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Kia  Dominant: K2700 was Australia's biggest-selling 2.5-3.5-tonne truck last year.

Dominant: K2700 was Australia's biggest-selling 2.5-3.5-tonne truck last year.

Kia maintains a winning small truck formula with its new K2700

IT MAY well be a small truck, but it is a vitally important piece in the Kia Automotive Australia chessboard.

In two years, Kia’s budget K2700 has helped transform the light truck sector, going from zilch to a 52 per cent share of the segment last year – admittedly off a low base, with 924 units sold, up from 688 in 2003.

The $23,990 K2700’s success has been mirrored with Kia’s other commercial offering, the Pregio van, which last year found 4500 buyers and in the first four months of 2005 has managed to sell around 1500 units.

Now with the launch of the K2700, the Korean manufacturer is set to continue its grip on the 2.5 to 3.5 GVM light truck sector.

In keeping with the attitude of ‘if-it-ain’tbroke’, Kia has refused to stray too far from its winning formula but at the same time has improved the suspension, brakes, steering and turning circle.

The four-cylinder 2.7-litre diesel carries over, as does its 1.5-tonne payload, and the 24-hour roadside assistance and loan-car program should the vehicle be off the road for more than 24 hours with a warranty issue.

The additional benefit of a safety net loaner program was a key buyer incentive with owneroperators, according to Kia spokesman Edward Rowe.

"When we went into this business with commercial vehicles we knew we would be perceived as an unknown quantity," he said.

"Therefore, we knew we’d have to make an offer that would counter that possible worry of not having a work vehicle available. Especially for a single-vehicle operator."

Kia also offers another light truck or van as the loan vehicle.

Mr Rowe said 25 per cent of K2700 business was multiple fleet deals, with the remainder private buyers.

"The reason I say multiple is because we offer a fleet discount to anyone who has an ABN (Australian Business Number), even though it may be a private buyer," he said.

With few competitors in the light truck segment, Kia believes the K2700 lines up against cab-chassis conversions of the Volkswagen Transport and Ford Transit vans.

"We were non-existent in that sector and virtually from day one we’ve dominated it," Mr Rowe said, adding that good equipment levels and competitive pricing had helped ensure its success.

Kia expects to sell 100 K2700s per month but Mr Rowe believes this number could eventually settle between 125 and 130 per month.

Most buyers are opting for the optional $1200 tray tops, with the second most popular choice a box conversion on the back, he said.

Visually, the most obvious change to the vehicle is the new cab design, which is now roomier and offers better aerodynamics to benefit fuel economy and lower wind noise.

The front wishbone suspension gains a thicker anti-roll bar, new gas shock absorbers and reworked suspension bushes for more effective control of wheel angle.

At the back there are larger shock absorbers and revised leaf springs for greater stability.

The cabin is also bigger, allowing more headroom and legroom, while the seats offer more backrest adjustment. The seat cushions are thicker, wider and the backrest higher for greater support.

To reduce weight and increase safety levels, the conventional front bumper beam has been replaced with a lighter and stronger high-tensile steel beam.

Kia center image Attention has been paid to other safety aspects, with larger and bright headlights on both low and high beam and bigger door mirrors with each mirror containing a small wide-angle convex mirror to supplement the larger conventional mirror.

Standard equipment runs to air-conditioning, digital CD stereo, electric windows and remote central locking.

Engine performance has also been enhanced with the 2.7-litre diesel upgraded to reduce emissions and improve economy.

Power is down slightly from 62kW at 4150rpm to 57kW at 4000rpm. Torque remains a muscular 172Nm from 2400rpm, the same as the old model.

Kia Automotive Australia general manager, Ed Butler, said the company had not been prepared for the success of the truck.

"In some states there have been months where the only vehicle sold in its sector was the K2700," he said.





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