Theory of Evolution diagram with 2020 Kia Rio over red background

Family Tree: The Kia Rio

Kia Rio Model History and Generations 

What once replaced the Kia Pride has now become one of the most recognizable names from the Kia brand. The Kia Rio subcompact car first made its way into the market in 1999 to take on competitors like the Dodge Neon and the Ford Fiesta. Since its debut, the Rio has evolved through four generations into the Rio we recognize today.  

>>> READ MORE: 2020 Kia Rio Technology Features and Infotainment <<< 

The Rio was once the Kia brand’s attempt at beating out the competition with the lowest price tag and has since developed into a sporty car with an even sportier performance.  

Let’s see what the different generations of the Kia Rio have brought through its model history.  

First-Generation Kia Rio Model History 

Model years: 1999 – 2005 
Model variations: four-door sedan and five-door wagon 
Passengers: 5 passengers 
Engines: 1.5-liter DOHC I4 engine, 1.6-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine 
Transmissions: Five-speed manual transmission, four-speed automatic transmission 

The first-generation Kia Rio offered drivers two different model options – one with four doors and one with five. The sedan and station wagon body styles appealed to drivers looking for an affordable vehicle and with the Rio being the least-expensive mass-produced vehicle in the US, it was well-received. However, drivers quickly realized that the overall build quality of the Rio and its on-road driving experience fell far below that of its competitors.  

Throughout the first generation, the Rio received mild redesigns and facelifts here and there with updates to the engine, brakes, and suspension.  

Red 2006 Kia Rio
Red 2009 Kia Rio

Second-Generation Kia Rio Model History 

Model years: 2006 – 2011 
Model variations: four-door sedan and five-door hatchback 
Passengers: 5 passengers 
Engines: 1.6-liter DOHC four-cylinder Alpha ll engine 
Transmissions: Five-speed manual transmission, four-speed automatic transmission 

In its second generation, Kia dropped the Rio wagon and replaced it with a hatchback variation that offered additional space inside the cabin. This second-generation model brought updates like air conditioning, power steering, a CD player, Sirius Satellite Radio, USB ports, auxiliary jacks, and more.  

In 2010 the Rio was finally fitted with the now-iconic Kia tiger-nose grille and optional hand-free Bluetooth® operation buttons could be added to the vehicle’s steering wheel.   

Third-Generation Kia Rio Model History 

White 2015 Kia Rio
Infotainment system in 2015 Kia Rio

Model years: 2012 – 2017 
Model variations: four-door sedan and five-door hatchback 
Passengers: 5 passengers 
Engines: 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine 
Transmissions: Six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic transmission 

In the 2012 model year Kia furthered its commitment to staying eco-friendly by using recyclable materials for 85 percent of the Rio model’s build. The seat foam in the Rio was now 100-percent biodegradable and non-toxic castor oil was used.  

The third-generation Rio sat longer, wider, and lower than previous generations, creating a more aggressive stance on the road.  

Fourth-Generation Kia Rio Model History 

Model years: 2018 – Present 
Model variations: four-door sedan and five-door hatchback 
Passengers: 5 passengers 
Engines: 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine, Gamma 2 1.6-liter MPI engine 
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, iVT transmission 

Blue 2020 Kia Rio
Red 2019 Kia Rio 5-door and blue 2019 Kia Rio

The Kia Rio brought an all-new design to its fourth generation that Kia referred to as “decidedly European” in the 2018 model’s initial press release. The subcompact vehicle lineup brought advanced safety technology, innovative technology, and an efficient performance to a vehicle that consumers already knew was fun to drive. With significant improvements to every aspect of the Rio in its fourth generation, this lineup of Rio models is at its best yet.  

In its fourth generation, we have seen impressive updates and added technology that set the Rio above the rest of the competition. Notable additions include upgrades to standard touchscreen infotainment systems and the standardization of smartphone connectivity across trim grades.  

>>> READ MORE: Kia Soul Models and Generation History <<< 

The subcompact Rio will always have a special place in the heart of Friendly Kia. We can’t wait to see where future generations take the Kia Rio and what kind of updates upcoming models will bring. You can view our current lineup of in-stock fourth-generation Kia Rio models in the Friendly Kia online inventory. If you have any questions about the Rio or other Kia models, contact a member of our team. 

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