South Korea
Sector: LPG

Kia Ray LPi - beaming with savings

The LPG-powered Kia Picanto with an ex-factory autogas system was given extensive publicity, but was withdrawn from the market at the very last moment. South Korea, Kia's domestic market, paints a different picture – models driving on LPG are doing fine and gain new siblings every now and then. Here is the latest family member – the Ray microvan with a three-cylinder engine and a liquid-state gas injection.
Designing a successor should be easy - a facelifting will do© KiaA design curiosity - two regular doors on one side...

Koreans, much like the Japanese, seem to have a general liking for microcars. The question is: is it a matter of taste or a call of necessity and common sense since this kind of cars are best suited for crowded Asian cities. Anyhow, engineers in the Far East have become masters in packing as much of a car as possible on the smallest available area. As simple as it gets and has something to do with skyscrapers: up is the way to go!

Had it not been for the friendly looking „face”, you might confuse the Ray – with its vertical sides and rear – with a monstrous shoebox on wheels. However, this boxy layout guarantees decent shoulde and head room for the driver and passengers. Now they do not have to cuddle due to lack of space, unless they wish to. Add to that fuel costs slashed by half thanks to an optional dedicated LPG system based on Vialle technology and you end up receiving a potentially perfect city car.

A 3,6 m long family car? Sky is the limit!© Kia... and one regular and one sliding door on the other. Plus no B-pillar, which makes entering easier

The common perception is that autogas best suits fuel-guzzling American cars, but a converted three-cylinder, 1-litre engine, like the one under the bonnet of the Ray, saves exactly the same proportion of money as a 6-litre V8, so why not? The Korean mini's motor, itself a member of Hyundai-Kia's Kappa engine family, has an MPI-type injection system, variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder. Thanks to this tech, a decent power of 78 PS has been squeezed out, along with a not-so-decent toque of 94 Nm. All this „motivation” is transfered to the front wheels through a 4-speed automatic gearbox. Breathtaking performance is not to be expected, but then a 3,6-metre long, 1-tonne car is a city commuter, not a gran turismo.

According to the manufacturer's data, the Ray consumes an average 5,8 l petrol per 100 km. Thanks to a fifth generation liquid-state injection LPG system, autogas consumption should be just a little more. The idea of buying a car with five seats (in practice, more of a 2+2 probably) that needs approximately 7 l of LPG per 100 km sounds plausible, but the privilege of getting one is available exclusively to residents of South Korea. Prices have been set at 12,4-14,95 mln wons (approx. 8100-9800 euros), the choice of the LPG system means a 1,3 mln won premium. The car, which is based on the Hyundai i10, is not coming to Europe any time soon (if ever), so let us hope Kia will rethink their decision concerning bringing the Picanto LPi to the Old Continent. We are quite sure there would be plenty of interest in it, as usual with fuel-sipping models.


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Robert Markowski
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