More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Once a marginal auto maker from South Korea, Kia Motors America is finding its way in the fierce U.S. market with attractive warranties, low-priced vehicles and, now, new product that promises to make the company even more competitive.

At this week’s North American International Auto Show, Kia unveils the all-new Rio sedan. The current-generation Rio may be best known as the lowest-priced new car in America, selling for about $10,000.

With the new model, however, Kia attempts to boost the content on the entry-level subcompact sedan and offer more room, a sportier stance, European-inspired styling, better handling and a smoother ride.

Kia says all-new Rio will offer more room, sportier stance and better handling.

Standard features include full-length side-curtain airbags, front and rear stabilizer bars and rack-and-pinion steering. The Rio’s 1.6L 4-cyl. engine produces 110 hp at 6,000 rpm and 107 lb.-ft. (145 Nm) of torque at 4,500 rpm.

Options include antilock brakes, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry and power-heated outside mirrors. The vehicle will be built at Kia’s Sohari manufacturing facility in South Korea.

Whether the all-new Rio remains America’s least expensive car remains to be seen. Pricing will be announced closer to launch this summer.

Kia will introduce a 5-door hatchback version of the Rio at the New York auto show in March. The hatchback goes on sale in July or August, says Peter Butterfield, president and CEO of Kia Motors America.

Kia will back the Rio with a 5-year/60,000-mile (96,000-km) bumper-to-bumper warranty, 10-year/100,000-mile (160,900-km) powertrain warranty and five years of roadside assistance.

Joining Kia’s lineup later this year is an all-new replacement of the Sedona minivan, which has become Kia’s volume leader.

Although Sedona volumes may dip slightly this year due to the new-model changeover, Butterfield says the new minivan will impress the U.S. market again for its content, value and quality.

“The replacement Sedona is an unbelievable vehicle,” Butterfield tells journalists. “We think it is on par with the Toyota Sienna as far as options and content, and it will be priced substantially underneath it.”

In addition, the new Sedona will come in long- and short-wheelbase versions. “I think Chrysler is the only company right now that has both,” he says.

Third-row seats in the new Sedona will fold into the floor. Second-row seats will fold flat but not disappear into the floor like Chrysler Group’s new Stow ’n Go function.

Mesa concept demonstrates Kia’s interest in a fullsize SUV for U.S. market.

The Rio and Sedona join several other recently introduced vehicles for Kia, including the Amanti fullsize sedan, Spectra compact sedan and Sorento midsize SUV.

Looking upmarket, Kia contemplates building a fullsize SUV and unveils at this year’s Detroit auto show its Mesa design concept.

The sporty, aggressively styled Mesa SUV concept is powered by a 3.5L V-6 and features a full-length skylight sunroof and retractable running boards.

Kia will test the concept in consumer clinics and will track media feedback before deciding whether to move ahead with a production version.

“It’s a concept vehicle. It’s one that Kia – that we at the marketing company – would like to see,” Butterfield says. “But it’s not my decision. It’s a decision made at corporate headquarters.”

tmurphy@primediabusiness.com