Kia Rio Review and Specs

Kia Rio Review


  • Great mileage, low running costs, and high reliability
  • Great deals across the pre-owned car market
  • A smooth ride and roomy interiors


  • A bit sluggish
  • Fairly standard
  • Exterior subcompact styling leaves something to be desired
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Overview, Look, and Feel of the Kia Rio

The Rio was introduced by Kia Motors in the year 2000, and it has been produced and sold ever since. Originally, the Rio replaced Ford’s Festiva, which was rebranded as a Kia in many international markets. Currently in its third generation, the Kia Rio has performed well on the market, creating a legion of loyal fans with its reliability, performance, and affordability. Over the years, the car has been available as either a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback, however, the majority of Rios sold are hatchbacks. The Rio continues to perform well today, with the third-generation ‘Rio Reborn’ selling well in its market segment.

A subcompact, the Rio was first launched in 2000 in order to tap into an already promising market. The first-generation Rio was sold from 2000 through 2005. When originally released, it had one of the lowest purchase prices on a new car in history. Car owners and critics alike praised the affordability and styling of the car, and it sold well in major markets. In 2005, Kia introduced a second-generation Kia Rio. This reboot shared its platform with Hyundai’s Excel/Accent, Hyundai being a sister company of Kia. The two cars were both subcompacts, and they had similar builds and powertrains. For the model year of 2012, Kia launched the third generation of the Rio, which is still on offer today.

Throughout its production run, the Kia Rio has gained acclaim for its roominess (despite its subcompact nature), fuel economy, and drive. Smooth handling and a comfortable ride make up for the fact that the Rio tends to understeer. Reliable engines and high safety ratings round out the Rio as a great choice for nearly any car buyer. In fact, the latest Kia Rio received a five-star safety rating from ANCAP and a near perfect overall score of 35 out of 37.

While the Rio doesn’t exactly feature luxurious standard kit, the overall quality and low purchase price more than make up for this fact. What’s more, with a range of great optional kit from Kia Motors, nearly any Rio can be transformed into a high-end hatchback. In addition, thousands of Rios are currently on offer on the used car market, so finding the right Rio for you or your family should be a breeze.

Kia Rio Engine Specs and Performance

The first-generation Rio featured Kia’s new Millennium Innovation Technologies in the engine. That car was offered with a 1.5L 16-valve V4 engine with an output of 71kW of power and 132Nm of torque. The original generation was offered in a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed intelligent automatic transmission. The second generation featured two engine options under the bonnet, a 1.4L in-line V4 with an output of 71kW and 125Nm or a more powerful 1.6L V4 with 82kW and 145Nm of torque. In 2012, Kia released the third-generation Rio, branded as the ‘Rio Reborn.’ That car features either a 1.4L V4 with 79kW and 135Nm of torque or a V4 1.6L version with a max power of 103kW and a max torque of 167Nm.

Standard Equipment and Options for the Kia Rio

On original Rios, several fuel-saving features came standard. These included reduced emissions of fuel vapours as well as a plastic fuel tank for reduced fuel consumption. Standard kit on that first generation also included power steering, a driver’s airbag, air-conditioning and an AM/FM radio/CD sound system with 6 speakers. A mid-2000s facelift added power windows and power door mirrors.

Later versions of the Rio had several new features. These included remote central locking with keyless entry, dual airbags, and a special body shell built around a safety cage for passengers, which further increased the safety of the Rio. Options on the Rio include leather seating, manual transmission, automatic climate control, and a push button start/stop key.

Kia Rio's Competition

The Rio faced tough competition from other cars in the subcompact category. These included the Toyota Yaris and the Hyundai Excel/Accent. Around the same time the Rio was produced, the Yaris boasted either a 1.3L V4 engine with an output of 63kW and 121Nm or a 1.5L V4 version with a top power of 80kW and a top torque of 141Nm. Alternatively, the Hyundai range-topper featured a 1.5L engine with 78kW and 144Nm of torque. The Kia Rio has generally done well against competitors, however, and continues to post big sales numbers.

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