One of the busiest manufacturers at Le Mondial de l'Automobile 2014 (the 2014 Paris Motor Show to you and me) was Kia.
Not content with giving the all-new, third-generation Sorento SUV its European debut, the Korean manufacturer also showed off enhanced versions of both the Rio and the Venga, as well as the Kia Optima T-Hybrid concept car.
The popular Sorento still combines good looks, technology and practicality, but with a more premium, sophisticated feel than ever before. The SUV features the more prominent 'tiger-nose' grille, wrap-around headlights and a more sweeping profile, creating a sleeker, bolder appearance.
The Rio is Kia's most popular car and so the marque has made a number of subtle enhancements to keep it at the top of its game, including newly-designed bumpers and fog lights, three new alloy wheel designs, two new finishes for the paintwork, and a new DAB radio and satnav system.
The enhanced Rio will have the option of four fuel-efficient engines – from 75 to 109 PS – and the choice of five- or six-speed manual transmissions or four-speed automatic gearboxes. These all come with Kia's optional second-generation Start/Stop technology and low-rolling resistance tyres.
Michael Cole, COO of Kia Motors Europe explained: "The Kia Rio was our best-selling vehicle nameplate worldwide in 2013, with a total of 471,000 sales, and among our top-three sellers here in Europe with 56,821 units delivered. Improvements to this model are of major significance for our brand."
The Venga was launched 5 years ago and brought a fresh design that has been much admired (and emulated) since. Its enhancements now include a larger grille, combined fog lights and LED daytime running lights, new rear light clusters with LED bulbs, new alloys, a more refined interior and more options to personalise your MPV.
Technology improvements see a heated steering wheel for colder mornings, the new navigation system, a rear-view camera, and a sliding 60/40 split-fold rear seat which can fold into the floor to reveal a large and handy cargo bay.
Mr Cole said: "On its introduction in 2009, the Kia Venga brought stylish good looks to what was, at that time, an otherwise-unremarkable vehicle segment. As well as winning prestigious design awards, the Venga also ensured that rewarding, fun-to-drive motoring was available to drivers whose lifestyles demand a compact MPV. The 2015 Kia Venga continues to offer all the practicality, versatility and reliability that European buyers expect, but a mildly refreshed appearance will boost the appeal of our compact MPV in the years ahead."
The 2015 Venga will have a range of up to six 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre diesel and petrol engines, producing between 77 and 128 PS, using five-speed or six-speed manual transmissions or four-speed automatic gearboxes, and every engine will be available with Start/Stop technology.
The Kia Optima T-Hybrid concept car has a powertrain that pairs up a 1.7-litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine with a 48V lead-carbon battery, small electric motor and an electric supercharger. The turbo hybrid unit was previously seen at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show and is still being developed ahead of possible mass production.
The lead-carbon battery – which is charged as the car decelerates – was preferred over a lithium-ion battery as it is easier to recycle and does not need additional cooling. The vehicle also uses a zero-emissions stop-start system, a belt-driven starter generator so that the engine can restart with minimal noise or vibrations, and an innovative electric supercharger to give better torque and power at lower speeds.
The concept allows the car to use electric power at low and cruising speeds, while using the diesel engine at higher speeds. While no performance figures are available yet, Mr Cole laid out Kia's ambitions.
"In future, our mild hybrid powertrain could offer Kia customers greater performance and lower running costs, without sacrificing the qualities they expect of a Kia car – enjoyable handling, a comfortable ride and high quality. Demonstrated for the first time in the Optima T-Hybrid, the technology will lower the total cost of ownership of our cars, yet still keep them affordable as an outright purchase for customers. The new mild hybrid system is our flagship technology for improving the efficiency of our internal combustion-powered models. In future, technology such as this will help Kia further reduce fleet emissions in Europe."
The Kia Optima T-Hybrid won four ‘Plus X’ innovation awards at the Paris Motor Show in the High Quality, Ease of Use, Design, and Ecology categories.