Category Archives: Kia

What I think: 2018 Kia Rio

One of the most significant trends in the new-car market over the last couple of decades is the way upscale features have trickled down from luxury cars to more affordable models. The Kia Rio is a case in point, as the least expensive model from a brand known for catering to budget-oriented buyers, whose top-level EX Tech trim includes niceties like navigation, heated seats and steering wheel, leather seating, and automatic climate control.

That’s the car Kia gave us to test, and looking at the specifications before picking it up, we wondered how much we would have to temper our expectations of this handsome, not-quite-$24,000 car. It’s easy to think some of the Rio’s slick looks and upscale specs would rub off on the way it drives.

Initial impressions were good: The 1.6L engine idles so quietly, my wife asked if the car was a hybrid. It is not, however, and that notion was quickly dispelled when we put the motor’s 130 hp to work. It’s eager enough, but makes a lot of noise even in moderate acceleration, and the engine isn’t much to listen to.

Also noisy is the car’s suspension, which transmits a lot of clunking and clomping sounds into the cabin over rough pavement. We’d say that’s to be expected in a subcompact, but others in this class are better at isolating driver and passengers from the worst of that soundtrack. That said, this new Rio’s suspension did better at keeping our test car’s big and heavy 17-inch wheels planted on the road; versions of the last-generation Rio fitted with wheels like this tended to feel unsettled when driving on broken asphalt.

There’s more headroom in the Rio’s front seats than in many larger cars we’ve driven recently, a nice surprise in a small hatchback. Those riding in back will find vertical space is also good there, but legroom is predictably snug.

Upscale aspirations or not, fuel economy is still a major consideration in small cars, and our tester lived up to that with an average of 8.4 L/100 km in a week of city driving, just squeaking in under Kia’s estimate of 8.5.

We appreciate Kia’s efforts to keep the Rio’s secondary controls simple. The single-zone automatic climate controls are very tidy, located below the 7.0-inch touchscreen that houses the car’s straightforward UVO infotainment system and sporting a few redundant hard buttons to make its basic functions easier to use while the car is moving. UVO also supports the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integrated platforms as standard (these are still optional in some much more expensive cars).

Rio pricing starts at $14,795 for the sedan, and the hatchback comes in at $200 more. Our fully loaded EX Tech test vehicle carries an MSRP of $23,745, which includes the six-speed automatic transmission that comes in all trims save for the two least expensive.

That fully-loaded model is also the only way to get the Rio’s sole active safety feature, an automatic emergency-braking system that reacts to an obstruction in front of the car if the driver doesn’t. Despite the Rio’s upscale pretensions, the Honda Fit comes with a more comprehensive set of driver aids for just over $20,000, including lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. Even the aging Toyota Yaris boasts more driver aids in a $16,000 base model that comes standard with automatic braking, lane-departure alert and automatic high-beam headlights.

About $21,000 will buy you a Rio EX, in which you have to go without automatic braking, but you get the same infotainment and climate controls, a sunroof, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Kia clearly feels the Rio is finally good enough to compete simply as a nicely made car, rather than having to load it with the most features for the least money. That old approach may have been a good way to get people to give the Rio a chance, but the company’s new philosophy will work better to keep those buyers coming back.

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Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Kia, What I Think


What I think: 2015 Kia K900

2015 Kia K900Consider it fair to say Kia has benefited from the experience of its parent company. Hyundai’s first luxury cars were nice, but not quite good enough to be take seriously, in spite of attractive prices. That’s changed, and now Kia has made its own move in luxury sedan territory with the K900, a good-looking, well-conceived sedan that is a slam-dunk in terms of what you get for the price. Read my full review at


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The Big Idea: Little touches that matter

In the last few weeks, I’ve driven the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and the 2014 Kia Forte5 (which I wrote about here). Both are small hatchbacks aimed at buyers in the market for a good-looking and practical compact car.

Both also have this neat feature:

2015 Volkswagen Golf

That’s one of the rear outboard seatbelts in the Golf. Notice that little raised edge between the belt and the seatback? That’s there for one reason: to keep the seatbelt from getting caught behind the seat when you flip it upright from its folded position.

Here’s the same detail in the Kia Forte5:

2014 kia forte5 010

It’s the kind of thing that most buyers (and, in fact, most car reviewers) won’t notice, and that’s because it works so well. Some cars have a little clip to hold the belt out of the way, but a) that’s not as effective, and b) you have to remember to slide the belt into it. This barely-noticeable design element works all by itself, simply because it’s there. I want to find the engineer who came up with this idea and take him or her out for a beer, that’s how much I appreciate this kind of detail. You can bet I’ll be looking for this in every vehicle I test, from now on.

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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Kia, The Big Idea, Volkswagen


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Straight Eight: 2014 Kia Forte5

2014 kia forte5 003

1. Five alive
This is the Kia Forte5. It’s the hatchback variant of the brand’s compact car, a competitor to the likes of the Honda Civic and Mazda3. Those 18-inch wheels fill out the fenders nicely, don’t they?

2014 kia forte5 002

2. Flower power
Wait, the wheels look like flowers. When did this turn into a review of a 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle?

2014 kia forte5 1001

3. It wants to be sporty
The car looks good, especially from the rear. The black lower bumper insert and dual exhaust tips are pretty sharp.

2014 kia forte5 001

4. It tries to be sporty
Kia says the Forte5, in my tester’s SX Luxury trim, has a sport-tuned suspension, but the soft ride doesn’t feel like it. Also, the suspension has a hard time keeping those big, heavy wheels planted on the road over rough pavement. The resulting unsettled ride really doesn’t work for me.

2014 kia forte5 2001

5. But it’s not all that sporty
Power-assisted steering is nothing new, but adjustable power-assist is. Press a button on the wheel and choose from “comfort,” “normal,” and “sport” modes. None of these settings does anything to improve the Forte’s vague steering feel.

2014 kia forte5 011

6. Turbocharged torque
All that said, the turbocharged engine is a fun little thing, even when hitched to the automatic transmission. Despite its small 1.6-litre displacement, it makes lots of torque at low revs. It deserves a better-sorted chassis than this.

2014 kia forte5 006

7. Stick to your strengths
Rear seat space approaches that of mid-size cars, and the trunk is nearly as large as that of many small crossovers. The front seats are comfortable, but the cushions are quite firm. This car’s interior is very well put together.

2014 kia forte5 008

8. The price of luxury
If you had $29,000, would you spend it on this car? Because that’s what Kia asks for the SX Luxury model I drove. It comes with a lot of nice stuff – heated steering wheel, heated rear(!) seats, HID headlights, proximity key, automatic air conditioning and a backup camera – but the Forte5 is a better deal closer to its $20,000 starting price. At that point, you don’t get the flowery wheels, but that’s okay with me.

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Kia, Straight Eight


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What I think: 2012 Kia Rio

There’s a lot to like about the 2012 Kia Rio, including its sharp looks and fun handling. My main complaint are the optimistic fuel consumption estimates, which are nowhere close to what the car is capable of in real-world driving. Read my full review here.


What I think: 2012 Kia Soul

The mid-cycle refresh is a proven way for an automaker to prop up flagging interest in a car that’s been on the market for three or four years. A nip here, a tuck there and a few new features, perhaps, are good at helping revive interest in an existing design that’s losing traction to newer models in the sales race.

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What I think: 2011 Kia Optima SX

Click here to read my review of the Kia Optima SX. The Optima is a great value no matter what version you choose, but in top-of-the-line SX trim, its turbocharged engine and tighter suspension turn it into a surprisingly sporty four-door. BMW 3 Series drivers won’t defect to Kia dealerships by the thousands or anything, but the Optima SX is a seriously well-made car that proves this company can run with some of the best in the business.

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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in, Kia, Test Drives