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Kia benchmarks Cerato GT against hot hatches
Australian steering, suspension tune for Kia Cerato GT targets Volkswagen Golf GTI
22 Jan 2019
BY KIA Motors Australia’s (KMAu) own admission, the Cerato GT small car is only warmed-over, but that did not stop it from targeting established European hot hatches, such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, when it came to locally tuning its steering and suspension.
The GT features sports-tuned motor-driven electric power steering, while its suspension consists of a MacPherson-strut set-up at the front and an independent multi-link rear axle. Other Cerato grades instead use a torsion beam and ride 5mm higher.
Once again, KMAu used its ride and handling team, this time tweaking the GT’s steering for improved linearity, responsiveness, feel, feedback, cornering accuracy and weight, with its most aggressive settings available via the Sport driving mode.
The engineers also retuned the GT’s suspension to not only better suit local conditions, but to add a bias towards handling “for a confidence-inspiring, fun-to-drive experience … whilst remaining stable and compliant”.
Speaking to journalists last week at the Cerato GT national media launch in Yering, Victoria, KMAu general manager of product planning Roland Rivero said the flagship grade was developed by the Korean brand as a warm model before local changes were made.
“This product, by all means, was never designed to take on hot hatches,” he said. “From KMAu’s perspective, we saw an opportunity to push the boundaries a little, knowing that there are no hot variant plans for Cerato at this stage.
“There was some negotiation that was required with R&D to really maximise the dynamic capability of Cerato GT for our market. Our spec is unique globally and unlike any other country.
“We are maxed out in terms of the hard parts bin developed for GT. We’ve got the stiffest spring rates available, the most rigid sway bars, mated to a high-compression shock-absorber tune that works in harmony with the independent rear suspension.”
Mr Rivero said KMAu was right to be aggressive with its GT tuning program that put several hot hatches in the firing line as benchmarks.
“From the parts that were developed and allocated globally, we pushed the GT to its limits, and we still set out targets fairly high,” he said. “In fact, we benchmarked hero hot hatches in any case.
“From our perspective, we really wanted to give drivers confidence and enjoyment to push the GT hard, to feel that it’s most rewarding at 10/10ths and to take that corner harder, knowing that the chassis has a lot to offer.”
Responsible for leading KMAu’s ride and handling team, Gambold Testing Services owner and Australian engineer Graham Gambold added that the GT’s limited hardware put it at a disadvantage when it came to balancing the suspension’s tune.
“Some of the cars have got adaptive suspension, so we’d looked at the sport tune, the comfort tune and make a judgement as to how close we would need to be in the middle,” he said.
“It’s difficult to actually target a hot hatch from where that position is, especially when you’ve only got a single conventional damper tune.
“From an engineer’s point of view, I’d love the car to have adaptive damping, but the market pricing doesn’t allow for that.
“So, we have to make a decision on whether we make a comfort car or a sportscar, and we went in the sports direction. We’re happy with it.”
When asked if the sports-tuned suspension may detract some buyers, Mr Gambold said comfort was never going to be the priority.
“We make no apologies for being a pretty aggressive tune, but we really wanted to focus on the handling,” he said. “We did target some high-end European hot hatches and did all the work in a handling environment.
“One of the cars we did a lot of work with was a Peugeot 308 GTi, Golf GTI, because they’re conventional dampers.
“In those cars, we also felt a bit of a compromise. The Golf’s tuned a little bit more for ride comfort, the Peugeot’s tuned very aggressively for handling. So, we tried to be in the right spot.”
The GT’s 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine develops 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1500 to 4500rpm, placing it well behind the 180kW/370Nm Golf GTI and the 200kW/330Nm 308 GTi in the output stakes, but Mr Rivero said that was not an issue.
“They have a bit more power … but you can aim high and let your hardware get as close as possible,” he said.
Mr Gambold added the GT was also benchmarked against the discontinued, mechanically related Hyundai i30 SR but not its recently launched N-Line successor that uses its full-fat N sibling’s suspension tune.
“SR, we thought was probably a little bit softer than we wanted, because they have N, whereas we don’t,” he said. “So, we needed to be over and above an SR but below an N.”
Thousands of kilometres were driven on Australian urban and country roads, as well as at Hyundai Motor Group’s Namyang R&D Centre in South Korea, before the unique tune for the Australian market was finalised.
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