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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.

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