Update: 2013 Kia Rio — Transmission

By Brandon Turkus

January 09, 2013

Tom Martin wrote a pretty glowing piece on the tiny, five-door Kia Rio when it arrived on the market in 2011. He called it an “improved Fiesta,” a “mini-luxury sedan,” an alternative to the Toyota Prius, and finished by saying Kia’s smallest offering is “ridiculously sensible.”
It wasn’t a perfect cheap offering for enthusiasts, though. The prime issue was that you could only row your own gears with the base Rio LX. That changed for the 2013 model year, as a limited number of the top-trim Rio SX’s were offered with a do-it-yourself shifter. And it’s a darn good gearbox, at that.
The six-speed manual isn’t what we’d expect in the cheapest offering from a perennially affordable brand like Kia. It shifts solidly, with just the right amount of travel between gates. We’re glad Kia resisted the urge to fit some boy racer short-throw shifter, and instead opted for a trans that delivers a sporty, engaging experience that isn’t intolerable in day-to-day use.
The gearlever hits its gates with a satisfying clunk, delivering just the right amount of mechanical feel during each shift. The clutch isn’t amazing, but it’s easy enough to learn. The travel is a bit short, making modulation difficult. The catchpoint is still quite broad, though. Like we said, not amazing, but certainly not bad.
Our main issues with this gearbox would probably be considered nitpicking. The shift knob feels about 20-percent larger than is ideal (even for your author’s large hands), and the pleather shift boot is easily the worst part of what is otherwise a pretty nice cabin.
Overall, the inclusion of a manual gearbox on the Rio SX is a win for enthusiasts who are looking for cheap, well-equipped, economical, and fun-to-drive transportation.
For more about the Kia Rio, visit the vehicle’s Master Landing Page.