2012 KIA Rio 5-Door Review


Kia Rio

Several months ago, I did a KIA Optima SX Turbo review and I absolutely adored it. I was delighted when I was offered a week-long loan of a 2012 KIA Rio 5-door. Since I loved the Optima so much, I thought it would be neat to compare two different KIA models. Please note that I won’t be sharing all of the technical details, but more about my experience and thoughts on the vehicle itself.

The 2012 KIA Rio comes with standard air conditioning, electric power steering, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with USB and auxiliary ports, SiriusXM™ satellite radio. Oh how I love Sirius XM Radio! I have to admit that I got a little spoiled with this.

The 2012 KIA Rio 5-door is a sleek little car that was really fun to drive. It is available in three trims – LX, EX and SX (I had the SX). First let’s talk about the exterior a little more. I received a bright red car, and was impressed by the angles and extras that really make it stand out. It’s pretty small, but not so small that I felt unsafe by any means (I’m not a fan of the teeny, tiny smart cars, so please don’t think the Rio is THAT kind of small!).


Isn’t she pretty?
KIA Rio front end

KIA Rear end

The side mirrors have extra lights that blink when the turn signals are being used. It is nice that other drivers will know exactly what the driver of the KIA is going to do next. Since my husband was side swiped recently, we are kind of paranoid about other drivers (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

KIA Rio Safety

I love the tires – they are quite sporty! I wish I could give you the specs on them, but unfortunately I do not have that information.
kia rio tires

The trunk/cargo area of the KIA Rio was surprisingly big. As the primary shopper in my family, this is a huge plus. When I took the Rio with me on a big grocery shopping trip, I was able to load a crazy amount of bags, 12-packs of sodas, big sacks of cat chow and cat litter, etc. with room to spare. I think that it would hold plenty of luggage too, if taken on a family road trip.

kia rio 5-door runk


The dashboard was very user friendly, and everything was right there at my fingertips.
kia rio dashboard

Just as the KIA Optima had, the Rio has a back up monitor so that everything behind you can be viewed when the car is in reverse. I think this should come standard on every new car, as I found it to be such a huge help when backing out of a parking space when there were big trucks next to me. Even if not used for pulling out of parking spaces, just knowing exactly what is behind you is so helpful. This is such an amazing safety feature!

kia rio screen

Pardon the fingerprints…I had too much fun playing with the stereo!

One feature that I really enjoyed was being able to switch it to manual mode. This is done easily by moving the gear shift over. If you like manual transmissions as much as I do, this is the perfect way to have it both ways – manual for those times you want to have a little fun, and automatic for bumper-to-bumper traffic, hills, etc.

kia rio gear shift

kia rio arm rest

The backseat of the KIA Rio was quite roomy for being such a compact car. The seats were comfortable, and the headrests even cradled my head (which is kind of rare since I am so short!).

kia rio backseat

Another feature I really liked was the water bottle holders for the passengers. I don’t know about you, but there always seems to be a lack of these in most cars. In my family, each member typically brings at least one bottle with them wherever we go.
kia rio cupholder


At first I wasn’t sure if the KIA Rio would have enough power for me. I like a car that “gets up and goes” when I need it to. My current car is a 6-cylinder and it is really quick. I tried not to compare the two cars, to be fair, but I did find the Rio lagged a little bit when pressing down the gas pedal. Once the car was in motion it kept its momentum and did just fine.

The eco-friendly 2012 Rio is available with a 1.6-liter Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) four-cylinder with the option of either a six-speed manual transmission (LX only) or efficient six-speed automatic.

The KIA Rio handled very well and I mentioned to my husband how this would be an awesome first car for a new driver.

If you are looking for a small, fuel efficient car, I would definitely consider the 2012 KIA Rio 5-door. I found it fun to zip around town and parking was a breeze. The top-of-the-line SX trim starts at $17,500.

My husband also had the opportunity to drive the KIA Rio, and I had him write up his own short review. He is a little more technical than I am 🙂


This vehicle made me think of the “Hot Hatchbacks” of the 80s-90s with an updated spirit and all of the modern conveniences. We received the really “RED” little Rio and I was at first skeptical. I have always been a V-8 in the front and drive axel in the back kind of guy. However, I took the little Rio out for spin while running chores. Left to its own devices the Rio drives very comfortably and offers all the things you would expect of a modern car such as a nice stereo, well laid out controls and efficient climate control. Under normal driving the engine seems to be biased more toward conservative driving and saving fuel. My first trip out in the car was fine, but not necessarily awe inspiring. I had run to the store to get some groceries and when I popped the rear hatch, I noticed that there was ample room for my purchases. Kia tells me there is 15 cubic feet in the back hatch area with the seats in the upright position. While I don’t do a whole lot of cubic feet measurements when I am in a car, I can tell you that it is more than enough room for a week’s worth of groceries for my family which tends to eat more like a football team rather than a petite family of four.

After dropping off my groceries, I took the Rio back out and ran a few more errands. The more I drove, the more I noticed that the steering was very responsive and vehicle seemed to enjoy cornering. I turned on the manual shift option for the transmission and apparently woke up the other persona of the Rio. Below 2800 RPMs, the Rio behaves much like many other economy minded 4 cylinder cars I have driven. However, when you hold the gear a little longer the Rio reaches its stride and every one of the 138 horse power ponies wants to stretch their legs. As I drove the car a little more aggressively, it seemed to be enjoying itself more and more. As I pushed the Rio harder into the apex of the corners, it stayed nice and flat, not exhibiting the body roll one would expect in a economy car. The more I drove the car the more I enjoyed it. I was actually kind of disappointed when my wife said we had to give it back. For the price which I am told is around $13,600 for the basic trim model, I don’t think you can have much more fun going grocery shopping or for the more adventurous, to the autocross track.

*I did not receive any form of compensation for this post. I test drove the KIA Rio for a week in return for sharing my thoughts.


About Author

Jennifer Regan is the owner/editor-in-chief of Eighty MPH Mom, a family-friendly blog. She is active in Brand Ambassadorships and campaigns, and is active in social media, helping brands promote!


  1. that looks like a really nice car and I must admit I agree with Melinda 100%. This car looks perfect for our teen. The one feature I like it that you can switch it to manual mode. My FIL had a Nissan that did that and it made the car that much faster or so it seemed.

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