The first-generation Rio offered only one engine for each year in the USA: a 96hp 1.5-litre DOHC I4 gasoline engine from 2001 through 2002, then a larger version of the same engine, a 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder rated at 105hp (78kW), from 2003 through 2005. All years offered a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.
An alternative of a 1.3-litre (1343cc) SOHC four-cylinder/eight-valve petrol (75hp) was offered in some other countries, including the United Kingdom and Greece. A diesel engine was also available in other markets.
The USA-version hatchback came standard with power steering and a tachometer; these were optional on the sedan. However, marketing did not distinguish trim levels in the USA version.
The European version was marketed under several trim levels; standard equipment for all trims included power steering and radio. Additional features were available for promotion in Greece, including leather seats and car alarm.
Safety features were basic, consisting of seat belts and an airbag for the driver. ABS was available as an option for entry-line cars but fitted by default for top of the range models (i.e., Rio LX, in the UK, and Rio LS, in Greece).
At one time, the Rio was the cheapest new car on the U.S. market, costing only US$6995. Some US dealers even offered free base model Rios with purchase of a higher end vehicle, like the Kia Sedona minivan. In Greece, the cost was 9,990€ for the RIO LS, with pre-paid the 3-year service.
First generation facelift
Rio received a mild redesign for the 2003 model year including upgrades in engine, suspension, and brakes and other improvements with new styling outside including a different grille and headlights and inside a new instrument panel and console. In Europe, the facelift Rio received minor changes in external look and engine improvement from 75hp (56kW) to 80hp (60kW) @5500 RPM, and 86 lb-ft @3000 RPM. In Iran SAIPA Corporation started montaging the facelift version of KIA Rio in 2005. SAIPA chose the 1.5 engine that produces 97hp (72kW) at 5500rpm and 135N·m (100ft·lbf) torque at 4500 rpm.In Iran KIA Rio is well known for its acceleration but it is criticized for its noisy engine.The SAIPA version of KIA Rio lacks ABS and Airbag in addition to some other features.