2012 Kia Rio SX Sedan Review: An Anomaly on Wheels

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The all-new 2012 Kia Rio SX Sedan is a magical little compact with loads of standards

The little-car-company-that-could has not only caught up, but in many ways is now leading the way, producing stylish, economical vehicles with an unprecedented list of standard features we’re simply not accustomed to in the subcompact class. Rearview camera? Included? Yes. Navigation included? Yes. Heated leather seats and heated steering wheel? Yes and yes. Did you really just say heated steering wheel…in a subcompact? Oh yes. How Kia manages to pull this off – fuel efficiency, contemporary design both inside and out, decent cargo, affordable price-point – is anyone’s guess. I call it magic—a magical subcompact sedan for the masses. In other words, a true anomaly on wheels.

2012 Kia Rio SX Sedan Review2012 marks the third-generation of the subcompact Rio hatchback, first introduced in North America over 10 years ago. But more significantly, 2012 marks the introduction to the first ever Kia Rio sedan, now joining it’s 5-door hatchback sibling.

The 2012 Kia Rio sedan comes in four flavours, starting at $13,795 CDN MSRP for the LX with 5-speed manual transmission; $15,295 for the LX+; $16,695 for the EX; and tops off as per my tester here at $20,495 for the SX. All trims available in either manual or automatic, except for the SX available in automatic only.

Powered by the 1.6L GDI 4-cyclinder engine, all Kia Rio sedans find this same powerplant. Hence, all boasting 138-hp and 123 lb.ft. of torque at 4850 rpm. Ripping through the corners, cruising on the open road, this Kia hold it’s own – power feels sufficient and the shift points on the automatic version all make sense. Worth noting, the 2012 Kia Rio 1.6L direct injection engine is also found in the Hyundai Accent and Veloster.

Ripping through the corners, cruising on the open road, this Kia hold it’s own – power feels sufficient and the shift points on the automatic version all make sense.

For the fuel conscious – this is a subcompact, after all – activate the ECO button mounted on dash, make note of the tweaked throttle mapping rendering less fuel consumption (10% increase in fuel efficiency according to Kia), then gloat as you save money at the pump.

Vehicle Stability Management along with Electronic Stability Control both standard in the 2012 Kia Rio sedan.

2012 Kia Rio SX Sedan ReviewKia Motor’s strong, successful rebranding surge in recent years is due in large part to their design-led transformation, and this all-new 2012 Kia Rio Sedan SX is a prime example. It also doesn’t hurt when Audi’s former chief designer, Peter Schreyer, is now at the helm, leading Kia onwards and upwards.

Overall, the Rio sedan is very sculpted, producing a sporty stance with pronounced shoulderlines and a progressive front fascia. Fortunately, the styling totally works; balanced lines from front to back without trying too hard with overly accentuated features found on some of the competitors in this class. While both the Rio sedan and Rio hatch share the same design profile as their larger siblings, the Sportage CUV and Optima sedan, the two Rio’s do sport different front fascias, though nothing too dissimilar. Plus, the sedan is 320 millimeters longer than the hatch. The Rio SX finds sport 17-inch rims and fog lights, both standard.

…doesn’t hurt when Audi’s former chief designer, Peter Schreyer, is now at the helm, leading Kia onwards and upwards.

Moving inside, the 2012 Kia Rio sedan’s fit and finish is staggeringly top-class. Nevermind subcompact, I’ve sat inside many midsize sedans that come nowhere near the Kia’s interior refinement. This cabin lacks the vast planes of plastic you’d likely presume would haunt a $22,000 vehicle.

2012 Kia Rio SX Sedan ReviewA two-toned, horizontal three-cylinder instrument panel design looks sharp. While the touch-screen interface is fairly simplistic with a dated design, it also makes sense and very easy to navigate, allowing you to quickly access vital controls—at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

Above all, the 2012 Kia Rio SX is blessed with standard features including a rearview camera; heated leather steering wheel and heated leather seats; Bluetooth; navigation system; power windows and locks; automatic climate control; power sunroof; Smart Key with Push button start; and 6 airbags.

In Canada, the 2012 Kia Rio SX sedan comes with the 5-5-5 Total Care Coverage warranty package: 5-year/100k KM bumper to bumper; 5-year/100k KM powertrain; and 5-year/100k KM extra care roadside assistance.

For more info on the 2012 Kia Rio SX sedan, please visit Kia Motors.



  • No standard power seats
  • Front grill fascia not for everyone

2012 Kia Rio SX Gallery:

Technical Specifications: 2012 Kia Rio SX Sedan

Base price (CDN MSRP): $13,795 starting, Rio LX trim

Price as tested: $21,695 for SX; $23,450 total with Delivery charge ($1455), colour charge ($200), and Excise Tax ($100)

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door, subcompact sedan

Layout: front-engine, front-wheel-drive

Engine: 1.6L GDI 4-cyclinder

Horsepower: 138-hp @ 6300 rpm

Torque (lb-ft): 123 lb.ft or torque @ 4850 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual; available 6-speed Auto w/ Steptronic shifter as in this Rio SX test vehicle

Fuel consumption (L/100km): 4.9L city and 6.6L highway > manual version; 4.9L highway and 6.8L city > automatic version

Cargo capacity:  389L

Amee Reehalhttp://www.ameereehal.com/
Shooting motors professionally since film was a thing, Amee's work has been published in various outlets including NBC Sports, Chicago Tribune, SuperStreet, GlobeDrive, MotorTrend, and others. He's a writer, editor at TractionLife.com, AJAC member, and full-time digital marketer at Traction Media working with national brands. Find him traveling, spending time with his kids and family. Or golfing, poorly.