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Kia Cee’d earmarked as limited edition

Cee'd planted: Kia is looking at the possibility of selling the Cerato (left) and the Euro-focused Cee'd (below) side by side in Australia.

Euro-hatch to provide possible two-prong Kia attack in small segment

20 Apr 2016

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) is considering a two-pronged attack in the small-car segment with the possibility of the Cerato doing battle at the cheaper end and the European-built Cee’d offering a premium VW Golf-baiting alternative.

Speaking at the national media launch of the Picanto micro hatchback in Canberra this week, KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith admitted that while sales of the Cerato have improved, further opportunities exist in such a sizeable segment.

“It’s a 300,000 (annual unit) segment and we’d like to do a lot more than what we’re doing at the moment,” Mr Meredith told GoAuto.

“We’d like to be doing 15,000 (small car sales) per year.”

Last year the Cerato achieved its best sales result yet with 10,157 units shifted, a 52 per cent increase over its 2014 result. In the first quarter of 2016 sales are up just 1.1 per cent to 2407 units, although the sub-$40,000 small-car segment is down by 8.4 per cent year to date.

“One of our aims is to be in the top five of each segment we compete in, so we’ve got a bit of work to do with Cerato,” Mr Meredith said.

“Cerato is now number six in the small-car segment, so it’s jumped up dramatically (as) it was 13th. To get to that next step is a big jump, there’s no question about that.”

The entry-level Cerato automatic is currently offered at $19,990 driveaway with a $1000 gift card added in the run-out phase ahead of the facelifted version launching next month.

However, Mr Meredith admits opportunity could exist for small car with a more premium position in the market, such as the European-built Cee’d five-door hatchback.

“There’s always discussion about that,” he said of the chance of a Cerato and Cee’d two-pronged attack in the small-car segment.

“Then all the other variables come into play. Cee’d is manufactured mainly in Europe for the European market, so you’ve got to look at travel time and the cost involved in that.”

Import cost was one of the reasons Kia pulled the Pro_cee’d GT, a three-door sports version of the mainstream five-door Cee’d hatch, from the market late last year.

“There are a lot of reasons not to (introduce Cee’d) but the fact is that we’re always studying what we can do to expand our base that therefore helps our volume,” Mr Meredith added.

Asked if the Cerato and Cee’d could co-exist in the market in a similar vein to the Euro-influenced Hyundai i30 hatchback and US-influenced Hyundai Elantra sedan, Mr Meredith responded: “Probably not like i30 and Elantra, but you could probably look at a limited edition Cee’d, you could look at it that way.”“We haven’t pushed Cee’d out of the picture completely,” he maintained.

“Is there fine tuning going to occur with our model range? Yes there is. In the mid-term we would certainly want a sports hatch, that would be the big one.

“What I would like is a GTI Cerato, then see how that whole packaging goes with Cerato then look at Cee’d.”

The potential for a ‘GTI’ version of the Cerato rests on whether independent rear suspension (IRS) will be available in the next-generation model due late next year or early 2017 (see separate story).

KMAu insists IRS must be available to create a sportier version of the Cerato, but GoAuto understands no decision has yet been made globally.

The current Cee’d is available with IRS standard, paving the way for potential high-spec and sports model grades in the future.

Made in Slovakia, the Cee’d is available in Europe in five-door hatch or wagon bodystyles with a choice of turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, or 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel, all with the option of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Locally, the Cerato is available in five-door hatch or four-door sedan body style with 1.8- or 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engines and six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

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