The Rio is one of Kia's more affordable cars. Unfortunately, the first Rio released was considered to be lacking in many aspects like handling and construction. This was the unfortunate effect of building a cheap car while making awful compromises on quality. Successive iterations of the Rio gradually improved on these areas and the Kia eventually became a generally enjoyable and adequate mode of transportation.
2000 - First generation
The first Rio released was sold as a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. It was initially powered by a 96-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-four gasoline engine which was eventually upgraded to a bigger 105-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-four. Transmission was either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Power steering and a tachometer were included in the hatchback models. Safety features included airbags, seatbelts and eventually, an anti-lock braking system.
Reviews of the Rio at the time were generally unfavorable. Many critics pointed out the underpowered and noisy engine, the lack of features, awful handling and poor quality materials.
2005 - Second generation
The second generation Rio was also sold as a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback and was powered by a 110-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Transmission choices were still the five-speed manual and the four-speed automatic. Two trim levels were available: the LX, equipped with air-conditioning, power steering, CD audio system and tilt steering, and the SX, which came with all LX amenities along with additional items like alloy wheels. In 2010, Bluetooth capabilities and cruise control were some of the added features of the Rio. Antilock brakes were an additional safety feature added later on.
The second generation Rio was considered to be a small improvement over the previous generation. The engine was still considered to be lacking in power but its fuel efficiency was undoubtedly remarkable. Overall driving performance was more than adequate and, paired with the car's affordable price, was definitely something to consider.
2011 - Third Generation
All third generation Rios are powered by a 138-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and are sold in LX, EX and SX trim levels. The LX comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic while the EX and the SX comes only with a six-speed automatic. Standard features on the LX and other trims include a tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, and an audio system with satellite radio and an iPod and USB interface. The EX trim has additional amenities like Bluetooth interface and cruise control while the SX comes with upgrades like alloy wheels, improved suspension and a voice-activated interface.
The latest generation Rio is a very significant improved compared to its past iterations. The engine finally has a decent amount of power in it along with the ever remarkable fuel efficiency. The design and style of the interior is better than plenty of other vehicles in its class, a far cry from the cheap compromises contained within older generation Rios.