Kia Rio: Ski Vehicle Perfection

Skiers love debates. One question that surfaces regularly in the NYSkiForum: what car makes the best ski vehicle? The answers are always the same: Subaru wagons, Toyota pickups and AWD minivans. Occasionally some pervert will go on about the Jeep Wrangler, which baffles me to no end.

Kia Rio
photo courtesy

I believe there are many cars that fit the bill. Over the years I’ve had a wide variety of ski cars: a Chevy Spectrum (a serious POS.), a rear-wheel-drive GMC Safari (glorious), a Chevy Caprice (cruising to the hill on a sofa), Olds 88 (eh), a couple different 4×4 Chevy Colorados (pretty f’ing good), a BMW X5 (yeah heated seats and super fast, but meh) and an AWD GMC Safari (more or less perfect in every way).

This season, due to some unfortunate circumstances — like $3K worth of trany failure — I had a chance to spend a week driving a rental, a Kia Rio. Now that I’ve had a chance to judge it objectively, and since the GMC Safari was dis’coed in 2005, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the Rio is the best ski car you can buy today. Skeptical? I’ll prove it.

skis in a Kia Rio

First of all, your skis fit inside. “How is this possible?” You ask incredulously, “It’s a tiny little car. My skis are 170s which must be like six or seven feet in American! How could they possibly fit inside a Korean matchbox?”

My answer for you is one word: INNOVATION. Kia’s engineers have cleverly incorporated a hinge and latch into the rear seat of the that allows you to fold one or both of the seats down, opening a space between the trunk and the back seat. The resulting cargo space allows you to fit many skis inside. Genius. I hope Kia has patented this feature lest their competitors get wise. 🙂

Kia Rio rearview camera
State of the Art

Perhaps even more innovative, Kia has incorporated a USB port into the radio so you can plug in your phone and use the sound system to play music. Absolutely brilliant. Sadly there’s no cassette player, which means I would have to buy all my Steve Miller and BTO albums on iTunes. Sometimes you gotta bite the bullet, am I right?

I know what you’re thinking. “Brownski, the Kia Rio doesn’t come with AWD. How could I possibly drive to the mountain on a powder day without it? They probably don’t even make snow tires that small!” Well, listen, you don’t need that crap. Learn to drive, that’s the answer. I drove it to Plattekill in the snow and it was fine. Suck on that.

powder day

Still not convinced? How about the fact that you can get three people, and their skis, with their cool tunes to the mountain in style… while getting 40 MPG? Paying attention now, are you? Well you can also buy a brand new Kia Rio for less then a year’s tuition at SUNY Binghamton. Yup, that’s what I thought. Boom.

24 comments on “Kia Rio: Ski Vehicle Perfection

  1. Not sure if this is serious due to the April fool’s tag even though it’s almost May. Almost all new cars have folding rear seats and USB/Bluetooth capability to link your phone.

  2. Hilarious. Will 205s fit in there? Regarding transmission issues, I feel you. The previous Subie was manual and the transmission bought it. Rebuilds for automatics, not a big deal. Manual: they had to mine the iron ore, smelt it, make the steel…..

  3. anyone keeping an eye for the redesigned VW microbus???? this dog will be all wheel drive all electric. they say it’s going to hit the showrooms in 2022. they also say they have allocated 800 million to build out the plant in Tennessee. time will tell!!!!! crazy but true i have already called a local VW dealer to be put on the waiting list….

  4. I used to have split seats in my 2005 a4, but even better was a ski sack in the hand rest that would allow for a pair or two to remain covered. Really useful if you felt a little lazy about bringing them upstairs immediately, or felt like packing the night before.

    Is the RIO awd with an optional manual transmission? Without these things, I don’t think it’s a practical ski car for me / fighting words for best!

    Also, college is outrageously expensive. 🙂

  5. KIA? How about a Saab, hmmm? Buy a used 9-3 for $1500 to $3500 depending on the condition. Put on a set of Nokia snows and you have traction to get through things some of the folks in their AWD vehicles are stuck on (probably think AWD means ya don’t buy snow tires, HA).

    Oh, yea, the Saabs have 1/3 2/3 split rear seats like so many vehicles do, or you can put skis through the arm rest hole with the rest flipped down. Better yet put on a roof box. Ya only spent a couple grand and there is so much left in your college tuition budget it is affordable.

    Besides, when you pull into a parking spot ya get all kinds of comments like “haven’t seen one of those in a while” or “what the hell is that?” Did I mention 27 to 30 mpg? And those parking lot door dings? Really, who cares? Its a 15 to 20 year old car… and; ya might even find one with a cassette deck to play those tunes without a technology payment to iTunes.

  6. Yeah, I had the early Saab 96 with freewheel! take your foot off the gas on a downhill and you’re in neutral. In 1972 I looked up dealers before a road trip to Park City, the closest one was in Los Angeles. Good thing it made it there and back.

  7. “After importing these cars from the other side of the world from one of the world’s most polluted countries, I can get 40mpg cheap!” -signed the moral crusaders living on the east and west coasts

  8. 2011 Kia Optima SX here (with 1/3 – 2/3 fold-down r seats): 10yr/100k powertrain warranty but only 6yr/60k on the rest.

    And after 60k but before 80k, thx to Northern NY road salt, it required: new E-brakes, new calipers, new gas tank, new radiator and new mufflers ! And spot-rust is beginning to show on body’s drainholes. I’m rethinking my purchase decision…

  9. Dude, sit down, because, if you were blown away by that USB thing, I have one word. Bluetooth. Be careful, your head might explode when you hear it.

  10. Kia??? Hmm.

    An interesting point you brought up is with respect to AWD. Car and Driver tested a number of AWD SUV’s a few years ago that were equipped with all season tires. They were tested against front wheel drive vehicles with winter rated tires. The front wheel drive vehicles excelled in very category tested over the SUV’s.

    Obviously, AWD’s with winter rated tires would likely perform better than the FWD’s with them, but I see so many people driving AWD’s with less than mediocre tires.

  11. I drove a Kia off the road once heading to the hill, that’s the closest I’ve come to one.

  12. I kept all seasons on one winter, if it got even partly cloudy on route 100 the driving was white knuckle.

  13. Chevy Suburban, with snow tires, nothing better.
    Most Subaru drivers worry so much about safety that they drive slow and miss the first few runs. (Not all, I have a friend who gets to hill fast in Subaru).

    My second ski car is a Chevy Sonic with Blizzak’s. Great until snow is over 8” on the road. No clearance when crossing snowbanks.

  14. Yes, as they say, this is a work of satire. Be sure to click on the “boom” at the end of the piece. Harv found something truly special to link.

  15. Brownski as far as the Boom at the end, it seems to indicate to me that the car even has just a third wheel!

  16. Someone in Clinton Hill owns a bright cherry red Saab 9-3 wagon, and the thing is glorious. That paint is still shinning bright.

  17. Marcski
    That was my first reaction too. I figure the guy with the maracas must own the YouTube channel. And why wouldn’t Kia let them leave the dealership’s parking lot? A shot or two zipping down the highway could have really enhanced my viewing experience. So many questions…

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