by Clint Burgess

There is something to be said about a decent new vehicle that falls into the "everyman" price range. Something that will be reliable, look pretty good and get you where you want to go. The Kia Rio is just such a car. There aren't a whole lot of bells and whistles found here (unless you opt for them), but the Rio works for many drivers and their budgets. Shifting to a mindset of necessity and not luxury can save you some money and still get you a good car.

The 2005 Kia Rio Sedan standard (and I mean standard) gives you just what you need, nothing more and nothing less. The manufacturer's suggested retail price starts at $6,995 -- heck, at that price, you can afford to buy two. On the surface, the Rio is an average-size, four-door sedan that comes in a nice selection of colors. It fits great into compact size parking spaces and parallel parks like a dream. But there are other features on even the stripped-down model that allow for comfort and satisfy the needs of the driver.

Mike Beeson, sales manager at Spokane Kia says, "These are safe little cars and offer a lot for not a lot of money." For example, dual front air bags are a nice touch, as well front and rear crumple zones to help in the event of a nasty collision. Beeson has been with Kia for more than three years and absolutely believes in his company and the Rio. "It's our price leader. Customers come in looking for it." The Rio scores bonus points for having a large trunk, as well good legroom and comfortable seats perfect for traveling.

While the bare-bones model lacks the niceties like a radio, AC and power steering, it's more for the person who just needs a dependable ride from point A to point B. "This car is really for someone who's commuting or doesn't need anything fancy," says Mike Degraw. A salesperson at Spokane Kia, Degraw tells it like it is. "It's a great little car for getting around, without any extras, people like the price and it's still got the 10 year/100,000 mile warranty."

That also includes five years of 24-hour roadside assistance, seven days a week. It also doesn't hurt that this baby tops the tank off for $18.50. After figuring out how the Rio sized up on paper, I put it through some of my signature rigorous testing routines. The five-speed on this baby pours it on in the small acceleration zones that now pass for freeway on-ramps. The Rio also handled beautifully on that hairpin turn coming up the Monroe freeway entrance heading eastbound on I-90, even without power steering. And finally, there aren't any annoying blind spots on this vehicle.

Spokane Kia is located off I-90 in Liberty Lake. The dealership has been there for about two years and offers what many consumers are looking for these days: a bargain. "In a market where the economy has been really tough, it has pushed a lot of people into our market," says Beeson. "That has really worked for us and the customer." This dealership is semi-locally owned by a Wenatchee businessman. It offers a family oriented approach to business: I'm told the owner even passes out hugs when he comes to town for regular visits.

Publication date: 09/30/04

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