If the British empire was built on cups of tea, the rise of the Korean automakers might just as well be chalked up to the restorative properties of spicy breakfast foods. There’s nothing like facing the day with sizzling tastebuds and clear sinuses to give a third-tier auto manufacturing nation the perspective needed to steal a march on its Japanese, European and American rivals. Possibly in deference to the healing powers of breakfast kimchi, Kia has named its newest city car the Morning for the Korean market and the Picanto everywhere else… and it’s sure to spice up Kia’s European sales, further extending Hyundai-Kia’s lead as the top Asian brand on the Old Continent.
But first, the Picanto/Morning will have to take on some home-brewed competition, in the Daewoo Matiz Creative (Chevy Spark), which Kia says its Morning bests in fuel economy, noise, equipment and space. And the Picanto/Morning is just the beginning: Kia will soon launch a B-segment Pride hatchback based on the new Hyundai Accent platform, as well as a crossover based on the Picanto/Morning’s A-Segment platform. With fuel prices at their current levels, there’s probably little business sense in bringing these tiny Kias stateside, but with Chevy intent on bringing the Spark to the US, that decision could be reversed with a single significant gas price spike. Now seems like a good time for the competition to wake up and smell the Kimchi.