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Kia Pro_Cee’d edges closer to Oz

Chic: The Slovakian-built Kia Pro_Cee’d could be here by late 2013, priced from about $32k.

Performance-leading hot hatch from Europe formally requested by Kia Australia

Kia logo7 Feb 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

KIA’S turbocharged European-built Pro_Cee’d GT three-door hot hatch has inched closer to a local launch, with the company’s Australian arm formally requesting permission to bring the car Down Under as a new performance leader.

The front-drive GT – which is based on the classy European market Pro_Cee’d coupe – was officially unveiled late last month ahead of a world debut at the Geneva show in March, and shares its potent 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo engine with the Hyundai Veloster SR.

Unlike the Hyundai, the GT will be available exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox, owing to Europeans’ preference for shifting their own gears.

While Kia Australia has previously made no secret of its desire to bring a performance leader to market as it continues its move upmarket, news of its request to get supply of the GT from the Slovakian factory where it will be built exclusively from June only came to light this week.

GoAuto understands the GT could hit Australia by the end of 2013, although a combination of factors including early demand in Europe and the time it takes to localise the car’s Australian-specific suspension tune could push this out to 2014 – that is assuming it gets the green light.

An announcement either way is expected to be made by March, coinciding with the Geneva show.

Kia Australia public relations general manager Kevin Hepworth told GoAuto in Chicago – where the company this week will unveil the new-generation Cerato hatch – that its business case is strong and the signs following KMA’s request are looking positive.

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“We want it, it’s a high desirability car for Australia, and requests have been made,” he said.

“(However) KMC is not rushing to foreign markets. They’ve got Europe to be concerned about first, which is naturally their prime market.

“On the other hand, we’ve had no negative responses to our request, so we’re pretty hopeful. We’re putting a lot of work into getting it because we want the car.”

If it were to go ahead, the Pro_Cee’d GT would maintain its unusual name and not be branded under the Cerato nameplate.

The new-generation, two-door Cerato Koup will be unveiled at next month’s New York motor show before coming to Australia in late 2013.

Mr Hepworth said the GT would likely be a stand-alone model, with KMA less-keen to offer the less-powerful, cheaper versions available in Europe.

“Why would we bring a base Pro_Cee’d in, when we already have an established name in Cerato?” he said.

If the plan to import the GT goes awry, Mr Hepworth said Kia Australia hoped to get getting another turbocharged model this year. The Cerato has long been tipped as the next model to get the 150kW powerplant.

“We do want to get a turbo engine in Australia,” he said. “We have to break the ice somewhere. One of the cars has to get it, at this stage the eggs are in the Pro_Cee’d basket.”

Another dark horse to fill the role could be the mysterious two-door coupe concept set to appear in full at next month’s Geneva motor show.

The Pro_cee’d GT would likely attract a starting price of around $32k in Australia, the same as the Veloster SR. This price point would suitably place the Kia below more powerful rivals such as the Renault Megane RS and Ford Focus ST, and close to fellow European – the Opel Astra GTC.

GoAuto understands a potential method of speeding up the car’s local launch could be to initially bring the car here with its European tuning – the suspension of the Cee’d on which it is based has had input from Kia’s Australian team – and make localisation tweaks on the fly.

Kia’s localisation tuning – which involves months of pre-production testing on local roads through an engineering team headed by consultant Graeme Gambold, fine-tuning the suspension and steering for local conditions and tastes – takes around six months.

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