Design & Technology / Product

The Kia Rio Then and Now – A Design Evolution March 29th, 2012

Sit down, buckle up and let’s take a trip down memory lane to explore a magical makeover story that would make Oprah Winfrey cry (well maybe not Oprah). Today on Kia Buzz, we’re going to outline the design evolution of the Kia Rio and how it went from an ordinary subcompact to a top selling vehicle that has won multiple prestigious design awards.

1987 (Pride)

The Rio’s origin dates back to an earlier model which was known as the Kia Pride in 1987. This mini hatchback was a joint project between Kia, Ford and Mazda. It was sold in Korea as the Kia Pride, but was known as the Ford Festiva for the US market.

1994 (Avella)

The Pride became the Kia Avella in the domestic Korean market and was sold as the Ford Aspire in the US. All Avellas came standard with 13 inch wheels, a four-speaker stereo, heated rear glass, anti-lock brakes (ABS), driver’s side airbag, and door impact beams. It was also the first South Korean car in its class to offer dual airbags and ABS-brakes.

1999 (Rio)

The Avella was discontinued in 1999 and both it and the Pride (first generation Ford Festiva) were transformed  and re-badged to become the Kia Rio, but Rio still goes by ‘Pride’ in the domestic Korean market. The Rio was available in both hatchback and 4-door sedan body styles and featured a 96 horsepower, 1.5-litre DOHC  gasoline engine from 2001-2002.

Yes, these name changes might be confusing, but simply think of it as the classic tomato saying, “You say ‘tomayto,’ I say ‘tomahto.’ Sometimes the same car model goes by different names in various markets and regions.


A few years later, the Rio received a slight redesign with new exterior and interior styling along with engine, suspension and brake upgrades.


A fairy godmother once transformed Cinderella’s pumpkin into a stunning horse carriage, and in a similar fashion, bringing Peter Schreyer on board as Kia’s Chief Designer Officer was indeed magical. He dramatically introduced new design improvements and our engineers were inspired to match looks with performance by including a 110 horsepower 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine.


In 2010, the Rio embraced Kia’s distinctive tiger nose grille and added some modern and high-tech features such as Bluetooth hands-free phone operation and a new gauge cluster.


2011 – Present

And after 25 years of enhanced design, performance, safety, features and fuel efficiency – we  have arrived to the present day All-New Rio. It has both style and performance with multiple engine choices, trims, colors and options to meet the needs of drivers from all walks of life. Talk about the power to surprise!

Learn More

Note: Trims and specifications vary by region. For more details about what’s available in your area, be sure to ask your local Kia dealer.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts on the Rio’s design transformation? If you’d like to know the history of any other Kia models, let us know in the comments section.

  • My KIA/Hyundai experience is this:

    1989 – Looked at Hyundai Excell and chose Mercury Tracer (re-badged Mazda 323) as Excell was less well made.   
    2006 – Had a KIA Rio Rental car and was very impressed! 
    2008 -Purchased 2009 Hyundai Sonata over KIA Optima
    2012 – I would byt the Optima over the Sonata at thi point due to content feature,

    Way to go KIA/Hyundai- !!!!!!!!!

  • Definitetruth

    Good article and good car. I test drove a 2012 Rio sedan in a higher trim package and loved it.

  • Ricardo Rodriguez

    Hi … In Colombia, the inventory of Kia Rio Sedan full mechanical equipment is empty! I want white, I am waiting for 3 months, but never gets in the boat! Please send the cars … my name is Ricardo R. Barranquilla, Colombia.

  • zai

    how much why the price is not mentioned any one knows the price of carens