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Tweaking Korean suspension

Kia's Graeme Gambold has already tweaked a Koup, following a comprehensive Carsguide demolition of its ride and handling.

It's been that way since the late 1980s, but virtually none of the newcomers has been remotely ... let's say optimised ... to cope with Australian road conditions.

The first Hyundai I drove tried to kill me in Canberra when its no-grip Korean tyres totally lost traction at middling speed on a wet corner.
I have also been subjected to generations of basic, bumpy, bouncy, boring suspension systems in cars carrying Daewoo, Kia, Ssangyong and Hyundai badges. None has been remotely sporty to drive, in a European sense, and most have had trouble coping with anything beyond smooth city bitumen.

The Holden-badged Daewoos have been better and the latest Korean-made Cruze is pretty good, thanks to local engineering input. The car promises to get much better when it goes into local production next year.

Now Kia is also heading in the right direction, thanks to another Australian.  His name is Graeme Gambold and he is tweaking and tizzing the suspension under every Kia to make sure the cars work better in Australia, for average Australians. To get things straight, we're not talking about V8 Supercar work here, just the essential tuning to improve grip, comfort and - ultimately - safety.

Gambold is a suspension wizard who learned his craft - if that's the right word, because it's a university-level engineering job - during time at Toyota Australia. He reached the very highest level and is certified for Toyota testing on the Nurburgring in Germany.

He is also a classy rally driver who keeps a tweaked Celica GT4 in the shed for special days.  Now Gambold is on the payroll at Kia Australia and getting deep into the suspension needed to give the brand a showroom advantage in Australia.

He has already tweaked a Koup, following a comprehensive Carsguide demolition of its ride and handling.  The result is a car which drives much better, has far nicer cornering grip, and actually feels smooth and compliant over bumps instead of crashing and banging down the road.

Gambold is also responsible for the suspension tuning of the new Kia Sportage, which lands in Australia very soon.  He admits it's not a 100 per cent ground-up job, as he has taken parts from the system in Korea to get the best compromise for Australian needs.

But that is changing fast as Kia accepts Gambold's help and gives him access to the subsidiary companies that supply its springs, dampers and steering systems. He has already been to Kia's test tracks in Korea, talked to the engineers, and is showing them how to build cars which work in Australia.

Ultimately, it's work which will pay off for Kia customers around the world.  It's just a pity that Gambold is not available to also help Hyundai, as it searches for the changes it needs to improve its cars - and mostly notably the great looking i45 which is plain awful in the front suspension and steering.

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