SEATTLE -- Kia has redesigned the Rio sedan and Rio5 hatchback for 2006 with a higher sticker price and more content.
The basics: Kia pushed the wheels to the corners of the car. That means that its overall length stays the same, but the wheelbase has grown by more than 3 inches.
The automaker says the sedan has more passenger space - 92.2 cubic feet - than the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. While still not comfortable for 6-footers in the back seat, the Rio can fit them for a quick ride to the mall.
Lacking a trunk, the Rio5 is about 9 inches shorter than the sedan.
Notable features: The Rio comes with six standard airbags, making Kia the first manufacturer to provide the feature in all its vehicles. The Rio is the lowest-priced vehicle to offer full-length side-curtain airbags.
For an entry-level car, it has other nice touches, such as a toll-ticket holder and a bag hook behind the front passenger headrest.
The engine features continuously variable valve timing.
Other standard features across the lineup include a tachometer, 14-inch wheels, auto-off headlights, variable intermittent wipers, body-color bumpers and side mirrors.
What Kia says: "This is a quantum leap from the previous Rio," Gordon Dickie, Kia Motors America Inc.'s director of product quality and engineering, said at the press introduction here.
Compromises: Yes, it's an entry-level car, but keyless locks are optional across the lineup. Antilock brakes also are optional for all trim levels.
Nuts and bolts: The base price on the 2006 sedan is $11,110. The Rio5, which has more standard features, starts at $14,040. That's up from the 2005 prices of $10,735 for the sedan and $12,240 for the hatchback. All prices include freight.
Kia expects only about 5 percent of its sales to be of the base sedan. The Rio5 will account for 25 percent, while the upmarket Rio LX sedan, starting at $12,985, should be 70 percent, the automaker forecasts.
Kia hopes to sell about 30,000 units in the United States by the end of 2005, with slightly higher volumes in the following years. If Europe
doesn't consume all the factory capacity, the United States could get as many as 40,000 units.
Kia isn't pitching the Rio and Rio5 as first cars for college graduates and urban hipsters. Rather, the company thinks the cars will sell mostly to young childless couples on a budget.
The skinny: The previous Rio version had an anemic engine, boggy transmission, skittish tires and weak brakes. The redesign's vehicle dynamics are significantly better. The vehicle design is contemporary.
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