chevy Aveo and Scion xA. The Scion’s natural state is as a four-door hatch, while Chevy offers the Aveo LT 4dr hatchback that matches up nicely with our Rio5 SX. The Rio5 SX and Aveo LT are priced $250 apart at $13,500 and $13,250 respectively, while the Scion xA goes for a little less at $12,730.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AGThe Rio is all new for 2006 and has grown in all dimensions including width, height and wheelbase over the car it’s replacing. It truly is a larger car, which makes you feel like you’re getting more for your money. Kia has also managed to give it more interior volume (92.2 cubic feet) and cargo space (15.8 cubic feet) than either of its competitors.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AGIt’s when we’re looking at the Rio5 SX from the outside that we like it the most. The new styling wrapped over a larger frame is attractive for this segment. The car looks like it was designed with European tastes in mind, especially the rear with a pair of taillamps formed out of interweaving body lines and the downward sloping window arch that doesn’t match the car’s profile.

The Rio5 SX is a car that gets looks on the road, which is something that usually doesn’t come standard for $13,500. Perhaps it’s the Sunset Orange paint that’s only available on the five-door, or the handsome five-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels, or maybe it’s the car’s cute face that manages to grab one’s attention. Either way, we stood out more while driving the Rio5 SX than we did our last vehicle, the 2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AGStyle-wise we think the Kia Rio5 SX trumps its competition. The Chevy Aveo’s lines are a mess of curves punctuated by a few sharp corners that overwhelm its tiny wheels. A new Aveo, however, is on its way and it promises to be much more pleasant on the eyes than the current car. The Scion xA, meanwhile, is getting a little old in the face. The small hatch from Toyota’s youth brand still manages to look like your parent’s Camry somehow, which means it’s also ready for a redesign or replacement.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

The 2006 Kia Rio5 SX has the advantage of being the new kid on the block with the freshest face. No car, however, can get by on looks alone, so next time we’ll take a look at the interior of the Rio5 SX and follow that up in our third installment with a performance review. This littlest car from Kia makes a good first impression on people, as we learned when we took the keys from Alan. After spending a couple days with the car its charm hasn’t worn off, but we still a have few days left together.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

Small cars can be inherently fun to drive because of their diminutive size, short wheelbase and relatively light weight. The Kia Rio5 SX is one of those cars. While not exhibiting the sharp handling of a MINI Cooper, the champ of small car performance in North America right now, the Rio5 SX does a decent job of turning a trip to the grocery into an enjoyable ride. While its performance prowess may be enough for the average consumer, can the little car from Kia stir the blood of an enthusiast? Let's see…

The Kia Rio5 SX comes standard with a 1.6L DOHC four-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing that produces 110 hp and 107 lb-ft. of torque. That’s more horsepower than either the Scion xA or the Chevy Aveo LT 4dr hatchback (See an Edmunds comparison of all three here). At 2,447 lbs, the car does weigh about 100 lbs. more than the other two, but it still carries that weight fairly well.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

Acceleration can best be described as subdued until the CVVT kicks in at what seems to be somewhere around 4000 rpm. Shifting the 5-speed manual in gears one and two is best done at or around 4000 rpm where the 1.6L exhibits a bit of a surge. Shifting before that point will land you in the next gear with little power to be found until the tach rises to four grand.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

Spending life at those lofty revolutions would be fine for many four-cylinder cars, but in this segment it’s often raucous and noisy up there. The Rio5 SX is no exception, despite the list of NVH improvements Kia claims to have made. While we found accelerating to 4000 rpm to provide the most adequate acceleration, doing so made departing a stoplight sound like leaving the christmas tree at a drag strip. There is power to be had in the Rio5’s 1.6L, it just dwells deep within the powerband where a mechanical cacophony awaits.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

The 5-speed manual in the car is about what we’d expect from this class. Its throws are fairly long and vague, but the takeup from the clutch is firm. A little heel-and-toe action can also be had, although we’re fairly certain the pedals weren’t intentionally spaced for that kind of activity.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

As mentioned before, the Kia Rio5 SX we’re testing has the optional ABS package that includes rear disc brakes. It’s a $400 option, but one well worth the price as braking was excellent. The pedal feel is firm and makes you feel in complete control when you’re braking late to catch the inside line of that entrance into Wal-Mart’s parking lot.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

Handling should be the number one priority for automakers producing small cars, as big engines aren’t that fun to have if a car can’t maintain its composure in the bends. Also, once a small engine gets up to speed, a good handling, lightweight car can maintain that speed better than larger vehicles with bigger engines. Sure, this is stuff that engineers from Lotus and BMW consider more than ones from Kia, but this company claims it wants to be considered the sporty one next the more mainstream Hyundai. That’s fine by us, but they’ll need to tighten up the damping and perhaps go with 16-inch wheels instead of the 15-inchers that both of their competitors also wear.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

The Kia Rio5 SX certainly is one of those small cars that are fun to drive, but it’s more by virtue of its nature than its designer’s intentions. We’d like to see a sports package on the car that includes larger wheels, a stiffer suspension and perhaps a tighter shifter with shorter throws. Some more grunt on takeoff wouldn’t hurt, either. At the same time, the Rio5 has to wear many hats and a racing helmet just isn’t one of them. Shoppers in this price segment realize that they’re buying practical, efficient transportation. If they happen to get a small car that’s not a bore to drive like the Kia Rio5 SX, then that’s just icing on the cake.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

Man, that was a long Day 5. Apologies for the delay in getting this final post up on the 2006 Kia Rio5 SX, but now we have some time to sit down and ruminate on the interior appointments of Kia's entry-level commuter.

The first thing we noticed when climbing into the 2006 Kia Rio5 SX was [bonus points if you guess it] the length of the seat cushion. Just like in the Hyundai Sonata we said goodbye to the week before, our knees find themselves far out beyond the edge of the seat cushion. That said, we enjoyed the upright posture in the Rio5 SX. The seats are also high off the floor, which makes you feel like you’re driving a bigger car than you actually are.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

One of the items in the interior that impressed us most was the steering wheel. It’s made from solid magnesium, which supposedly absorbs vibration emanating from the engine bay. Ok, we’ll buy that. More than that, however, the wheel was weighted very well and did indeed feel like it part of the steeling column rather than merely attached to it.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

The simple ergonomics of the Rio5’s interior is par for the course in this class. Everything is easy to find, easy to turn and easy to push. We weren’t admirers of the six radio presets having to share three large toggle-like buttons, as winter gloves would make channel changing a delicate maneuver. Nice touches include a slot dead center in the dash for highway toll tickets, nicely damped grab handles and two power outlets at the bottom of the center console. There’s also a  cubby hole and all-purpose swing out compartment at the driver’s left knee, which, while we never got a chance to use, would probably appreciate more over time.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

The rear seats of the Rio5 SX were a bit short on legroom, but we find it difficult in good conscience to hold that against such a small car. Its direct competitors will suffer from the same space constraints, so we’re more concerned with how the car packages its interior and makes the best use of the space allotted.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

The Rio5 SX has a trunk capacity of 11.9 cubic feet and full carbo space of 15.8 cubic when the rear seats have been folded flat. The latter figure is larger than both the Chevy Aveo five-door and Scion xA. Gaining that extra cubic feet of cargo space requires the removal of a cargo tray that spans the width of the rear and lifting a latch to fold down the rear seats. Pretty simple and well worth the effort if you’re loading up that new 42” plasma screen.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

With a base price of just $13,500 for the 2006 Kia Rio5 SX, you may have the funds for that plasma screen after all. The Rio5 isn’t the value leader in its class like the new Sonata, but it still follows the now familiar Korean formula of giving you more than you expect. Its interesting styling, relatively powerful engine for its class, versatile interior space and inherently fun small car handling make the Kia Rio5 SX an attractive prospect for budget shoppers. Throw in the industry’s best warranty with 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain coverage, and five years/60,000 miles of roadside assistance and you won’t be worrying about the end of your blue light special anytime soon.

2006 Kia Rio5 SX AG

New Rio SX brings sportiness to benchmark subcompact.


Kia Rio was setting new standards for subcompacts even before last year's complete makeover. Now this roomy little car is better than ever. Rio has received Autobytel's 'Editor's Choice for Most Improved New Car,' and ranked highest for initial quality in the subcompact segment in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Initial Quality Study. Rio has also been recognized as one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market by both the Environmental Protection Agency and by J.D. Power. 

The '06 Rio that earned all that acclaim was offered as a practical sedan or as a more deluxe and sporty five-door hatchback called Rio5 SX. For '07, Kia has added an SX-trimmed sedan featuring all of the hatchback's sporty equipment: front fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, metal-finish interior trim, metal pedals, black mesh sport fabric seat inserts and door panels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and red stitching and highlights throughout. 

All '07 Rios come with new shift knobs (manual and automatic), a chrome Kia logo on the steering wheel pad, and an illuminated ignition-switch surround. The SX models' 15-inch alloy wheels have been redesigned, and 16-inch rims are now available. SX models also feature new chrome accents on their instrument panel air vents. 

Rio competes against a wave of new subcompacts that includes the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Aveo, along with Rio's corporate cousin, the Hyundai Accent. All of these cars are smaller than market-dominating compacts like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, but many offer better fuel economy with little loss of interior space. Rio rates as high as 38 mpg on the highway, while delivering agile handling. And Rio comes standard with six airbags, a safety feature normally associated with expensive luxury cars, not subcompacts. 

Mechanically, there isn't much to distinguish a Rio from a Hyundai Accent. That's no bad thing, as both are state-of-the-art small cars. Rio is a bit more boldly styled than Accent, and the five-door variation is a Rio exclusive. Chassis tuning is a little different as well, with Accent biased toward ride comfort and Rio toward handling. 

The stigma attached to owning a small car in America is becoming a thing of the past and the latest iteration of the Kia Rio is among the reasons why that's happening. 


The Kia Rio sedan and five-door hatchback are powered by the same 110-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It's a sophisticated, modern engine, complete with dual overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. Safety features for all models include front seatbelt pre-tensioners along with six airbags: dual frontal, front seat side-impact and full-coverage side-impact curtain. 

The Rio sedan is still available as a very basic base model or in more mainstream LX trim. New for '07 is the sporty SX. The Rio5 five-door hatchback remains available exclusively in SX trim. 

The base Rio sedan ($10,770) comes strictly with a manual transmission, wind-up windows, and manual door locks. Tires are 175/70's on 14-inch steel rims. There's no radio or air conditioning, not even power steering. But it does come with a sporty mesh fabric on the seats, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat with a fold-down armrest, tachometer, rear defroster, dual 12V power outlets and a convenient shopping bag hook on the back of the front passenger seat. It also comes with the same six airbags and other safety features found on all Rio models. 

The Rio LX sedan ($12,695) is likely to be the most popular model as it adds air conditioning, power steering, and an AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers; plus a tilt steering column and 60/40-split folding rear seat. Tires upgrade to 185/65R14 with full wheel covers. LX comes standard with the manual gearbox, but a four-speed automatic transmission is available ($850). LX buyers can also add a Power Package ($600) that includes power windows, power door locks with keyless remote, power heated outside mirrors and tweeter speakers; four-wheel antilock brakes ($400); and, new for '07, dealer-installed 14-inch wheels. The two remaining options on the list, a rear spoiler ($300) and carpeted floor mats ($85), are also available on the base model. 

The Rio5 SX hatchback ($13,750) and new SX sedan ($13,495) come with all the standard equipment of the LX, plus 195/55 tires on 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, metal-finish interior trim and metal pedals. The spoiler is standard and 16-inch wheels with 205/45 tires are available ($200); otherwise SX models offer the same list of options as LX. 


There is nothing wimpy looking about either of the Kia Rio models. The sedan has a solid looking front end with a strong nose and big headlights that give it a purposeful appearance. The crease along the side of the car below the big windows ends up wrapping around the trunk, giving the sedan more the look of a European sports sedan than that of a Korean econobox. 

All models come with hefty body-color side moldings that do not detract too badly as they align nicely with the wraparound edges of the front and rear bumpers. The fender flares actually look a shade too big on the base and LX models, which have skinnier tires. The fender flares fill out much better on the SX with its lower-profile tires and 15-inch wheels. 

Despite significantly more carrying capacity (and identical passenger room), the Rio5 hatchback is 8.8 inches shorter than the sedan; for the record, it's an inch and a quarter shorter than even the Hyundai Accent Coupe. We think that gives the Rio hatch a trim and sporty look. Rio5 looks taller than the Rio sedan but it is actually the same overall height. It's a couple of inches lower in height than the Scion xA, and a bit lower than the Chevrolet Aveo, its closest rivals. The rear of the Rio5 is distinctive with backup lights that wrap around the taillights and almost look like part of the body. The C-pillar curves down to the taillights and the tailgate has full width glass, making the rear view more attractive than on many hatchbacks. 


The interior of the 2007 Kia Rio represents a big improvement over the older, pre-2006 models. This latest Rio has a nicely contoured dashboard with a generous binnacle over the instrument panel, which includes a tachometer even on the base model. The radio is well positioned in the center stack with large buttons and knobs for changing stations or volume. Three big knobs for the climate control are mounted on a bulge in the center that brings them closer to the driver's hands. A chrome Kia logo, added to the steering wheel center for '07, brightens what as a bit of a dull spot in last year's model. 

The seats are on the soft side and don't offer the lateral support we'd expect on a sports sedan. Those of us with larger frames, however, will not fault Kia for that. Rear seat legroom is better than the numbers suggest, because passengers can place their feet under the front seats thanks to the generous open space below them. 

Big storage pockets in all four doors, along with a reasonable size glovebox, provide places to stash stuff. A slot in the center stack can hold parking passes or toll tickets. The rear seatback folds down in a 60/40 split for added versatility in all but the base model. At 92.2 cubic feet, subcompact Rio's total passenger volume edges past the popular compact Honda Civic (90.9) and Toyota Corolla (90.3). In practical terms, they are all pretty close. 

The Rio5 has a total cargo carrying a capacity of almost 50 cubic feet with the seats folded down, which is substantially more than in other hatchbacks of this size. Even with the rear seat open for passenger's the remaining 15.8 cubic feet of trunk space seems to belong to a much bigger car. The sedan's trunk measures 11.9 cubic feet, still not bad for the class. 

Minor touches make the SX models a bit nicer. Metal pedals and a leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob carry over from last year. New for '07 is red stitching in the leather, chrome accents on the HVAC vents, and new fabrics on the seats and doors. Both SX models will appeal to driving enthusiasts. 

Driving Impression

After driving three varieties of the Kia Rio on highways and freeways around Seattle, we came away impressed. 

We spent time in an LX automatic and a Rio5 SX manual. We enjoyed shifting the manual as it definitely makes for a more sporty experience. However, the LX with the automatic transmission was no slouch. Cars in this class traditionally suffer a big performance and fuel economy hit with an automatic, but the new Rio confirms that modern transmissions have largely addressed these deficiencies. In fact, the automatic Rio rates slightly better EPA mileage on the highway, with 38mpg against the manual's 35. EPA estimates for city driving are more what you might expect, at 29 mpg for the automatic and 32 for the manual. 

Kia claims it is making its cars more sporty and athletic than the Hyundai Accent, the Rio's sibling. There's nothing exceptional about Rio's MacPherson strut front suspension or twist-beam rear axle, but Kia says they both designed for long wheel travel, a characteristic long favored by European automakers for combining a comfortable ride with responsive handling. The Rio is far from being a sporty car, but the SX handled nimbly without too much body lean or sloppy motion. The LX, with its skinner 14-inch tires, was not quite as secure, although most drivers would not complain. 

The power steering, which stiffens up as the engine speed increases, felt taught with just the right amount of feel dialed in. We did not try a base model, which comes without power steering. 

Standard-issue brakes are 10.1-inch discs up front and 8.0-inch drums in the rear. Order the optional ABS and, in addition to the four-channel anti-lock system, rear brakes upgrade to 10.3-inch solid discs. 


Unlike subcompacts of the past, the 2007 Kia Rio is a car you can be happy living with. We found the Rio5 SX the most enjoyable with its combination of hatchback versatility and sporty/luxury touches. All Rios come with a comprehensive set of passive safety features. Even the base model includes six airbags. It also includes a generous five-year/60,000 mile warranty coupled with a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty. correspondent John Rettie is based in Santa Barbara. 

Model Lineup

Kia Rio sedan ($10,770); sedan LX ($12,695); sedan SX ($13,495); Rio5 SX ($13,750);. 

Assembled In

Hwasung, South Korea. 

Options As Tested

Power Package ($600) includes power windows, power door locks w/keyless remote, power heated outside mirrors, tweeter speakers; carpeted floor mats ($85). 

Model Tested

Kia Rio5 SX ($13,750). 

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