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Kia’s baby Rio and the stylish Sportage compact SUV have scored an impressive duo of wins in the Australian Automobile Association’s prestigious Australia’s Best Cars awards.

Rio Si backed up its success of last year, defending its title in the hotly-contested Best Light Car under $20,000 category while the Sportage SLi AWD petrol took the crown in the Best SUV under $40,000 category.

“This is a wonderful result in two of Australia’s most popular segments _ a genuine endorsement of the work Kia has been doing to provide cars to Australian buyers with the key qualities of safety, quality and enjoyment,” Kia Motors Australia Chief Operating Officer Tony Barlow said.

“Kia’s journey over the past few years has been significant and this sort of recognition from an organisation that exists to serve people who actually buy and own these cars is particularly pleasing. It is also another endorsement of Kia’s position as the fastest growing mainstream brand in Australia.”

Mr Barlow said having two cars on the winner’s dais _ and another two (Optima and Sorento) as finalists _ was reason to believe Kia was heading in the right direction.

The ABC judging panel, drawn from experts from each of the state motoring clubs, found that the Sportage: “has a solidly constructed feel and comes with the reassurance of an excellent five-star ANCAP Safety rating.  The build quality and finish of Kia vehicles has improved dramatically in the last couple of years and the Sportage is now as good if not better in this area than many of the highly credentialed Japanese and European models in this class”

The judging panel also praised Kia for the work done to offer Australian drivers the type of behind the wheel experience they desire.

The Rio’s on road performance, handling, ride and braking was close to best in class… Importantly, the Rio has most certainly benefited from a concerted local effort to tune and recalibrate the suspension and damping to suit Aussie conditions and Aussie roads.”