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: souring the existing Kia Ceed GT from Europe or waiting until the next-generation Cerato hatch becomes available from Korea. Both are powered by the same 1.6-litre turbo engine that puts out 150kW and crucially both have five doors and a dual-clutch automatic.
The Proceed was launched locally in March 2014 but 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 is already on sale in Europe and therefore would be a quicker fix. It also has independent rear suspension, which lends itself to sportier handling. But exchange rates and the additional cost of importing from Europe count against it. Even if it were given the green light it would be a 2017 arrival.
The next generation Cerato would come from Korea and would be based on a newer platform shared with the Hyundai Elantra, but is further away from launch and unlikely to arrive until late next year. It is also unclear whether it will get independent rear suspension or a less sophisticated set-up.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the obvious benchmark for a Kia hot hatch.
Hyundai will launch a sporty SR version of the Elantra sedan in the third quarter of this year and that car will come with independent rear suspension, but it is unsure whether the Kia GT version would receive the same set-up.
Both brands are keen to inject some excitement into their small car line-up. The group appointed former BMW M Division employee Albert Biermann to work on performance cars and Kia expects to release the first car developed under his guidance in the middle of this year in Europe. The car will be a version of the existing Optima GT and is believed to have adaptive suspension among other tweaks.
While Hyundai is setting up a separate performance car division with more hardcore sports cars, Kia is focusing on hot hatches and more mild makeovers.
Group powertrain manager Michael Winkler says the Volkswagen Golf GTI is the obvious benchmark for a Kia hot hatch.
“I think a sports vehicle would start with the Golf GTI,” he says.
Winkler says work will also 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.
Would you find a Kia hot hatch with five doors and the availability of an auto more appealing? Tell us what you think in the comments below.