A blast from the past: The early icons of Kia May 3rd, 2016


As Korea’s oldest automobile brand, Kia Motors boasts of a rich and unique history. Once a small manufacturer of bicycle and motorcycle parts, Kia has matured into a leading global brand and the second largest vehicle manufacturing company in South Korea.. Since our humble beginnings in 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry, Kia has brought to life numerous automotive creations that have long since become commemorated icons and relics of the brand’s innovative growth. Take a look at some of the earliest and most iconic cars from Kia Motors!


K-360 & T-600: The beginning of an era



Kia K-360 three-wheeler


Established in 1944, the company enjoyed popularity as a bicycle manufacturer and did not start building automobiles until the early 1960s. The K-360 pickup released in 1962 became the first Korean three-wheeler vehicle and Kia’s first step into automobile manufacturing. The model, developed in cooperation with a Japanese counterpart, was produced primarily for the Japanese market.

The T-600 model, manufactured in Korea, soon followed in 1969. Boasting larger storage capacity, the model was praised for its fuel efficiency. With only three left in existence today, the T-600 has been designated as registered cultural property of Korea.


Kia Brisa: A number of firsts




Kia revealed the Kia Brisa, Korea’s first domestically produced passenger car, in 1974. The sedan was assembled at the country’s first integrated automobile manufacturing facility, the Sohari plant. The model was also the first Kia to be exported, enjoying success overseas until end of production in 1981.


Kia Bongo: Redefining the traditional pickup



Kia Bongo minibus (left) and pickup truck (right)


Kia Bongo came in the two versions: a heavy duty one-ton pickup truck released in 1980 and a distinctively curvy minibus (known as ‘Pregio’ in overseas markets) that followed in 1981. The Bongo series was a sensation, appealing to the world with its power and spacious practicality. While the popular one-box type minibus was discontinued in the mid-2000s, the pickup truck version of the Bongo series (known as the K-series trucks in overseas countries) remains on the market today, giving it an impressive lifespan of 25 years (and counting!).   


Kia Pride: The iconic subcompact



Kia Pride 4-door model


Kia Pride, the ancestor of the current day Kia Rio, is perhaps one of the most popular and well-known early Kia models. Developed jointly with partners from the United States and Japan, the subcompact enjoyed worldwide success with a 13-year market lifespan stretching from 1987 to 2000. The Pride also appealed to consumers in various shapes, available in 3-door, 4-door and hatchback bodystyles. The distinctive shape and long lasting popularity of the sturdy and versatile Kia Pride has made one of the most iconic models in Kia’s history.



Kia Pride 3-door model


Kia Concord & Capital: The original midsize sedans



Kia Concord Sedan


As the predecessor of the Kia Optima, the Kia Concord boasted exceptional on-road performance and safety. So powerful and impressive was this midsize sedan that it established Kia’s reputation as a reliable manufacturer of quality automobiles. A lower-end model, the Kia Capital, followed the Concord in 1989 and continued to rock the midsize sedan market.



Kia Capital Sedan


Kia Elan: The ancestor of Korean sports cars




Kia Motors took its automotive innovations one step further in 1996 when it developed Korea’s first authentic sports car, the Kia Elan. Purchasing the design rights of the Lotus Elan, Kia renewed exterior elements as well as internal parts to create a beautiful and technically sophisticated vehicle. While the production was small-scale, the Kia Elan was a hit in worldwide (most notably the Europe and US) markets. Its stylish and sleek design continues to garner the love of automobile enthusiasts today.



Kia Motors remains one of the fastest growing automobile brands. With a long history of automotive excellence, Kia’s continuous development of bold designs and innovative concepts has impressed and continues to impress worldwide audiences. Looking back at our colorful collection of automobile creations, we hope to continue to surprise our customers as we have promised to do since our humble beginnings. Take a closer look at the earliest Kia cars and tell us your favorite in the comments below!