Kia knocks on doors for a GT
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.