South Korean car maker Kia is recalling around 72,600 of its small Rio models due to a fault that could lead to an airbag being dangerously deployed on a child, US safety officials said Tuesday.

Rio cars made between 2006 and 2008 are affected by the recall, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Board said.

It said a sensor in the front passenger seat designed to prevent the airbag from deploying if the occupant is a small child can fail due to cracking.

The failure could mean "that the system will not be able to detect whether a child passenger is in the seat and the airbag will deploy during a crash."

The force of airbags popping out have been shown to be extremely dangerous and even lethal to small children in the front seat of vehicles, necessitating the use of the sensor.

Kia said it would alert owners of the Rios involved and replace the sensor mat free of charge.