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Detroit show: Kia cold on its own N division

Sporting chance: Kia’s new Cerato (shown in US market Forte guise) eventually will be offered in spicy GT guise.

GT variants to be the pinnacle of performance for Kia for now

16 Jan 2018

KIA’S performance car chief has ruled out a Kia version of Hyundai’s N performance sub-brand for now but left the door open for spicier models in the future if its line-up of warmed-up GT variants prove to be successful globally.

Sister company Hyundai recently launched its go-fast N brand with the 184kW/353Nm or 202kW/353Nm i30 N hot hatch, and has just followed up with an N version of the Veloster at the Detroit motor show.

Asked if Kia had plans for a standalone performance division, Hyundai Motor Company executive vice-president and head of vehicle test and high performance development Albert Biermann poured cold water on the idea.

“No, for Kia we have the GT and that is good enough,” he told Australian journalists at the Detroit show this week.

Mr Biermann later added that while there were no plans for a hotter Kia sub-brand, the company had the capability to do it.

“I mean, at this stage there is no plan,” he said. “But I am ready any time to do one more step up. From an engineering point of view, that is not the issue.” He said the roll out of sporty GT variants of existing models was the priority, but added that a hotter version of the Cerato and its European Cee’d sibling above the GT was not out of the question down the track.

“Once that GT step has been done successfully and is well established, maybe then between the GT customers there might be guys who want to go one step up,” he said. “And when that time has come, we will be ready from an R&D side to do that step.”

Kia ripped the covers off its new US-market Forte sedan at the Detroit show this week. It will be sold in Australia as the new Cerato sedan from the second quarter of the year before the hatch arrives in quarter four.

Mr Biermann said a GT version of the Cerato was being developed by his team, but the company is yet to release details of the warmed-up variant.

It is likely to use the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine found in other Hyundai and Kia products, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Mr Biermann said the new-generation Cee’d/Cerato GT would not need more performance than the current sporty Cee’d that pumps out 150kW and 265Nm.

“I think the performance level is fine where we are right now, with the engine performance,” he said. “I think that’s fine but … on the handling side, you can expect a good step up.”

Kia Motors Australia has had its hand up for a more performance-focused version of its Cerato for some time.

That version will likely compete with Hyundai’s warmed-up i30 SR.

Mr Biermann said more GT variants would be rolled out across Kia’s global portfolio beyond the existing Cee’d, Optima and Stinger, adding that some of the car-maker’s SUVs could get the GT treatment in the future.

“I don’t know at this stage if it is on the plan, but it is possible. You can always make a more sporty car of everything. It is a matter of, do you find the business case for that, is the market ready for that.”

Mr Biermann appeared to rule out a V8, or a higher performance version of its Stinger rear-drive halo car, despite previously insisting that he would look at a more powerful variant.

“No, at this time there is no plan and I think there is no need. I think with the Stinger we are entering an area we haven’t been before and I think we should go step-by-step.”

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