Kia Rio: Models, Years, Specifications & More

The Kia Rio is a subcompact car manufactured by Kia Motors since November 1999. It has gone through four generations over the past two decades.

The first generation Rio was introduced in 1999 for the 2000 model year. This original Rio was available as a four-door sedan or four-door station wagon. It was powered by a 1.5L or 1.6L four-cylinder engine. The second generation launched in 2005 for the 2006 model year, adding a two-door Rio5 hatchback variant. This generation received refreshed styling and more powerful engine options. In 2011, the third generation Rio debuted with an even sportier look and improved fuel efficiency. The current fourth generation model premiered in 2017 with enhanced technology and safety features.

Over its four generations, the Rio has consistently delivered economical transportation in a compact, fuel-efficient package. It has progressed from a basic economy car to one with more amenities and technology to meet consumer demands. The Rio remains an affordable, entry-level model in Kia’s lineup.

First Generation (2000–2005)

The first generation Kia Rio was introduced in 2000 as a subcompact car. It was offered as both a 4-door sedan and 5-door station wagon. The Rio was Kia’s entry-level economy car [1].

The first generation Rio came with a 1.5L inline 4-cylinder engine producing 92 hp. In 2003, Kia introduced a larger 1.6L engine option producing 104 hp [2]. The Rio offered decent fuel economy for an economy car, getting around 30 mpg city and 35-38 mpg highway.

The Rio was offered in three trim levels: base, mid-level LX, and top EX trim. Standard features included front disc brakes, a 5-speed manual transmission, and tilt steering column. Moving up to the LX added air conditioning, power steering, and an optional 4-speed automatic transmission. The EX added extras like power windows and locks, keyless entry, upgraded interior materials, and alloy wheels.

Second Generation (2006–2011)

The second generation Rio debuted for the 2006 model year in North America with a complete redesign of the previous generation’s exterior and interior. According to Wikipedia, Kia increased the Rio’s dimensions, resulting in a larger and more spacious interior (Source). The redesign also brought updated powertrains, with engine choices including a 1.6L I4 producing 110 hp paired to a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, as well as a more powerful 2.0L I4 producing 124 hp.

New technologies and features included standard front side airbags and optional ABS brakes. The exterior styling took on a more aggressive, sporty look with creased lines and a blacked-out grille (Source). At launch, the second generation Rio was offered as a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback. Overall, the redesigned second generation Rio delivered more interior space, updated powertrains, new safety tech, and more dramatic styling over the first generation model.

Third Generation (2012–2017)

The third generation Rio debuted at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show with a major redesign and platform change. It moved from the old Rio’s conservative shape to a much more modern, European-inspired look. The new Rio was based on Kia’s all-new Accent platform, which helped reduce weight and improve fuel economy.

According to Wikipedia [1], Kia offered EcoDynamics variants of the Rio featuring Kia’s Intelligent Stop and Go (ISG) technology and low-rolling resistance tires to maximize fuel efficiency. The 1.1-liter diesel engine paired with ISG achieved fuel economy ratings up to 88 mpg‐US (2.7 L/100 km; 106 mpg‐imp) in the European combined cycle.

The interior was also completely redesigned with higher quality materials and more contemporary styling. The exterior received more aggressive front and rear bumpers with revised headlights and taillights. Overall, the third generation Rio featured a more modern, sophisticated look compared to previous models.

Fourth Generation (2018–Present)

The fourth generation Rio debuted in 2018 featuring an all-new design and updated technology. This latest redesign brought sportier styling with a sloping roofline and sharper front and rear fascias.

Under the hood, the fourth gen Rio offers two engine choices: a 1.6L 4-cylinder producing 120 horsepower, or a more fuel-efficient 1.6L Eco engine with 98 horsepower (Kia Rio 4th generation specifications: versions & types). Both engines utilize direct injection and dual continuous variable valve timing to optimize performance and efficiency.

This generation introduced new tech and safety features including a 7-inch touchscreen display, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, forward collision warning, and lane keep assist. Available driver aids include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.

The Rio is available in LX, S, and EX trim levels. The base LX comes equipped with the essentials like power windows, Bluetooth, and split-folding rear seats. Stepping up to the S adds popular options like a sunroof, keyless entry, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a six-speaker audio system. The fully-loaded EX includes leather seats, navigation, dual-zone climate control, and push button start.

Performance and Fuel Economy

The Kia Rio has modest performance stats and fuel economy. Starting with the first generation, it produced 104 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque from a 1.5L inline 4-cylinder engine coupled with a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission. The 0-60 mph time was around 10 seconds. According to the EPA, fuel economy was estimated at 24 MPG city, 34 MPG highway, and 28 MPG combined.

The second generation Rio saw a bump to 110 horsepower and 108 lb-ft of torque from the 1.6L engine. Models with the automatic transmission could reach 0-60 mph in about 9.5 seconds. Fuel economy improved slightly, with ratings of 27 MPG city, 33 MPG highway, and 30 MPG combined according to the EPA.

For the third generation, Kia again upped power to 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque from the 1.6L engine. The 0-60 mph time dropped to around 8.5 seconds. The EPA rated fuel economy at 29 MPG city, 37 MPG highway, and 32 MPG combined.

The latest fourth generation Kia Rio produces 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in about 9 seconds. Fuel economy is 33 MPG city, 41 MPG highway, and 36 MPG combined according to the EPA (source).

Safety Features

The Kia Rio has consistently offered a good amount of standard safety technology, especially for an affordable subcompact car. Even early generations of the Rio came equipped with standard front airbags and antilock brakes (ABS).

The second-generation Rio introduced optional side airbags and electronic stability control (ESC), while the third-generation model made side airbags and ESC standard. The fourth-gen Rio debuted Kia’s advanced driver assistance systems, offering available features like forward collision warning, lane keep assist, and driver attention monitoring.

While ratings have varied slightly between generations, the Rio has generally performed well in crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The latest 2022 Rio earned top “Good” scores in all IIHS tests except the passenger-side small overlap front test, where it received an “Acceptable.”

Overall, Kia has made safety a priority with the Rio, loading even its base models with the latest essential safety tech. Higher trims expand on that with advanced driver aids that were rare for an affordable car just a few years ago. For budget-focused shoppers, the Rio hits a sweet spot between value and safety.

2022 Kia Rio – IIHS Ratings
2022 Kia Rio Crash Test Ratings – Autoblog

Pricing and Availability

The Kia Rio has been an affordable, entry-level model since its introduction. Here’s a look at MSRP pricing over the years for different trim levels:

The base LX model had an MSRP around $13,600 when the first generation launched in 2000. In 2021, the LX started at $16,650 MSRP. The higher EX and SX trim levels have ranged from about $16,500-$21,000 MSRP over the years.

The current 2023 Kia Rio has a starting MSRP of $16,450 for the base LX model. The top S trim starts at $18,990 MSRP. Different optional packages and configurations can raise the price slightly.

The Kia Rio is sold at Kia dealerships across the United States as well as in many international markets. Kia produces the Rio at manufacturing plants in South Korea and Mexico.

Competitor Vehicles

The Kia Rio faces stiff competition in the subcompact car segment from rivals like the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit.

The Toyota Yaris is often cited as one of the Rio’s closest competitors. The Yaris has similar dimensions to the Rio and even beats it slightly in terms of cargo space. However, the Rio tends to edge out the Yaris when it comes to horsepower. For example, the 2022 Rio comes with a 120 HP engine, while the 2022 Yaris only offers 106 HP.

When it comes to pricing, the Rio and Yaris are very closely matched. The base model Rio LX starts at $16,450, while the base Yaris L starts at $17,750. Higher trim models are similarly priced between the two vehicles.

The Honda Fit is another key small car competitor to the Kia Rio. The Fit is praised for its excellent fuel efficiency and spacious interior given its small footprint. The Rio bests the Fit in terms of horsepower and torque with its 120 HP engine, compared to the Fit’s 109 HP. However, the Fit gets slightly better EPA estimated MPG. In pricing, the Fit starts at $17,160, making it slightly more expensive than the base Rio.

Overall, the Kia Rio is able to go toe-to-toe with rivals like the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit when it comes to pricing, fuel economy, features, and interior space. The Rio excels at offering great value in the subcompact segment while also delivering pleasing performance and modern tech features.

The Future of the Rio

With the current fourth generation Rio having launched in 2018, we likely won’t see a major redesign for at least a couple more years. However, there are some rumors and expectations for what the next generation Rio might bring.

We may see the next generation move to Kia’s latest “Opposites United” design language first seen on vehicles like the EV6. This could mean a more futuristic, sleek exterior design with Kia’s new “tiger face” grille. The interior may also get updated with a more minimalist, modern look.

There are expectations that the next Rio will come standard with even more advanced safety and technology features. This could include upgrades like pedestrian detection, lane centering assist, and a larger touchscreen display with wireless smartphone connectivity. The infotainment system may be updated to Kia’s latest version with enhanced voice control capabilities.

While details are still scarce, it’s reasonable to expect continued improvements in fuel efficiency. We may see availability of hybrid or even fully electric versions as Kia expands their eco-friendly lineup. Performance and handling may also get attention, with possible upgrades to suspension, steering, and brakes.

While the Rio will likely stay affordable, trims and option packages may be re-worked. We could see things like heated seats, sunroof, adaptive cruise control, and other premium features available on higher trim levels. More personalization may also come through expanded exterior color and wheel options.

Check back on the latest news and rumors as we get closer to the next generation Rio’s eventual debut. Kia appears committed to continuing to improve one of its most popular small car models for years to come.

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