Shock new Kia luxury saloon?

It seems Kia’s stunning progress in the UK is well and truly underway as the Korean manufacturer once associated with budget cars releases the first images of a new luxury saloon car designed to take on the likes of Lexus and Infiniti.

The leaked image of the rear-wheel drive saloon shows just how far Kia has come in such a short space of time.

Designs courtesy of ex-Audi man Peter Schreyer have ensured the likes of the new Kia Rio and new Kia Sportage were instant hits in the UK and a focus on quality and tailored cars for Europe has proved successful for the car maker.

Kia now boasts cars in the city car, supermini, hatchback and the lucrative SUV and crossover markets and sales are up from 2010, bucking industry trends.

Now there is seemingly no stopping Kia’s UK success as the first ever large saloon from the car maker, the Kia Optima, will be available to buy in 2012.

As many where surprised with the slight move up market, some may have been even more baffled when Kia released details of its executive GT concept last year.

But the Korean manufacturer’s new edition is a different endeavour all-together with hints of a highly executive saloon.

Although Kia has only released a sketched teaser image it is pretty clear that its new edition, known as the KH, is no city car. The image reveals a slick saloon with impressions on the bonnet and doors.

It also reveals a large radiator-like grille at the front, a quality of which is synonymous with classic sport cars.

What we do know however is that the new KH will be the first rear-wheel drive vehicle. Engine wise there have been rumours that the KH will use a V-8 with possibly an eight-speed or ten-speed automatic transmission.

In terms of competition the Kia KH will take on some of the mainstream manufacturer’s luxury sub brands such as Toyota’s Lexus and Nissan’s Infiniti.

Kia plans to potentially launch the car in its home market and has not confirmed a luxury saloon will arrive in Europe.

But if it does, it represents a stunning move upmarket for one of the fastest-growing car makers in the UK.