A week ago, we went up to Baltimore to celebrate Easter with my family. While trips to Baltimore are almost always fun, they are often accompanied by a lot of stress, the need to for planning, and shuffling carseats between cars since we have to accept rides from whomever can give us one. This last time, we were given the opportunity to test drive a Kia Rio for the duration of our trip. To say it was a blessing is an understatement.
The Rio is a compact car – certainly not ideal for a family with two kids in carseats. That said, I knew going into the trip we’d be cramped. I knew a Rio wouldn’t be the ideal vehicle for our family… but I also knew it would be far more “do-able” than not having a car at all. We were cramped. For sure. But we were a heck of a lot less cramped than I had anticipated. As I’m sure everyone can imagine, having 2 carseats crammed into the back of a compact car doesn’t leave much room for anything else. Since Audrey is still rear facing, the passenger seat had to be pulled up pretty far and so riding shotgun was a pretty tight squeeze (though not as tight as we thought it would be!)
The size was one of very few things I didn’t like about the Rio. The rest of the list was pretty silly – my main complaint being the fact that the horn sounds like it belongs on Mason’s tricycle. I rarely honk my horn – when I do, it’s because I’m REALLY angry at someone on the road. When I DO honk my horn, I want the person I’m honking at to be ashamed. I feel like if I had needed to honk the Rio’s horn the only one ashamed of anything would’ve been me. The Kia had a few other features that I wasn’t too fond of, nothing that would turn me off from the car if I was in the market for a compact car, but stuff I felt was mildly annoying. I apologize in advance for how unofficial these sound. I’m not a car person, and have never claimed to be one, so I’m going to try my best to explain what I’m talking about without writing (more) of a novel, or making up too many words of my own (though there will be quite a few). On most cars, you can adjust the uprightness of the seat. The Rio had two handles on the side of the seat and it took me awhile to figure it out. The handle I kept grabbing would essentially pump the seat up higher (I have no idea how you’re supposed to make it go lower) in the car. Which might be fantastic… if it’s something you’re trying to do; but when you’re trying to keep yourself from feeling like you’re laying down while you drive, it’s frustrating to grab for the handle and feel your entire seat start to rise rather than what you want it to do. The only other complaint I have about the Kia (and yes I realize how ridiculous this sounds!) is that it was equipped with side mirrors that would fold in with the push of a button. Obviously my issues with this could easily be solved by just not ever pushing the button, and never having them fold in (they were automatic), but I was with my darling husband who is absolutely obsessed with cars and features and loved that they would fold in. The Rio is already a compact car… I just can’t understand why Kia would think it needed to be made even more compact by folding in mirrors, and I just found it to be a silly addition.
Ok, now onto what I DID like… the list is much longer, and almost as silly. Very few of the items on this list are anything where you’d think “this is why I need to buy this car.” They are features that you wouldn’t notice during a test drive with the dealer. Instead, they are features that once you find out the Rio has them, you get back home and realize you don’t have them, and you just feel a little shortchanged. Silly? Maybe, but all things I noticed, appreciated, and now miss.
- Lane change blinkers – by just tapping the turn signal rather than pushing it all the way, the blinker will flash three times and turn off automatically. Perfect for lane changes or softer turns where your blinker might not turn off automatically.
- The noise of the blinkers – it was soft, but official. You could hear the blinker was on, but it wasn’t a noise you’d be sitting at a red light wishing you could pound your face into the windshield because the sound of the blinker is just irritating you (or maybe it’s just me that gets irritated by blinker noises?).
- The cell phone spot. While I highly doubt this is what Kia had in mind (or maybe it’s exactly what they had in mind!) there was a spot in the center console absolutely perfect for my phone. It made it easy to grab, but the phone was also secure and wasn’t sliding around each time we took a turn or stepped on the brakes.
- Backup Camera – the Rio I got to drive was (almost) fully loaded, so it came equipped with a backup camera. Usually, I think backup cameras are distracting and make it more (rather than less) dangerous to drive in reverse. The Kia’s backup camera was not only not distracting, it was actually helpful as well. It had a grid on it that made the image on the camera easy to look at. I always feel like the images on a backup camera are distorted, and this one was no different. However, because of the grid, it was much easier to figure out where you were in relation to other things shown by the camera, and was actually helpful – especially when trying to parallel park on my parent’s street.
- Bluetooth with steering wheel controls. The car was equipped with bluetooth, which was extremely easy to pair with my phone, and the controls were both on the touch screen display or on the steering wheel itself. It made it super easy to use my phone without taking my eyes off the road.
- Pretty dashboard. The Kia was just pretty. I liked the looks, and thought it was pretty gender neutral without being boring
Overall I really enjoyed driving the Rio. I was wildly impressed with the average mpg – which was close to 30 for the duration of our trip, especially since we were almost exclusively “city” driving. For as small as the car is, it was a pretty quiet drive, and it had some pretty decent power behind it. While the Rio may not be a fantastic option for us, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t see the value of both the brand, and the car itself given a different family situation. Two carseats were tight. But when our family was smaller, or if we didn’t have children at all I think the Rio would be a fantastic car. Even for a family of 4 (with 2 carseats!) the Rio is workable. It’s not ideal, but for a family on a budget it would absolutely work and get the job done!
Having never been in a Kia I had some misconceptions and they were immediately dispelled when I got in the Rio. It was much nicer than I expected. I haven’t been in the market for a car that size recently, but I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the integrated bluetooth, I loved the folding mirrors, wasn’t crazy about the eco mode and I did notice a huge difference when using it. I think eco-mode just limits your revs to about 2500 so when you’re accelerating it just makes you a lot slower and makes it so you can’t waste as much gas. But, with eco-mode off, I was really surprised at how much zip that little car had. Overall, really nice, but I do wish that the Rio along with other manufacturers offered practical economical cars with all of those nice features (bluetooth, satellite radio, etc) and manual transmission because I think that would’ve made it a little more fun. But the Rio makes you realize that you don’t have to sacrifice style or amenities to get a car that is very practical.