Special Coverage

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GENEVA – Kia Motors Corp. unveils three vehicles today at the auto show here, including the wagon version of the Cee’d compact car.

The new 5-door wagon joins the rest of the Cee’d family, including the 5-door hatchback already on sale in Europe and the 3-door hatchback due in December.

The Cee’d wagon, which goes on sale in late summer in Europe, “marks a major turning point in Kia’s history,” the auto maker says.

All Cee’d models are designed and built in Europe, a first for the Korean company.

The wagon will be available in 18 different configurations, with three trim levels: LX, EX and TX, and five 4-cyl. engines mated to either manual or automatic transmissions.

The Cee’d wagon’s five engines are shared with the hatchback. They include a 2.0L common-rail diesel making 138 hp and 224 lb.-ft. (304 Nm) of torque; a 1.6L common-rail diesel producing 113 hp and 188 lb.-ft. (255 Nm); and three gasoline engines ranging in displacement from 1.4L to 2.0L and generating 108-141 hp and 101-137 lb.-ft. (137-186 Nm) of torque.

All gas engines have continuously variable valve timing.

Customers have a choice of a 4-speed automatic transmission (2.0L gasoline, 1.6L gas and diesel engines); a 5-speed manual (all gas engines and 1.6L diesel); or a 6-speed manual (2.0L diesel).

The Cee’d wagon features an independent MacPherson strut front suspension and rides on an independent multi-link setup in the rear. Coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and anti-roll stabilizer bar are fitted both front and rear, while EX and TX models with optional 17-in. wheels also get “sport” springs and dampers as standard equipment.

Kia says the Cee’d wagon’s wheelbase of 104.3 ins. (265.0 cm) provides class-leading passenger room, as well as luggage capacity, measuring 18.9 cu.-ft. (0.5 cu.-m) with the rear seats upright and 58.8 cu.-ft. (1.7 cu.-m) with them folded down. The latter figure bests the Renault Megane and Opel Astra wagons, Kia says.

A unique feature on the wagon is its tailgate, with hinges that are 10 ins. (25.5 cm) forward of their location on the hatchback. The tailgate is extended into the roofline by the same amount, Kia says. These changes decrease by 2.8 ins. (7.2 cm) the amount of room required for it to open.

Kia promises more “closely matched” and higher quality materials in the Cee’d wagon’s interior. There are twin storage trays, an extended underfloor storage tray, roller-blind tonneau cover and an optional extending roller-style vertical net to keep luggage in place.

The base LX models, of which there are three, get six standard airbags, power front windows, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and integrated information cluster with a trip computer.

The eight EX models offer 28 additional or optional items, including electric mirrors, manual air conditioning, keyless entry, active head restraints and iPod and USB jacks.

The seven TX models include standard stability control and emergency brake assist, automatic air conditioning, power rear windows and a rear center armrest.

Options for the Cee’d wagon include a power sunroof, 3-stage front-seat warmers, a sporty trim package and a leather trim package, as well as hydrophobic glass, which is coated with a water-repellant film

Kia says media reaction to the Cee’d hatchback has been positive, and the auto maker drew 17,000 orders for the vehicle prior to the 5-door’s January launch in Europe.

Kia also debuts in Geneva the Rio Hybrid, powered by a 1.4L gas engine making 89 hp and 93 lb.-ft. (126 Nm) of torque combined with a 12-kW (16 hp) electric motor.

The latter is mounted between the flywheel and continuously variable transmission to provide assistance to the gas engine in starting, accelerating and ascending hills.

The electric motor shuts down during steady cruising and regenerative braking is used during the deceleration to charge the power pack, Kia says.

The engine and electric motor shut down during stops of more than three seconds.

The Rio Hybrid claims a top speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) and gets 53 mpg (5.3 L/100 km) on average, a 44% jump in fuel efficiency from the gas-powered Rio.

Weight is 23% less than that of the standard Rio, thanks in part to an aluminum hood, trunk lid and front seat frames. Kia also employs electric power steering to cut power consumption.

Kia, along with sister brand Hyundai, is supplying the Korean Ministry of the Environment with more than 4,000 hybrid test vehicles during the next two years in advance of a 2008 market introduction.

The Ex_cee’d cabrio concept, penned by new Kia Design Chief Peter Schreyer, who joined the auto maker last year from Volkswagen AG to inject a youthful, style conscious image into Kia’s vehicles, also debuts here today.

Based on Kia’s 3-door Cee’d, it has the same wheelbase of 104.3 ins. However, the concept car has several new exterior panels as well as a power folding fabric roof to distinguish it from its sibling, Kia says.

Short overhangs in the front and rear of the wedge-shaped car, plus a lower height vs. the 5-door Cee’d, also are distinguishing features of the Ex_cee’d concept, the auto maker says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com