Kia: celebrating a successful year

It’s the Christmas season and as expected, car manufacturers are only too happy to give advice on winter maintenance and driving.

However, Kia has taken this one step further with the announcement of the ‘Christmas Car Wars Study’, which reveals millions of Brits will be involved in stressful arguments with friends and family over the festive period.

It’s a bit of fun from Kia, but some of the results of the survey are worthy of repeat.

The survey revealed a fifth of people would be spending Christmas somewhere other than where they’re expected to spend it, while 30 per cent of Brits are expecting to row at least once per journey.

Kia also found 112 miles on average will be driven by each Brit over Christmas, increasing the risk of the dreaded car row.

The message is clear, get in a Kia and it may help to reduce those arguments. However, we don’t begrudge Kia their bit of fun with survey, because the Korean manufacturer has had a very good year.

It started with the Kia Soul, continuing where it left off in 2009. The compact SUV is an unusual addition to the market, as we explained when we took it out for a test drive:

"Radical? Perhaps, but the Soul is an intriguing and enjoyable proposition in a car market that’s often short on innovation. It won’t suit everyone, but plenty of people with fall in love with a little Soul."

Next came the Sportage, arguably Kia’s best ever car released in Europe. The SUV crossover features impressive styling from ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer and comes well equipped in all specifications.

On the way there has been an appearance as the Reasonably Priced Car on BBC’s Top Gear, hosting celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz around the track.

The cherry on top of the year was undoubtably the Kia Pop concept car, the futuristic three-seat city car which wowed media at the Paris Motor Show this year.

The rise of Kia – the brand has sold 8,000 more cars in 2010 than it did in the same period in 2009 – has led many to reassess their perceptions of Korean cars.

Once derided for low quality, budget equipment and boxy, unattractive design, Korean cars were widely seen as some of the poorer cars on the market.

The rapid transformation for Kia in the UK, with emphasis on value, not cheapness, and higher quality, desirable cars, means the manufacturer is now perceived among volume manufacturing elite such as Ford and Vauxhall.

Many car manufacturers may have seen the recession as a time to cut back and consolidate their existing lineup, but Kia survived by aggressively introducing new, exciting models into the market.

With a new upmarket feel to Kia’s cars, the attention now turns to the likes of Chevrolet and the plans to launch five new cars in the next two years.

Will the US-based manufacturer follow the example set by Kia and become a successful British brand? The signs are good. The new Spark city car arrived this year, and new Aveo supermini, Cruze saloon, Captiva SUV and Orlando MPV should ensure a good spread of high quality products.

A vast improvement in 2010 in terms of the perception of Chevrolet cars has been boosted by the announcement the Chevrolet Camaro muscle car will be sold in the UK.

The role of the budget, low quality car has long passed for Kia, and Chevrolet is following in the same way.

Perhaps it’s time to count them alongside Ford, Vauxhall, Renault, Citroen and Peugeot in the car making elite.

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