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