Kia set a new European sales record in December reaching a total of 23,700 units, 24% higher than the brand achieved in the same period of 2004.

The automaker noted that the result came before its new petrol and diesel-powered Magentis D-segment sedan line reached dealerships.

For the final month of 2005, Kia´s top selling models were the Picanto 'supermini' (6,979 sales), Sorento SUV (4,331 sales), recently redesigned Sportage SUV and new Rio compact hatchback line.

The Picanto was also the Korean carmaker's biggest seller in Europe in 2005, with 85,921 units sold, up an impressive 49% over 2004, especially given that the model was launched several years ago.

Kia UK spokeswoman Louisa Sharp said the main reason for the surge was that 2005 was the Picanto's first full year on sale Europe-wide - it was launched in mid-2004. She also noted that a 1.1-litre diesel engine option was added to the left-hand drive European model range a couple of months ago. Buyers in the right-hand drive UK market are offered one- and 1.1-litre petrol engines only.

In the 2005 European sales chart, the Picanto was followed by the Sorento (42,589 sales) and Sportage (39,551 sales).

"Kia´s monthly sales performance in Europe - above 23,700 units in December for the first time - again demonstrates how our products now meet the needs of European consumers," noted Kia Motors Europe senior vice president Jean-Charles Lievens in a statement.

"More and more new customers are switching to the Kia brand and this is very encouraging for everyone in our expanding dealer network and for the long-term prosperity of our company as we start the New Year."

Graeme Roberts

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