Kia Multi-S to Join U.S. Lineup as Kia Rondo

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Editor’s NOTE: The Multi-S was launched as the Kia Rondo late in 2006.
Small Minivan Explores Reaction at Best-Attended U.S. Auto Show
As the Chicago Auto Show has a reputation for having the highest attendance figures of all U.S. auto shows, what better place to test a possible new people mover? While this concept was first shown last September on Kia‘s stand at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, Chicago marked its first North American appearance. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice contributors were on hand at both showings, and can promise that there were no real changes between Frankfurt and Chicago, aside from Kia showing a gasoline engine in the States and a diesel in Frankfurt.

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In Korea and Europe, where North American minivans are too large and the exception rather than the rule for family transportation, Kia sells a minivan smaller than the Sedona. The second-generation of this vehicle is being developed under the codename UN, and it is expected to join the U.S. lineup before the end of 2006. While the final verdict on the Kia’s U.S. nomenclature is not in, Multi-S is reportedly in the running.
The UN will be a more modern and fully featured than the example currently sold in international markets, making it more competitive in Europe as well as giving it a chance in the States. The concept dimensions indicate a vehicle slightly bigger than the Mazda5 and that the U.S. version is likely to get a four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Kia Motors America Vice President of Marketing Ian Beavis characterized Multi-S competition as “drawing from station wagons, vehicles like the Mazda5 and even small SUVs. The Multi-S did pretty well against the new Toyota RAV4 in research.”
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Modern Interior, Seating for Seven
The Multi-S displayed leather-and-suede seating for seven with fold-flat second and third rows, a navigation system, a full-length twin glass roof (similar to Nissan’s SkyView system), rear-seat entertainment system and USB port, a surround-sound audio system, and air for the second- and third-row passengers. Listed under safety features was adaptive forward lighting, stability control, full-length side curtain airbags for all three rows, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and active front-seat head restraints.
Similar to the Mazda5 that this product would compete most directly with, this Kia is likely to retain front-hinged front and rear doors of the Multi-S and existing Carens, rather than sliding doors.

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Small Minivans/MPVs: A Growing Subsegment?
One must wonder if these two products indicate a growing market for smaller people-movers in the States. Able to move as many as seven people in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package makes sense in more urban and developed areas, where driving is frequently stop-and-go and distances traveled are measured by time rather than by miles. Smaller entries like this likely will not displace full-size minivans, but as the market continues to fragment, these smaller entries may become a more significant portion of the minivan market.
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