Turbo plans stalled

Changes to spice up two pop­u­lar but plain-per­form­ing Kias have taken a hit

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News -

PLANS to put more punch into the Kia line-up in Aus­tralia have taken a hit in Korea.

Tur­bocharged petrol en­gines were sup­posed to be ready for the Sportage and Optima be­fore the end of the year, but the heavy work­load at Kia’s en­gi­neer­ing cen­tre at Namyang has caused a de­lay.

There is even a chance that the turbo en­gine— with the prom­ise of 204kW and 265Nm — could now com­pletely miss the boat headed Down Un­der.

Kia Aus­tralia says it only learned of the de­lay re­cently and is push­ing hard to get the pro­gram back on track.

‘‘ Real­is­ti­cally, it’s go­ing to need a con­certed push from all the right-hand drive mar­kets. That’s Eng­land, as well as Aus­tralia and South Africa,’’ Kia Aus­tralia spokesman, Kevin Hepworth said.

‘‘ We al­ways had the pro­gram in the back of our minds and there had been strong in­di­ca­tions fromKMC man­age­ment that it was in the works. To hear about the de­lay is cer­tainly dis­ap­point­ing, but we un­der­stand the heavy work­load from pri­or­ity mar­kets means it’s not a pri­or­ity now.’’

Cars­guide has driven the force- fed Sportage and Optima in Cal­i­for­nia and can re­port the turbo en­gines de­liver the ex­tra go that’s cur­rently miss­ing from the ve­hi­cles. But the US cars def­i­nitely suf­fer in the ride and han­dling stakes with­out the Aus­tralian sus­pen­sion tun­ing, with dreaded torque steer ev­i­dent in both the Optima and Sportage.

The tur­bocharg­ing pro­gram is part of a push by Kia to make the brand the sporty mem­ber of the Hyundai-Kia fam­ily, al­though the com­pany ad­mits it has no proof yet of the sales po­ten­tial in Aus­tralia.

‘‘ We were look­ing to get halo mod­els,’’ says Hepworth.

‘‘ We know Aus­tralians en­joy a per­for­mance drive and, given the new en­giner­ing and styling of the cars, we thought it would be a good fit.’’

The tur­bocharg­ers are fit­ted to Kia’s lat­est gen­er­a­tion of di­rect-in­jec­tion petrol en­gines — which are cur­rently only seen in 2.4-litre form in the Optima in Aus­tralia.

They are 2.0-litres in ca­pac­ity and give a solid push in all con­di­tions, with­out even both­er­ing with a turbo boost gauge or any sort of in­let or ex­haust whoosh or thump.

Hepworth says the Kia turbo will de­liver slightly more power than a Subaru WRX, al­though around 60Nm less torque.

The prob­lem for the planned Aus­tralian pro­gram is get­ting the turbo-charger in­stal­la­tion ad­justed for right-hand drive clear­ance. It’s not a dif­fi­cult job — but it will take both peo­ple and time at Namyang.

‘‘ It’s only been en­gi­neered to the left-hand drive car, so there would be pack­ag­ing chal­lenges that would need to be met,’’ said Hepworth. ‘‘ It’s not a straight bolt-in job. ‘‘ And there’d be cer­ti­fi­ca­tion costs in Aus­tralia.’’

How­ever, Hepworth be­lieves Kia is still com­mit­ted to tur­bocharged en­gines in Aus­tralia as part of a global push be­ing driven from both the US and Europe.

Wait: Tur­bocharg­ing the Optima and Sportage (be­low) is part of a push to make the brand the sporty mem­ber of the Hyundai-Kia fam­ily

PAUL GOVER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

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