PhotoThis year, the Kia Rio is emerging as a winner in its segment. In late March, Consumer Reports came out with an analysis of the model year’s subcompact market that gave the Rio top ratings in the reviewer’s analysis of subcompact sedans, which have become a lot more popular with gas prices rising back toward $4.00.

Overall, Kia and its sister company Hyundai are starting to be associated with economy, reliability and attractive design, as well as competitive fuel efficiency in the North American market. CR chose the Rio largely because of its decent handling and a nice basket of features for an affordable price. Testers also liked the performance and braking of the car, and noted that the fuel economy of 30 mpg is very competitive.

In getting the nod from Consumer Reports, the 2012 Kia Rio edged out the Hyundai Accent as well as the new Chevrolet Sonic, a car that entered the market to much fanfare as GM started to provide more fuel-efficient offerings. Both of these cars should have been tough competition for the 2012 Rio, but CR details the reasons that its staffers picked the Rio for first.

While the Accent actually gets better estimated gas mileage than the Rio, reviewers found that the interior materials weren’t quite as good, and the ride wasn’t quite as nice. As for the Sonic, Consumer Reports found that the base model only gets 28 mpg, and while this will still get a driver pretty far on a tank of gas, it’s a little surprising to many who have been hearing about the Sonic’s rollout for a while, expecting a small car that will blow others away in terms of gas savings. Some of the confusion may stem from different numbers for city, combined and highway driving: the “just under thirty” number, confirmed by other reviewers like Edmunds, refers to combined estimates, while potential buyers may have heard numbers like 35 mpg, which is what the Sonic is estimated to get on highway. But as Consumer Reports and other venues have pointed out, to get the best fuel economy out of the Sonic, buyers have to choose a turbo-charged upper-trim LT or LTZ Sonic, where these optimized trims can get about 35 mpg combined and 40 mpg on highway.

The news on the 2012 Rio comes along with some great reviews of used models by Kelley Blue Book and other sources. Also, the 2012 Rio isn’t the only Kia getting attention from reviewers; last year, Kelley included another model, the Kia Forte Koup, in its list of “coolest cars under $18,000.”

The 2012 Rio also retails just under $18,000, and according to Consumer Reports, it’s a pretty good deal. Along with this endoresement, the 2012 Kia Rio also got a spot on the list of  "six best car for teens" from Vroomgirls, an auto reviewer with a female perspective on the industry. Consider this option if you are hunting for a small car that promises the right equation of value for cost.


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