The Korean advance continues as Kia and Hyundai launch two excellent newcomers

Road Tested By Hugh Maguire

OVER the last few years the Korean car manufacturers of Hyundai and Kia have been producing some excellent new cars. For those who do not know, Hyundai actually own Kia but market their two brands completely seperately. They do of course share platforms, and technologies such as engines and gearboxes yet while some models are similiar across both ranges such as the Hyundai iX35 and the Kia Sportage, others are completely different.

I see the advance of the Koreans as being very much like what we saw with the arrival of Japanese car manufacturers to Europe many decades ago.

Hyundai and Kia are producing some really class winning cars. They have style, panache, quality, reliability and to be honest an ingredient sadly lacking in many mainstream Japanese cars these days … flair!

The latest cars I have tested from the Koreans surpass many of their Japanese rivals. What is so interesting is that they have achieved this in such a very short time too.

So today here is a quick introduction to another two newcomers from both Hyundai and Kia.

The new Hyundai i40 is going to be available as a Tourer initially (on sale now) and a saloon to be here in December. The Hyundai i40 is pitched directly against the likes of the market leader in this segment, the Toyota Avensis.

Hyundai launched the i40 to the Irish motoring press in Dublin recently and though it was a static launch (the cars were unregistered and therefore could not be driven) I was filled with admiration for what looks to be a very fine, well specified motorcar.

The new i40 range really looks superb, even in Tourer bodystyle it drew many admiring glances from the public in Dublin who witnessed it outside the luanch venue. The list of standard specification is huge, it comes with a full 5-year unlimmited kilometer warranty and includes Hyundai’s Triple Care plan, (5- year warranty, 5 year free annual car health check, 5-year free roadside assistance) and costs just €104 to tax yet is powered by a punchy 1.7 litre diesel engine.

Whilst the exterior styling impressed, the interior was just as good feeling very well put together and having a real air of sportiness and quality. Unlike some dull but good rivals it felt a nice place to be.

So how much? Well more good news really! The new Hyundai i40 Tourer is launched at a special “Launch” price until December 2011. The i40 Comfort model costs just €24,995 while the i40 Tourer Executive costs €26,495. In December when the i40 saloon arrives the price goes up on the Tourer by €1,500.

In short this new Korean is well worth a closer look. Full review to to follow shortly!

So to yet another nice number from Korea, and this time it’s Kia. Kia chose the twisty backroads behind the city of Lisbon to allow international motoring journalists such as myself to put the all-new Kia Rio through its paces.

The new Rio is just that – completely new and it shows. First impressions are very good, it really is a stylish and distinctive looking new car. Interestingly though its main rivals are in the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta segment, the new Rio looks about the size of a VW Golf or Seat Leon. The new Rio is significantly larger and therefore roomier than the outgoing model.

Two engine options with two trim levels will be offered in Ireland, a 1.2 83 bhp petrol (CO2 114g/km) 5-speed and a 1.4 litre 89 bhp diesel (CO2 109g/km) 6-speed, both will fall into the lowest €104 road tax.

I drove these cars at the launch in Portugal and came away convinced that the 1.4 diesel was the one to go for. The 1.2 petrol just felt a little underpowered for my tastes, while the 1.4 diesel had plenty of get up and go.

There are a host of new technologies in the new Rio and too many to list here on this quick intro, but for a car that is rumoured to have a starting price just north of €15,000 for the 1.2 petrol, items such as push button start or interesting options such as a heated steering wheel are available. In the past these gizzmos were for luxury cars only and could not even be ordered as options.

Inside the cabin of the new Rio looks and feels good and very European. There really is bags of head and legroom and a decent boot too. The new Rio rode and handled the Portugese twists and turns very well and cruised happily along the faster motorway sections. All in all a very nice new Kia, and one that I really look forward to putting through its paces shortly here at home.