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Kia eyes March launch for new Sportage

Style sister: The Chinese-market Kia KX3 has been ruled out for Australia, but some of its styling cues are set to appear here on the new-generation Sportage about March.

Reinvented Kia Sportage likely to get Frankfurt debut ahead of 2016 kick off in Oz


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15 Jul 2015

KIA is on the countdown to its fourth-generation Sportage, with the latest iteration of its medium SUV likely to surface at September’s Frankfurt motor show ahead of a March debut in Australian showrooms.

The vehicle will be one of three all-new Kia models to be launched in Australia in a matter of months, starting with the new-generation Optima mid-sized sedan in the last quarter of this year, followed by the Picanto city hatchback in either December or January, and then the most important model of all, the Sportage, in about March.

The little Picanto, a 1.25-litre five-door light hatch that has been on sale for four years overseas, is set to take centre stage at the Kia-sponsored Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne in January as it finally makes its local debut as the entry level vehicle for the local Kia range.

All three new models will play a critical role in Kia Motors Australia’s (KMAu) plans to expand its local sales from about 30,000 to 50,000 vehicles by about 2019, while also growing its market share from the current 2.9 per cent to about five per cent.

Sportage engineering test mules have been spotted running around Europe recently, with spy photographs suggesting an evolutionary design borrowing some elements of the China-only Kia KX3 compact SUV launched at the Shanghai motor show in April.

Apart from a new look and fresh technology, the latest Sportage is likely to get a powertrain upgrade, probably gaining a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine borrowed from the Pro_cee’d GT and Cerato Koup, mated with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The new Sportage is expected to share many of its underpinnings with the new Hyundai Tucson that is due to replace the smaller ix35 in this country in August.

Like all Kia models, the Sportage is will be put through KMAu’s local suspension and tuning program to suit Australian conditions.

KMAu media and corporate communications general manager Kevin Hepworth said that while the new model “will look like a Sportage”, one of its biggest advances would be a greatly improved interior design with a lift in both style and quality.

He said international launch plans for the vehicle had not been announced but that it was likely to arrive in Australian showrooms about March.

The Sportage is likely to take the international stage at the Frankfurt motor show on September 15, although the Los Angeles show in November is an outside chance.

Mr Hepworth said a wealth of new models had caused KMAu to think about how to spread its launch program to gain maximum marketing bang for buck, with some space in between the debuts of the Optima, Picanto and Sportage.

Speaking of SUVs, Mr Hepworth said the one glaring omission in the Kia line-up was a compact SUV to take the fight up to the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Subaru XV and Ford EcoSport, but no such vehicle was imminent.

Hyundai has ruled out the Indian-made Creta and Chinese-built ix25 for Australia on safety grounds, as neither will achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

A suitable model thus needs to be developed from scratch, presumably for both Hyundai and Kia, and that is expected to take up to three years.

The current Kia Sportage was launched in 2010, but got a facelift about a year ago. So far this year, Kia has sold 4025 of the SUVs – down 13.9 per cent – making it the seventh best-selling SUV in its class and the second best-selling Kia after the Cerato small car (5528).

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