Morgan Pritchett
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Kia Rio History

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2020 Kia Rio fourth generation
2020 Kia Rio sedan and hatchback
Photo: Kia

When Kia introduced the Rio to the U.S. in 2006, only a handful of models — like the Sedona, Sportage, Optima, and now-retired Sephia — were being exported to the country. However, before it came to America, the Rio debuted in late 1999 in South Korea to replace two previous models: the Pride and the Avella.


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Early history

By the time the Rio made its way to the U.S., it was sharing the same platform as Kia’s sister brand, Hyundai, and its subcompact Accent. While both vehicles were offered as hatchbacks in the beginning, only the Rio 5-Door withstood the test of time since the Hyundai Accent hatchback was discontinued in 2018. Over the years, the Rio received significant upgrades — in the form of standard tech — and facelifts to keep it relevant. What made the small vehicle especially appealing following the 2008 financial crisis was that it was deemed one of the least expensive cars to insure in 2009 by U.S. News & World Report.

Recent years

The Kia Rio is now in its fourth generation and is even more advanced and still a great value. Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, heated rear glass, Bluetooth wireless streaming, and Siri Eyes Free voice-recognition. The 2020 Rio, when equipped with available automatic emergency braking and LED headlights, also received a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS.

  • 2006 Kia Rio second generation
  • 2011 Kia Rio third generation
  • 2017 Kia Rio third generation
  • 2020 Kia Rio exterior

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Kia Rio fun facts

  • Manufactured in Pesquería, Mexico, alongside the Forte.
  • The hatchback is sometimes called the Rio Cinco.
  • In 2011, it was named the Semperit Irish Car of the Year.
  • The fourth-gen Rio was designed in California and Germany.
  • “Rio” means “river” in Spanish.

Want to learn more about Kia? Check out the history of the Kia badge and find out what the much-loved Korean logo looks like!