KIA’s Sportage SUV will become the second model to be built at the South Korean company’s new European factory when it starts production in May.


Like the cee’d, which began production last December, the off-roader may also be given a seven year warranty.


Factory insiders said the company was working on a plan that would ensure that all models built at the ultra-modern plant in Zilina, 120 miles from Bratislava, would come with the industry-leading warranty.


Speaking at the official opening ceremony of the factory, which has already built more than 30,000 cee’ds, Jean-Charles Lievens, senior vice present, Kia Motors Europe, said the car had quickly become the manufacturer’s biggest selling model in the region.


“We have already delivered 16,000 cars to customers and have orders for 40,000. We are now looking forward to introducing a European-built SUV for the European market.”


Lievens said this would put Kia well on the way to achieving its target of selling 500,000 vehicles a year in Western Europe by 2010 – a market share of just over 3 percent.


Zilina will ultimately have a capacity of 300,000 vehicles a year while the engine plant next door aims to increase production from 200,000 to 300,000 by 2009.


The cee’d 2-litre diesel also starts production within the next month and the estate version, shown at the Geneva Motor Show in February, follows in August.


It will not be called Sporty Wagon in the UK, however, as it will be in other European markets.


Kia UK communications director Steve Kitson said it would be called cee’d SW.


KItson admitted that the cee’d had got off to a slow start in the UK. “But we have launched a new product into a very competitive sector. Unlike our competitors we are not selling this car on price, or offering incentives, it is too good a product for that.”


He added: “We have been getting a very good response to our three day test drive programme and we have had some 30,000 requests. Of those getting into the car we are converting around 18 per cent into sales.”


Kia plans to sell 9,000 cee’ds this year in the UK.