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Kia Rio wins 'Autobest 2006' award...
And a new crossover concept for NAIAS

Kia Soul concept car: a new crossover concept to be unveiled at Detroit 2006 NAIAS.

Soul concept: world premiere at the 2006 NAIAS auto show in Detroit.

20th December 2005.

Just a few days after the Kia Rio won the East European 'Autobest 2006' award for being 'the... most suitable for the needs of the population of the region', the Korean carmaker released a preview sketch of the all-new "Soul" concept car, which will make its world premiere at the Cobo Hall on January 9, at the upcoming North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

The Kia Soul concept is a crossover utility vehicle with a sporty, bold look that builds on design cues from the Kia Mesa concept vehicle introduced at the 2005 NAIAS.

A wrap-around windshield, muscular wheel flares, stylish front headlamps and a sloped roofline convey an athletic attitude for the Soul, which is geared toward an active lifestyle. Though small on the outside, it is big inside with practical interior room and a reconfigurable cargo space. The rear lift gate includes a unique "drawer" for wet or muddy items such as a wetsuit or hiking shoes.

Kia Rio

New Kia Rio: available as sedan or hatchback.

But North America is not the only market where Kia intends to grow significantly fast. Eastern Europe, where the car maker is building a 300,000 units capacity plant at Zilina, Slovakia, voted five days ago the Rio as No. 1 for offering 'great versatility', by a jury of influential motoring writers from 12 Eastern European countries.

The Kia Rio won the prestigious 'Autobest 2006' award for being 'the new car most suitable for the needs of the population of the region, thoroughly modern with new technology and affordable to buy.'

Announcing the 2006 winner, Autobest Chairman Mr. Dan Vardie commented, "Kia Rio emerged as the winner thanks to its fantastic value for money, great versatility, and the important strides made by Kia in developing an excellent dealer network across all of Europe."

The Kia Rio surpassed its short listed contenders as follows:

- Kia Rio, 706 points,
- Ford Focus (659),
- Renault Clio (599; the Clio III won last month the European "Car of the Year" title),
- Chevrolet Spark (467; made in Korea by Daewoo and known as Matiz in some markets),
- Suzuki Swift (449; the Swift won recently the Car magazine "Car of the Year" title in the UK, and the "Most Fun" category in the Japanese Car of the Year).

The 2006 shortlist of finalists was selected after each jury member proposed five all-new models they regarded as the 'best' cars of the year that cost less than €15,000. In the USA, Rio prices start from $12,445 for the Rio 4 doors sedan and from $13,500 for the Rio5 (5 doors), plus $540 delivery charge.

"The Autobest 2006 award for the Kia Rio is a splendid achievement for the growing Kia brand," commented Jean-Charles Lievens, Senior Vice President Kia Motors Europe. "Jury members from the emerging Eastern European countries have given our B-Segment newcomer the strongest possible endorsement as the ideal car for motorists in this region."

Yong-Hwan Kim, Senior Executive Vice-President and COO of Kia Motors Corporation stated, "This award marks the first time an Asian car maker has been awarded a car of the year distinction by Autobest in the 'emerging markets' of Europe, which clearly demonstrates that Kia is in tune with the needs of the European customers and committed to expansion throughout our largest overseas market."

Established in 2001, the 'Autobest Among Emerging Markets' group is the leading motoring organization in Central and Eastern Europe.

The 12 countries taking part in Autobest are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Romania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine. These countries represent a total market of more than 200 million people, and the Autobest program is now considered the second-largest independent annual European motoring assessment activity after the European Car of the Year (COTY) award.

Each judge from the 12-strong Autobest jury has up to 240 points they can allocate across 13 'criteria zones' under which the candidate cars are assessed. The cars are rated for Interior, Exterior, Handling, Dynamics, Comfort, Technology, Versatility, Safety, Fuel Economy, Environment, Spare Parts, Distributors and Price.

Previous winners were the Dacia Logan (2004, Dacia is part of the Renault Group), Fiat Panda (2003) and Citroen C3 (2002, Citroen is part of the Peugeot - Citroen PSA Group).

* About Kia Motors Corporation: One of the fastest growing automakers in the world, Kia was founded in 1944 and is Korea's oldest manufacturer of motor vehicles. As part of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, Kia aims to become one of the world's premier automotive brands. Kia's 16 manufacturing and assembly operations in 12 countries produce more than 1.1 million vehicles a year that are sold and serviced through a network of distributors and dealers covering 155 countries. Kia today has over 32,000 employees and annual revenues of $14 billion.

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