DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The guys from Korea are at it again: Kia has used the Arabian desert to launch its sporty and undeniably Schreyerised and all-new third-generation 2013 Cerato sport sedan to the world’s media. Can it fail to be a hit?The cars will arrive in South Africa later this year, initially two versions but each with a choice of six-speed auto/manual sequential or manual gearbox attached to either a 95kW/157Nm 1.6 or 118kW/194Nm two-litre petrol engine. The two-litre will be the top-end full-spec version, the 1.6 a more modest model – “but not an entry-level”, I was told.HIGHER PRICESAnd after driving the cars on the long and unfortunately very straight (little scope for fun driving) desert roads outside Dubai in the United Arab Emirates this week, the top model is one to look out for. It’s spec level is outstanding, its leather finishes impeccable and its autotech at the cutting edge of the game.Image gallerySA prices will be based on the current second-generation Cerato range of sedan, hatch (each R197 000) and Koup (R232 000) with, we speculate, perhaps a 10% premium because the cars have a lot of extra kit. Kia SA, however, promised me that whatever the pricing (and it won’t be known until very shortly before the local launch) “it will be competitive in the C-segment”.The two-litre will have larger (17 or 18”) spoked rims but otherwise it will be impossible to tell the sedan models apart.HIGHER PRICESFrankly, the C-segment better watch out: recent Kia launches in South Africa have shown that this is very certainly now a market-threatening brand. And the market assault isn’t going to stop at these two engines and a four-door: I was told at the launch that a four-door hatch and a turbocharged two-door coupe will be coming off the Korean lines later this year..The coupe is booked for SA towards the end of 2013; whether the hatch will come too is not clear at this stage – but worldwide Kia is looking at 500 000 Cerato deliveries a year.Kia sold 2.71-million units in 2012 – 278 000 of them in the Middle East/Africa - and has moved into the stratosphere of the world’s Top 100 brands. Soo-Nam Lep of Kia Middle East/Africa’s HQ reminded that his company was now bringing “the gift of innovation” to the auto market and that it would be applied to “many new models” through 2013, among them the Credenza, the Cerato Coupe and a refreshed version of the already popular Optima.The 2013 sales target is 2.75-million in a falling world market. Bold words indeed… and backing it will be sales in the African market, which was up by 10% in 2012 as the European auto market collapsed. Kia sales staff will also make much of the brand’s JD Power rating which has made a 50% improvement off an already commendable base and was up to sixth-best in 2012 from eighth the previous year.That’s better than VW, Ford and Volvo.51 NEW OR FACELIFT MODELSThe “tiger’s nose” branding is now a corporate badge across to the whole Kia range, the fresh design from ex-Audi/VW design chief Peter Schreyer shining brightly with his philosophy of “the straight line” is king. He joined the company towards the end of the four years up to 2012 during which, Kia says, 30 new or upgraded models were released.The already-mentioned assault on the world auto market will become, in business terms, almost a machine-gunning from now until 2016 with a staggering FIFTY-ONE new or upgraded models to come. This, partly, because Kia will be delivering two face-lifts instead of one during a model’s life – usually around seven years. Other brands will most likely follow…VideoSix new or revised models will appear during 2013: Soul, Cadenza, Cerato, Ce’ed, Optima coupe, Optima sedan and Sportage – with the Sportage due as a fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in 2015.Ok-Hwan Park, Kia’s C-segment product manager, believes this the third generation Cerato “has added emotional appeal" along with “quality, fuel-efficiency, advanced features and dynamic style”. He added: “It’s a compact sedan (4.56m long and marginally wider and lower than the previous model) which we believe is best-in-class for design, quality and interior space with much-reduced noise, vibration and harshness. It’s front and rear lights challenge those of BMW and Audi.”FRONT/REAR AIRCONMuch has also been added to the cabins in terms of soft-touch surfaces. The boot is big enough for three golf bags and four sports bags.Depending on model, the ’13 Cerato comes with front and rear air-con with an anti-odour ionizer, tilt/telescopic steering column complete with sport, normal and comfort steering-effort settings, heatable steering-wheel and paddle-shifts on the auto, auto screen de-fogger, front AND rear seat warmers and two-memory 10-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat.Steering-wheels can also carry audio and cruise control and selections for the comprehensive trip data computer.High-intensity discharge headlights mark the road ahead; front and rear parking radar takes care of the close-range stuff and heavy braking will be signalled by flashing tail lights.There’s a comprehensive and genuinely intuitive 11cm colour info screen with Bluetooth phone connection and five-star crash-protection ratings from the US and Australia - helped by “best-in-class” braking. Kia also claims remarkable fuel-economy of less than seven litres/100km. I managed 7.1 with the 1.6 engine, 8.3 with the two-litre, though the latter was over a much shorter distance - could have done better.WHAT YOU GETHere how the models vary, in Kia’s words::Even the “entry-level” L model is generously equipped with projection-style headlights, power front windows, power-assisted steering, trip data computer and external temperature display. More likely for SA will be the LX which adds a chromed radiator grille, body-colour door releases and external mirrors housings and a radio/CD player with four speakers. An optional touch-screen audio system with TFT/LCD display will be available – or perhaps included in the SA package.EX models gain front fog lights, cruise control, central locking, power rear windows, driver’s seat-height adjustment, 60/40 split folding rear seat backrest, twin tweeter speakers and adjustable rear-seat air vents – most of which would also be sensible for the SA market.Premium additions on the range-topping SX models include 17” alloy rims, LED daytime running lights, LED rear light s and a high-level brake light, upgraded cloth or leather upholstery, three-mode FlexSteer power steering and paddle shifts for auto models, plus front and rear parking sensors – as standard.ANOTHER FACTORYWe’ll see what Kia SA had decided to order to compete in the SA market but there will be a choice of 10 body colours and four cabin upholstery combinations.Despite the world focus on electric power, Kia intends to continue research into down-sizing and up-powering engines and a two-litre turbodiesel is also under development. A turbo is also possible for the 1.6 Cerato as a “GTI” model. The company is also focusing in eight-speed transmissions – which will take the brand into a whole new dimension.Finally, so great is demand for the Kia badge that another factory is planned for what Kia claims is a product with the best performance and most high-tech gear in the whole C segment.Make up your mind when the cars arrive – and don’t forget to tell Wheels24 what you think when it happens. We’ll be at that one, too..