Those Koreans sure are quick at playing catchup. Recent 'leaps and bounds' in quality, performance and economy have seen the likes of Hyundai and Kia rocket to the top of car buyers' shopping lists.
Now Kia has emerged with another ace up its sleeve - a bona-fide hybrid.
Unveiled to the media in Korea, the Kia Forte LPi hybid mates an 85kW (114hp) 1.6-litre LPG-fueled engine to a 15kW (2ohp) electric motor and lithium-polymer battery pack. Fun fact: the Forte hybrid is the first production car in the world to use the advanced Li-poly battery tech.
As far as hybrid systems go, it's admittedly mild. Still, with the engine working in concert with the electric motor, fuel economy rises to an impressive 5.8 l/100km - which Kia says is equivalent to a 4.65 l/100km figure when running on petrol.
Besides being more thrifty than the regular model, the Forte LPi hybrid is also a heck of a lot prettier.
A new front bumper, unique foglight lenses, LED taillights, boot-lip spoiler and a faux-diffuser in the rear bumper jazzes up the Forte's exterior, while a nav display and hybrid system readout spruce up the cockpit.
The Forte hybrid is the first of a number of new eco-friendly models that Kia says will make their way to market soon. Chief among these is a full-hybrid sedan due in 2010 and the company's first hybrid model that's expected to debut in 2012.
The Kia Forte LPi hybrid is slated to go on sale in Korea in August, with no immediate plans for global export. However, given our extensive LPG distribution network and our increasing love for value-rich Korean cars, we'd certainly be keen to see it come Down Under wearing a Cerato badge.