KIA claims it now has product appeal as well as value-for-money attraction, a claim backed up by rising sales in the UK even in the current tough market.

Michael Cole, managing director of Kia UK said the brand is set to get even stronger with the arrival of the new Rio in the highly competitive B segment. It goes on sale in Britain next month.

“Our cars are still value for money, but they now come with quality, style and technology,” he claimed.

The arrival of the new Rio comes just three months after the launch of the redesigned Picanto city car, giving the South Korean brand a strong presence at the entry level end.

Cole added: “There’s more to come as well with the large Optima at the end of this year and the next generation cee’d in the C segment next year. This really is an exciting time for the brand.”

Kia sales have been rising right across Europe despite a move upmarket as the company looks to shed its image of being purely a ‘value’ brand.

Cole said: “It’s been a learning curve for our dealers as well. For example the old Picanto cost GBP6,100 – or just GBP4,100 when the government’s scrappage scheme was in operation. The new model costs nearly GBP8,000 and, while some eyebrows were raised among dealers, they soon realised that there has been a big leap forward in terms of the product we are offering – and the car is selling really well.

“We expect to sell around 55,000 vehicles this year in a total UK market of around 1.9m.”

2010 sales were 56,000 but benefitted from the government’s scrappage scheme in the first few months of the year. Cole added: “If you look at pre-scrappage sales in 2008 we had just over 33,000 sales so that’s a more interesting comparison.

“I can only see this improving further with full year sales of the Picanto and Rio in the A and B segments, the largest sectors of the market. One thing scrappage did do was get our cars onto people’s shopping lists when perhaps they weren’t in the past.

“We have not finalised plans for 2012 but directionally we should be looking to sell more than 60,000 cars with a full year of Picanto and Rio, along with Optima and the new generation cee’d.”

By 2012 Kia aims to have the newest product line-up on offer in the UK. The new Rio will be available with four engines – two petrol and two diesel – including a 1.1-litre three-cylinder turbodiesel with lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions (85g) than any other non electric car on sale in the world, including hybrids and eco specials from rival companies.

With ‘EcoDynamics’ fuel-saving technologies – including intelligent stop & go engine technology, low rolling resistance tyres, a drag-reducing front grille, gearshift indicator and rear spoiler – this model is capable of 88.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of only 85g/km.

EcoDynamics will be standard with all new Rio diesels, including the 1.4-litre models scheduled to be added to the line-up shortly after launch. The 1.4-litre diesel is a four-cylinder engine developing 89bhp.  Economy and emissions figures are 70.6mpg combined and 105 g/km of CO2.

There are also two petrol engines, an entry-level 1.25-litre and a 1.4-litre. Prices start at GBP10,595 and the range tops out at GBP14,895.