2001 Rio New Car Test Drive
It has been a while since we've seen fractured English from Japanese manufacturers, who've learned to hire native English speakers to prepare their English-language press materials. Yet when the 2001 Kia Rio was introduced to the world press in Korea, they were provided with literature which said, 'When we state subcompact car, people ask, 'What's the real of it?' Chuckles from this and other strained construction aside, we should remember that jangled translations never stopped Americans from buying Japanese cars, nor will it deter Americans from buying Kias from Korea if the product is good. So, what is the real of it?
The 2001 Rio is a four-door subcompact sedan that's conventional in most regards, though it has a tall roofline for adequate headroom for front and rear seat passengers. North American imports will be powered by a spunky 1.5-liter double-overhead-cam four.
The real of it, however, is the Rio's retail price, which starts at $8,595. That, combined with the Kia's confident five year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, will make the Rio a tempting alternative to a used car.
The Rio is the low price anchor of a rapidly growing Kia lineup that includes the Sephia compact sedan, the Sportage mini-ute, the new Spectra 5-door hatchback and a V6-powered sedan called the Optima coming during 2001 plus a full-size minivan that will join the lineup during the 2002 model year. As such, the Rio will be offered as one model only but with an upgrade package and several standalone options. The Rio costs less than Hyundai's subcompact, the Accent, which for 2000 had a base price of $8,999.
The Rio's $380 upgrade package includes power steering, tilt wheel, full wheel covers, dual covered vanity mirrors and body-color side moldings. Options include an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission ($875), four-wheel anti-lock brakes ($400), a rear spoiler ($85), air conditioning ($750), and a choice of an AM/FM/cassette ($320) or AM/FM/CD audio systems ($395). Options are limited, as Kia wants to keep the Rio as strictly an entry-level car and keep it priced that way.
A uniquely styled hatchback, with a roofline that somewhat resembles a mini Saab wagon, is available in other markets, but not immediately in the North America. Kia Motors America may and, in our opinion, should import it, as it's the better looking of the two models and has its own funky charm.