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Kia Australia set to replace Pro_cee’d GT

Koup de grace: In the past few months, Kia has pulled both the Pro_cee’d GT (below) and the Certo Koup from its Australian line-up, leaving it without a sporty offering.

Sportier, more practical five-door sports-hatch promised by Kia insider

Kia logo20 Apr 2016

By DANIEL DeGASPERI

KIA’S recently departed Pro_cee’d GT three-door hot hatch will in the future be replaced with a sportier and more practical five-door hatchback with automatic transmission availability, GoAuto has learned.

An insider at Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) has revealed the local division will aim to build on its past tuning efforts developing the European-built Pro_cee’d GT, likely with the next-generation Cerato due late next year or early 2017.

The source told GoAuto that the local arm would not re-enter the sports hatchback segment unless Kia could equal or better the driving performance of the Pro_cee’d GT.

It utilised an independent rear suspension (IRS) that was tuned locally for Australian conditions, which helped garner it high dynamic praise for the sub-$30K, 150kW 1.6-litre turbocharged hatchback from local motoring media.

Currently the Korean-built Cerato, which will launch in facelifted form next month, is only available with a simpler and cheaper but more difficult to tune torsion bar rear suspension design.

The insider said Kia’s headquarters in South Korea is currently deciding whether IRS will be fitted to the next Cerato, and Australia is pushing strongly for this to happen. If IRS is not installed in Cerato, the local division will be forced to look again to Europe, the source explained.

KMAu media and corporate communications manager Kevin Hepworth told GoAuto he believed that IRS will be available in the next-generation Cerato, however, paving the way for a future sports hatchback replacement.

“We understand there will be an IRS in Cerato and that being the case there would be a strong argument from us for a GT version of the car,” he said.

“There is nothing settled but it’s on the wish list, sure.” Asked whether a torsion beam rear suspension in a Kia product could be as effectively tuned as an IRS, Mr Hepworth responded: “No, physically no.” “You can still make a car with a torsion bar that is a fine handling vehicle, but if you want to go to that next step in sports then you really need to be able to tune that rear-end properly and that’s what an IRS gives you,” he added.

Kia Australia has in recent months culled both the two-door Cerato Koup and three-door hatchback Pro_cee’d GT from its range, with each model last year contributing just 235 and 378 sales respectively.

Of the decision to remove the Pro_Cee’d GT from the line-up, Mr Hepworth said: “The pluses were that it was a great driving car, but against it was that it was a three-door car which is not very practical, but the biggest thing against it was that it didn’t have an automatic transmission.” The Cerato Koup was available with an automatic transmission, yet it still sold in fewer numbers than Pro_cee’d GT and utilised a torsion bar rear suspension. Mr Hepworth instead promised bigger things are on the way.

“Having taken Pro_cee’d and Koup Turbo out of the product line-up, you’ve got to look at that as possibly clearing the decks for something more exciting.

“There is method to the madness. We might be taking some things off the product line, but we’re not going to leave a chasm.” Asked what KMAu will do if IRS does not become available in Cerato, Mr Hepworth said: “We certainly hope that’s not the case, but if it was then it’s back to the drawing board.” GoAuto understands if IRS does not become available in Cerato, the local division will look at re-introducing a similar version of the Pro_cee’d GT, which is now available in automatic form in Europe but only with five doors, and is simply called Cee’d GT.

However, Mr Hepworth cautioned that importing the European-built model again could potentially result in less competitive pricing.

“You’ve got the same problems,” he started.

“You’ve got to get the car out of Slovakia, trained across Europe to a port, then shipped to Australia (and) as a single model then it doesn’t make much sense.” The previous-generation Sportage was the second-last vehicle Kia Australia imported from Slovakia, leaving the Pro_cee’d GT as the final vehicle, and its limited volume was more exposed to shipping costs.

“At 20 (sales) per month we weren’t getting much say in (the decision to keep) it,” Mr Hepworth explained, adding that if an automatic were available in the Pro_cee’d GT, local volume would have been doubled overnight.

The preference of KMAu’s chief operating officer Damien Meredith, however, is for even greater volume via a future five-door sports hatch, which is a more popular body-style than a three-door hatch in Australia, in addition to auto availability.

“What I would like is a GTI Cerato,” Mr Meredith explained at the national media launch of the Picanto micro hatchback in Canberra this week.

“Unfortunately Koup and Pro_cee’d weren’t delivering the critical mass that we required, and as a manufacturer of 30-40,000 (vehicles) we need to be really smart with our line-up.

“Pro_cee’d GT would still be here if we had an automatic transmission, but that wasn’t to be and … in terms of what it was offering us and in terms of its lead time out of Europe, we had to make the tough decision.

“Our preference really is that five-door sports-type situation, that’s what we’ re now looking at.”

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