I'll never forget my first time in a Kia Rio. It was Los Angeles, 1937. I'd just started my job as a fluffer for Transworld Airlines. Howard Hughes pulled up. Oh wait, that wasn't a Kia Rio at all.

The sad fact about life in the wind-tunnel age is that cars just aren't as easily identifiable from 100 feet away as, say, Hughes's Cord Model 812 was. But Kia's corporate styling direction is starting to sink in, identification-wise, even though Europeans might mistake the rear section of the new Rio five door for a Seat Chupacabra.


The updated Rio's direct-injection 1.6-liter four and six-speed (manual or automatic!) place the Rio in the 40-mpg club, which is like the mile-high club without the part about having sex on a commercial airliner. An optional stop-start system boosts city mileage by one to 31 mpg.

Naturally, the new Rio is highly spec-able, and comes in three tiers — SX, EX, and LX. Kia's new Microsoft-powered Uvo hands-free communication and entertainment system includes a backup camera.

We didn't have those in 1937.