23 January 2004

The new Cerato, unveiled last week, will form an important part of Kia’s huge growth plans over the next three years, as the Korean brand aims to treble UK sales by the end of 2006.

The Focus-sized Cerato was revealed in four-door form at this month’s Brussels show, although the bigger seller will be the five-door variant saved for the Geneva show in March.

A choice of 101bhp 1.5 diesel and 104bhp 1.6 petrol engines will initially be offered, with 2.0-litre petrol and diesels of 110bhp or 141bhp coming later. Five-speed manual and four-speed auto are the transmission choices, along with two trim levels. Kia claims competitive interior space for the Cerato, which cost more than £150m to develop. Although it is 30mm shorter than the Shuma it replaces, its wheelbase is 50mm longer. Sales start in May, priced from around £9000.

Kia is currently the fastest-growing brand in Europe, with sales of more than 21,000 last year, a 72 per cent increase over 2002. But the target – fuelled by a range of new models – is 60,000 by the end of 2006, which will lift the brand into the top 15 in the UK from its current position of 24th.

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The Cerato will be joined by a host of new models: the Picanto city car in May; an SUV replacement for Sportage goes on sale at the end of the year after a Paris debut; and a new supermini to slot between Picanto and Cerato will be unveiled at the 2005 Geneva show.

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