Compact car; Built in South Korea
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,400 – $3,700*

2001 Kia Rio 4-door wagon

2001 Kia Rio 4-door wagon

2001 Kia Rio 4-door sedan

2002 Kia Rio Cinco 4-door wagon interior

2003 Kia Rio 4-door sedan

  • Fuel economy
  • Acceleration
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Rear-seat room (sedan)

Rios offer “cheap wheels” economy and a generous warranty, but Kia’s resale values are low, partly due to its unproven record of reliability and low ratings on independent surveys of customer satisfaction. Toyota’s Echo might be more desirable, but low resale values on a Kia translate to more appealing used-car prices.


For 2001, Kia introduced a new front-drive subcompact sedan, smaller and less expensive than the Sephia and Spectra. In fact, the entry-level Rio was billed as one of the lowest-priced cars sold in the U.S., starting at just $8585.

Derived from the 1995-97 Ford Aspire hatchback that had been designed and built by Kia, the Rio had new four-door sedan styling and updated powertrains. Sole engine was a 1.5-liter twincam four-cylinder, driving either a manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic.

Standard equipment included a rear-window defroster, center console, and full cloth interior trim. Antilock braking was optional. Air conditioning, a rear spoiler and alloy wheels also were options. An “Upgrade Package” added power steering with a tilt wheel, full wheel covers, body-color side moldings, and visor vanity mirrors.

Kia’s new Long Haul Warranty was similar to Hyundai’s: 5-year/60,000-mile basic, 10/100,000 powertrain, 5/100,000 rust, and 5/unlimited-mileage roadside assistance. Hyundai was Kia’s corporate parent in South Korea. Competitors included the similarly budget-priced Daewoo Lanos and Hyundai Accent, as well as the Toyota Echo, Nissan Sentra, Ford Focus, and Honda Civic.

Yearly Updates

2002 Rio
For 2002, 14-inch wheels replaced the original 13s as standard fare. More notable, Kia launched another body style. In 2002, the Rio came in both sedan and wagon form, sharing the four-cylinder engine and manual or optional automatic transmission.
Called the Cinco, the wagon included power steering and a tilt steering wheel. Both items were included with the sedan’s upgrade package. ABS and air conditioning were optional. Side airbags and power windows were unavailable.
2003 Rio
Freshened styling and a bigger engine marked the 2003 Rios. Kia’s mini-sized models also got a revised interior, chassis modifications, and more standard and optional features. The new 1.6-liter four-cylinder produced 105 horsepower (9 more than before).
Power windows were newly available, and power locks were optional. New standard features included rear-seat heater ducts, cupholders in front-door map pockets, and a CD player for the Cinco wagon. New options included fog lights and a rear spoiler for the Cinco.
Engine mounts, the exhaust system and steering system were modified to reduce noise and vibration. Suspension alterations improved ride comfort, while larger front brakes boosted stopping power. Side airbags were still not offered.
2004 Rio
The Rio’s wagon version got standard alloy wheels in 2004.
2005 Rio
Kia’s Rio is unchanged for 2005.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

In 2001-02, Rios used a 1.5-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine that developed 96 horsepower, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission. For 2003, a 1.6-liter engine replaced the 1.5-liter, producing 9 additional horsepower.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.6/97
Engine HP 105
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 104
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.5/91
Engine HP 96
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 98
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Rios cope adequately with city/suburban traffic, but struggle to reach highway speed, even at full throttle. The automatic transmission hunts annoyingly between gears, to maintain a pace on even moderate grades. One test car took a slow 11.5 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph, with an automatic transmission. The Rio feels little faster with manual shift, but the automatic wagon is more sluggish than the sedan.

Fuel economy is unimpressive, given the car’s light weight and mediocre power. Test Rios have averaged 25.2 mpg with an automatic transmission, 22.9 mpg with manual.

Ride quality benefited from the switch to 14-inch tires for 2002. Around town, the Rio’s suspension is absorbent enough to avoid jarring on broken and patchy surfaces. It’s choppy on scalloped freeways, though mild bounce occurs over only the largest bumps and dips.

Steering has a troublingly rubbery feel, and there’s plenty of body lean and front-end plowing in turns. Poor directional stability at highway speeds occurs with any crosswind. Simulated emergency stops were no problem, with or without optional ABS.

The engine moans and drones in hard acceleration, or when cruising above 55 mph or so. Wind rush is tolerably low, but tires are noisy even on fairly smooth pavement.

Instruments and controls are part of an uninspired design, but logical and convenient, except for smallish audio controls. Sedans lack a tachometer and a trunklid release, but intermittent wipers have been standard. Cabin materials are slightly better than entry-level pricing would suggest. One test sedan’s rear parcel shelf vibrated loudly when a rear door or the trunklid was slammed.

Front-headroom is good, because seats are low to the floor. A height-adjustable driver’s seat has been standard, though the optional tilt wheel does not lift that high and larger drivers may feel confined. A standard fold-down driver’s armrest is a nice touch. Rearward visibility is poor on both body styles.

Back seats are very tight for adult legs, unless front passengers move well ahead; even then, toe space is minimal. Wagons seem to have slightly more head room than the sedan’s bare minimum. No rear cupholders are supplied. Entry/exit is tight because doors have narrow bottoms and do not open wide.

Sedan trunk space is good for such a small car, but the opening won’t swallow large boxes, and no fold-down rear seatback has been offered. Wagons have a split-folding rear seat, roomy cargo hold, and convenient pull-down tailgate handle, but a high floor lip hinders easy loading.


Model Tested: 2002 Kia Rio sedan w/automatictransmission

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 2
Fuel Economy - 7
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 3
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 1

Total: 32


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
94.9 165.9 65.9 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
9.2 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.4 37.6 42.8 32.7
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
94.9 165.9 65.9 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
44.3 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.4 37.6 42.8 32.7
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 Rio 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Dashboard lights
Description: The check-engine light may come on (and phantom trouble codes stored) due to a software glitch in the transmission-control module. A new module is available. (2001)
Dashboard lights
Description: The transmission-control module program had problems with the lockup-converter strategy on some early build vehicles that illuminate the check-engine light. A revised module corrects the problem. (2001)
Description: The fuse panel-cover tends to fall off whenever the hood latch is pulled. A revised cover is available. (2000)

Recall History

Description: Fuel leaks could develop at fuel-distributor assembly. Dealers will inspect and replace affected assemblies.
Description: Wheels on some cars could crack under long-term driving fatigue; wheel noise and vibration would worsen over time, and a severe crack could result in separation of the wheel.
2001-04 Rio and Cinco
Description: The fuel intake nipple may crack in certain situations and possible cause fuel leakage. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.