There's a lot to like about the all-new Kia Rio: It's a looker inside and out, has close to European levels of refinement, and rides very comfortably. Unfortunately, the four-speed automatic transmission it comes with isn't one of them. We just can't say that it does the car justice.
The gearbox isn't horrible and we can definitely make do with it, though we would've loved if Kia had thrown in a five-speed instead. That being said, it's one of the reasons why the Rio is just such a better fit on city roads than out on the highway. And it's the absence of open space and speed where the handsome subcompact hatchback can truly show its worth.
It's a city slicker through and through, and a very damn good one at that. Why? Let us count the ways…
1) It has standout looks. The Rio is one of the most viable options for those looking to set themselves apart from the sea of vanilla subcompacts on EDSA. Very few vehicles come close to the level of refinement that the Rio's design possesses, and the only one I can think of from the top of my head might be the Mazda 2 hatch.
2) Its size is just perfect. No space too tight, no parking slot it can't back into. The Rio manages to stay compact without sacrificing too much on interior space—there's still enough room for a 5'10" dude like me to stretch, and headroom isn't bad. It was incredibly easy to move the Rio around in the city.
3) You can see everything from inside. You'll run into no issue maneuvering the Rio through tight city streets. The windows are pretty large, and its subtle, simple design ensures that there'll be no obtrusive pillars or fenders getting in the way of your line of sight.
4) It's pretty nimble. All of the above considered, the Rio is a relatively agile city hatch. The steering is light and precise even at low speeds. A big plus is that the car comes with telescopic steering adjustment, allowing you to pull the wheel toward you to fit your driving position.
5) The cabin is cozy. Sure, there's plenty of dark and hard plastics. But I can't really complain about how they've been applied, and they don't look or feel cheap at all. The seats feel great, as does the steering wheel. There's a decent amount of storage space as well. The one gripe I have is the seriously outdated entertainment system—but it served its purpose and I actually found its red glow soothing at times.
6) There's a surprising amount of cargo space. Now, I'm not certain why, but I was pleasantly surprised at the rear's cargo capacity when I opened the hatch. Maybe it was the car's subtle design. Whatever the case, it could easily store several duffel bags worth of sports gear with plenty of room to spare. You can fold the rear passenger seats down if you need more room, but they don't fold down flat into the floor.
7) The ride is superb. The Rio runs quiet and composed, even on less than ideal road conditions. We're not talking about gravel or dirt here, but Manila's common road imperfections shouldn't pose a problem. The suspension just feels great! Its comfortable nature really gives off a more premium vibe compared to its competition.