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Kia Picanto GT-Line firms for Australia

Tasty triple: The European-spec GT-Line could form the basis of a slightly sporty Picanto variant down the track.

Sub-$20K pricetag the target for Kia Picanto GT-Line city hatch

25 Sep 2017

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) has firmed up plans to import the Picanto GT-Line to Australia, following confirmation that a local chassis tune has been developed for the sporty micro car and a sub-$20,000 pricetag would be targeted.

Speaking with GoAuto at the national media launch of the Stinger in Canberra last week, KMAu general manager of product planning Roland Rivero revealed that the warmed-up Picanto GT-Line has moved from being an outside chance to an odds-on favourite to arrive locally in 2018 – but a final decision was imminent.

“Our target is well below $20,000 so we’re talking just a nice tickle up (from Picanto),” Mr Rivero said.

“It’ll probably slightly overlap into Rio, but it’ll have the performance aspect. We’ve just got to put the business case together and get top management to see the business case.

“It’s hard to call because that micro car is not a huge amount of buyers. Yes, we are dominating at the moment, and pretty much every Picanto we can get our hands on we’re selling. But we’re looking at a niche within a niche.”

The entry-level manual Picanto S starts from $14,190 plus on-road costs, while the Rio S kicks off from $16,990 – so therefore a $17,990 or $18,990 pricetag would be expected for the Picanto GT-Line if it were to arrive. Asked whether that prospect was more or less likely, Mr Rivero replied: “I reckon more likely”.

The Picanto GT-Line was revealed at the Geneva motor show in March. Its 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine – dubbed Kappa 1.0 GDI – develops 74kW of power and 172Nm of torque, representing healthy hikes from the standard 1.25-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder’s 62kW/122Nm outputs, while its 10.1-second 0-100km/h claim is 1.9s quicker.

However the Picanto GT-Line is only available with a manual gearbox – a fact that helped end the short life of the manual-only Pro_cee’d GT Down Under due to slow sales, and which Mr Rivero flagged as the primary issue with introducing the vehicle into a market with an overwhelming preference for automatics.

“I want to bring it in, I’ll be honest,” he continued.

“(But) as much as I love driving a manual, it seems the market’s not moving in that direction.”

The sub-$30,000-plus Pro_cee’d GT proved highly acclaimed following its introduction to Australia in March 2014, however Kia sold just 381 examples that year. It was culled in November 2015 after 378 were sold in that year.

By contrast the Picanto has averaged 291 monthly sales between its May introduction and August, according to VFACTS sales figures. Its year-to-date sales tally of 2148 units now comfortably trumps the Mitsubishi Mirage (1130 over the same period) to lead the class overall. The micro car segment is, however, down 27.6 per cent this year and it represents 0.6 per cent of the passenger car market.

Asked whether the strong sales showing of Kia’s smallest vehicle would aid the case for the Picanto GT-Line to arrive locally, KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith replied: “Yes it does, and we’re very close to that (decision).

“We probably would have to make our mind up regarding GT within the next six months,” he added when also speaking with GoAuto at the national media launch of the Stinger last week.

“I’d love to give it a crack (and) we would like to have a GT at the top of each of our long range.

“But there are other variables outside my personal viewpoint that would make that decision. Some of the options around manual (only availability) … we have to look at that closely.”

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