The end seems to be near.
When the Kia Rio debuted in 1999, it was branded as the cheapest new car for sale in the US. The first generation, not totally unstylish, suffered from disappointing build quality and a bland driving feel. But honestly, what'd you expect from a cheap little economy car? Fast-forward to 2017 when the fourth generation arrived, and the Rio sedan and Rio hatchback retained the styling and value element while significantly upgrading overall reliability.
But times change, for better or worse, and sales of the Rio are not what they once were. A new report from Automotive News suggests the subcompact sedan and hatch could be dropped from the lineup after the upcoming 2022 model year.
If so, the Rio would cease production after a 23-year run, an impressive period of time. Subcompact sedans and hatches have been disappearing from our roads over the past few years, among them the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Fiesta. Their replacements were subcompact crossovers and this trend appears to be continuing.
The Kia's corporate cousin, the Hyundai Accent, will likely suffer a similar fate. Sales of the Rio have been steadily declining in the US after 2014 when they peaked at 40,742 units. Last year, 23,927 examples were sold, which was still quite good considering the pandemic. Sales have remained relatively similar so far this year.
The Rio lineup was mildly refreshed for 2021 featuring new front and rear bumpers, an eight-inch touchscreen, and standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both segment firsts. Pricing begins at only $16,050. But the Rio may not be the only Kia sedan leaving the scene after next year. The rear-wheel-drive Stinger, while never a strong seller, is quickly approaching the end of its lifetime and there's no successor planned.
Automakers never reveal future product details in advance so the chances of receiving a confirmation from Kia about the Rio's status isn't good. But the fact that Kia is planning more EVs beyond the EV6 is yet another indicator the Rio is on its way out.