Kia knocks on doors for a GT

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - News - RICHARD BLACK­BURN

KIA is look­ing to get back into the hot hatch busi­ness af­ter pulling the unloved Pro­ceed GT out of the lo­cal mar­ket last year.

The com­pany is weigh­ing two op­tions: bring­ing in the Kia Ceed GT from Europe or wait­ing for the next-gen­er­a­tion Cer­ato hatch from Korea. They share a 1.6-litre turbo en­gine that puts out 150kW and, cru­cially, both have five doors and a dual-clutch au­to­matic.

The Pro­ceed, launched here in March 2014, failed to at­tract much in­ter­est be­cause it had three doors and no man­ual op­tion. It was cut from the lo­cal line-up at the end of last year af­ter notch­ing just 759 sales.

Kia Aus­tralia spokesman Kevin Hep­worth says the brand is keen to re­place the Pro­ceed.

“We would love to have a GT hatch as part of our small car line-up. It’s a mat­ter of weigh­ing up the pros and cons of the op­tions avail­able to us,” he says.

The Ceed GT, al­ready on sale in Europe, would be a quicker fix — its in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion lends it­self to sportier han­dling. Ex­change rates and the cost of im­port­ing from Europe count against it and, even if given the green light, it would be a 2017 ar­rival.

The next gen­er­a­tion Cer­ato from Korea would be based on a newer plat­form shared with the Hyundai Elantra but would be un­likely to ar­rive un­til late next year. It is also un­clear whether it will get in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion or a lesser setup.

Hyundai will launch a sporty SR ver­sion of the Elantra sedan later this year with in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion.

Both brands are keen to in­ject some ex­cite­ment into their small car line-ups. The group ap­pointed for­mer BMW M Divi­sion en­gi­neer­ing chief Al­bert Bier­mann to work on per­for­mance cars.

In Europe, Kia ex­pects to re­lease the first car de­vel­oped un­der his guid­ance mid-year. It will be a ver­sion of the ex­ist­ing Optima GT and is be­lieved to have adap­tive sus­pen­sion among other tweaks.

As Hyundai is set­ting up a sep­a­rate per­for­mance car divi­sion with more hard-core sports cars, Kia is fo­cus­ing on hot hatches and milder makeovers.

Group pow­er­train man­ager Michael Win­kler says the VW Golf GTI is the ob­vi­ous bench­mark for a Kia hot hatch.

Win­kler says work will be done on the cal­i­bra­tion of the com­pany’s dual-clutch trans­mis­sion, which has been crit­i­cised for lack­ing the sporti­ness of ri­val gear­boxes. “Hyundai has made sig­nif­i­cant changes,” he says.

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