The Kia Rio is categorised as a light passenger vehicle under FCAI Australia’s segmentation criteria, which is equivalent to a small car classified as subcompact (American), B-segment (European), or super-mini (UK). It belongs in the same classification as Hyundai Accent and Volkswagen Polo.
The Rio was first released in late 1999 by the South Korean automaker, Kia Motors Corporation, to replace the first-generation Kia Pride.
1st Generation: DC (1999–2005)
The first generation of Kia Rio was assigned the model code “DC” and was produced in four-door sedan and five-door station wagon variants. The Rio DC was introduced to the different markets in the following versions and names:
- USA – station wagon marketed as Rio Cinco; sedan was available and called Rio
- Canada – station wagon marketed as Rio RX-V
- Chile – station wagon marketed as Rio Look
- UK – station wagon marketed simply as Rio
- Greece – station wagon and sedan, both marketed as Rio (from the second generation onwards, it was called Pride in Greece)
The engine and trim level offerings varied per market as follows:
- USA – the five-door station wagon standard features included power steering and a tachometer, while these were optional features for the four-door sedan. Kia offered the following engines for Rio (but only one engine per model year):
- From 2001 to 2002 – 1.5L DOHC I4 petrol engine; rated at 72 kW; available at 5-speed MT and 4-speed AT
- From 2003 to 2005 – 1.6L DOHC 4-cyl; rated at 78 kW; available at 5-speed MT and 4-speed AT
- Europe, including UK and other countries – in Europe, the driver airbag was standard trim for all trim levels offered, while promotional trims in Greece included car alarm and leather seats. In addition to the two engine versions offered in the USA, a third option was available for most parts of the European market (including UK) with the following specs:
- 1.3L SOHC 4-cyl 8V petrol engine; rated at 56 kW
- South Korea – only 1.3L and 1.5L engine options were available in Kia’s home market due to the heavy taxation imposed on cars fitted with engines exceeding 1.5L. There were three engine options available, with higher power rating than those available in other markets.
- 1.3L SOHC engine; rated at 84 PS (62 kW)
- 1.5L SOHC engine; rated at 95 PS (70 kW)
- 1.5 DOHC engine; rated at 108 PS (79 kW)
Seatbelts and driver airbag were standard features for all variants. Anti-locking brake system was standard for top-level variants, but was an option for entry-level models.
The Sports-Pac was the sporty version of Rio. It was similar to the regular Rio in its mechanical structure and appearance, except for a lower suspension and added exterior features like an air dam on the hood, a rear wing, golden wings, and blue paint.
Upgrade/Facelift: SF (2002)
The 2003 model year received mechanical upgrades and restyling (both interior and exterior) in 2002. Dubbed as Rio SF—which stood for both Science Fiction and Safety First—the new version now included the following upgrades and facelift:
- Upgraded engine – in Europe, the 1.3L engine was now rated at 60 kW power and 117 N⋅m torque
- Upgraded suspension and brakes
- Restyled exterior and interior
2nd Generation: JB (2005–2011)
In 2005, Kia came out with the second-generation Rio for model year 2006. The new model was called Rio JB, which now shared a redesigned platform and the same upgraded engine with the Hyundai Accent. The following were the new features of the JB series:
- 1.6L DOHC 4-cyl Alpha II engine
- Increased exterior size and interior volume
- Restyled exterior
- Enhanced safety features
A new body style was introduced in this generation—the 5-door hatchback. It took the place of the station wagon, which was discontinued from this generation onwards. The Rio sedan was offered in both base and LX trims, with the LX bundled with power steering, AC, and CD player.
Not all body styles were available for all markets, though, as had been the case in the previous generation. The following were the variants in the different markets:
- North America – available in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback called Rio5 (offered in SX trim including leather-covered steering wheel), with no other engine option but the standard 1.6L petrol engine.
- Europe, including UK – only the hatchback was available, but three engine versions were offered:
- 1.6L DOHC engine rated at 82 kW
- 1.4L engine rated at 72 kW
- 1.5L turbo diesel engine rated at 81 kW
- Malaysia – only the hatchback was available, which was offered in one trim level only and with a powertrain of 1.4L 16V DOHC engine with 4-speed AT.
Several modifications took place in the succeeding years:
- 2007 – the Rio sedan was offered with SX trim level (same as Rio5 SX hatchback)
- 2008 – the Rio5 hatchback was offered with LX trim level (same as Rio LX sedan)
- 2008 – a limited-edition model called Rio5 SX Tuner was produced; it featured Eibach Federn lowering springs, Falken FK452 tyres, and Tanabe strut tower bar
- 2009 – all Rio sedan and Rio5 hatchback variants were offered with standard Sirius satellite radio, USB port, and auxiliary jack/Bt mobile phone port
- 2010 – all Rio models were restyled with Kia’s tiger-nose grille, Soul-style steering wheel (with optional Bluetooth hands-free phone operation), modified headlight, and narrower side mouldings.
3rd Generation: UB (2011–2017)
The release of the Accent-based UB series in 2011 marked the third-generation production of Kia Rio. Interestingly, this generation was also called Kia Pride—not to be confused with Rio’s predecessor—in some markets. It was called Kia K2 in China and Kia Rio R in Equador. The following combination of specs and features were offered:
- American market – available in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback; two powertrains were offered:
- 1.4L Gamma GDi petrol engine, 6-speed MT and 6-speed AT
- 1.6L Gamma GDi petrol engine, 6-speed MT and 6-speed AT
- European market – available in 4-door sedan, 5-door hatchback, and 3-door hatchback (sporty look); the following powertrains were offered:
- 1.4L Gamma GDi petrol engine, 6-speed MT
- 1.25L petrol engine, 5-speed MT
- 1.4L CRDi turbo diesel engine, 6-speed MT
- 1.1L CRDi turbo diesel engine, 6-speed MT – lowest CO2 emissions, one of the highest KPL (kilometers per liter) among non-electric or hybrid cars
- Malaysian market – available in the hatchback variant with 1.4L G4FA Gamma MPi engine; the sedan variant, which was powered by 1.4L 4-cylinder engine with 4-speed AT, was released in 2016
The Rio UB series received awards and recognition, such as:
- The Continental Irish Car of the Year 2012, outshining prominent models in the automotive industry like the Ford Focus and Peugeot 506
- The Carguide’s 2011 Car of the Year award, winning over Volvo S60 and Ford Focus
4th Generation: YB (2017–present)
Kia Rio’s YB series was unveiled during the 2016 Paris Motor Show. The third-generation Rio had a longer front overhang, a bigger bonnet, and a straighter C-pillar than the previous generation. The following were the available offerings in the market:
- Europe – hatchback version only
- USA – hatchback and sedan versions
- Malaysia – hatchback only with one trim level
For the years 2012 and 2015, the Rio had been Kia’s top-selling model worldwide, selling over 466,000 units in each of those years.
In 2017, Kia Rio was again bestowed with the following two badges of distinction in recognition of its outstanding design:
- 2017 Red Dot Award for Outstanding Product Design
- 2017 iF Design Award for Discipline Product
2018-2019 PETROL, 1.0, G3LC, TURBO, YB, 06/18
2016-2019 PETROL, 1.4 G4LC, YB, 12/ 2016 ONWARDS
By Jeannette Salanga (JMSL)