Kia is to Hyundai what Honda is to Toyota - the carmaker forced to play second fiddle to the more well-known giant. Kia is South Korea’s second-largest automaker. The manufacturer sold about 1.6 million units in 2009 in 172 countries, employs over 42,000 people and runs 13 assembly facilities. Headquartered in Seoul, the company was founded in 1944, North America sales begun in 1994, and current president is Hyung-Keun Lee. It is also ironically part-owned by its major competitor Hyundai, due to the Asian financial crisis of 1997 that caused Kia’s bankruptcy and Hyundai to outbid Ford for a 51% stake in the marque.
From 2005 Kia, just like Hyundai, decided to pursue a fresher, more ‘European’ design. Peter Schreyer, formerly at Audi and VW, was hired as head of design to achieve this, and his team’s latest eye-catching designs (and resultant increase in sales) are vindication of this strategy change. The defining feature of Kia’s new look is the distinctive ‘Tiger Nose’ and it seems the company is really living up to its slogan “The power to surprise”.
Kia’s New Zealand offerings start with the Cerato, a small sedan/ coupe offered only with a 2.0 litre engine. The Carens is a compact 7-seater multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) also marketed as the Rondo in other regions. The Carnival (Sedona elsewhere) is a larger 8-seater MPV with a 3.8 litre engine. The K2900 is the workhorse pickup truck in the range. The Magentis is a midsize car that began production is 2002. The Picanto is a small city car popular with budget-conscious buyers especially in Europe. The Rio is a subcompact available as sedan or hatchback. Sorento is a midsize crossover SUV sold exclusively with a 2.2 diesel engine. The Sportage is the Sorentos’s smaller brother, and the latest (2010) model is sure to be one of the most eye-catching SUV’s of the year. Last is the Soul, a 1st-generation mini-MPV incorporating the ‘Tiger Nose’ and first unveiled in 2008.
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