Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Liking the Kia Rio and Cadillac XTS

One of the cars in my driveway this week has been the 2012 Kia Rio. It overlapped a few days with the 2013 Cadillac XTS.

Moving back and forth between these wildly different vehicles required the flexibility of a human pretzel in managing expectations, to say the least.

But I found something to love with both.

After 25 years of driving around one or two new cars a week, one either becomes a car snob or an automotive Pollyana of sorts. Either you view every car in terms of horsepower, acceleration times and skid-pad number, or you learn to appreciate that different cars assume different roles and celebrate the good in each. It is in this spirit of appreciating how well a car fulfills the function for which it was designed that I can say, I really like the Rio.

This is a small four-door hatchback that I'm convinced as many people buy because it's a terrific little car as buy it because it has a comprehensive warranty, an EPA highway mileage number of 40 mpg and is wonderfully affordable. Most of us could feel good climbing out of it in full view of several coworkers hanging out in front of our office building.

The version I tested was the $16,500 EX. It had a $1,000 option package with alloy wheels, a backup camera, Kia's UVO media system and turn-signal indicators in the outboard mirrors, among other goodies. The stripped-down 2013 Rio rings the register at $13,800.

You won't stroke out by the g-force the 138-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder creates. Well, there isn't much g-force, actually. Zero to 60 requires about 10 seconds. I can drink a beer and eat a hard-boiled egg in that amount of time.

No, it's not the acceleration that grabbed me, but the surprising smoothness and quiet of the four-banger. A six-speed automatic translates engine output to front-wheel giddy up in the EX.

The interior is roomy, comfortable and nicely assembled. It's simply an impressive little car.

Towering over the Rio when the two resided at my house, Cadillac's XTS is Caddy's all-new "large" car. A lot of people aren't even aware it's out there because it has been so out-hyped by Cadillac's other all-new 2013 sedan, the compact ATS.

The version I had was the $53,585 Premium trim. Power comes from a 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and is funneled to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

It's, big, plush, comfortable and runs as silent as a nuclear sub.

What did I like best about it? Among its safety options was a rear cross-traffic safety alert. If a car was approaching behind me from the right, the right side of the seat cushion vibrated. From the left, the left-side seat cushion vibrated. If I was backing up and got to close to an object, both sides vibrated. Yes, I realize it doesn't take me much to get me excited these days, but this feature sure did.

I drove the Caddy the 160 miles from my house in South Carolina to the Atlanta airport and back. Other than the voice command feature of the navigation system reacting to my orders as though I was speaking Vietnamese, it was the ideal sedan for the trip.

Good thing I already knew how to get to the Atlanta airport; I'd probably still be out driving around lost as last year's Easter egg, red-faced, screaming the same command over and over, and pounding the dashboard. I did a lot of that any way.

Don't get me wrong; I like the XTS a lot. I guess I just need to learn the language.

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