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Kia to heat up line-up

Hybrid theory: The Niro hybrid SUV has again been ruled out for the Australian market as Kia could not make it more affordable than the Sportage.

Sporty variants of core Kia models on the cards but small SUV nowhere to be seen

30 Nov 2016

KIA is looking at sporty versions of some of its core models to give the brand a point of difference against its mainstream competitors, but the car-maker will have to make do without a compact SUV for a while yet.

The only remotely sporty models in Kia’s Australian line-up – the Pro_cee’d GT three-door hot hatch and the Certo Koup – have been discontinued due to slow sales, leaving the company without a go-fast model.

However, fans of the brand might have something to look forward to in the not-too-distant future, with Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith suggesting that the car-maker would like more than one sports-focused variant.

“I think that if you looked at the future, we would like to see a performance vehicle of Picanto, a performance vehicle in Rio, a performance vehicle in Cerato etc etc,” he said at a media event in Melbourne last week. “I think that is what is going to differentiate our brand and that is what is going to give us the cache moving forward.”

As GoAuto has reported, Mr Meredith is keen to add a warmed-over version of the Cerato small car to Kia’s line-up as a competitor to the Volkswagen GTI, but this is unlikely to happen until the next-generation model appears in 2018.

A Rio GT hot hatch has been rumoured for some time, but so far Kia has not confirmed anything beyond the pedestrian version that was revealed ahead of this year’s Paris motor show. If such a model came to fruition it would go head to head with the likes of the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Renault Clio RS and Ford’s feisty Fiesta ST.

The next-generation Picanto micro car is not likely to be revealed until about April – probably at the Geneva motor show – and there is no confirmation of a sporty version yet.

While it is not a performance model, Kia’s Sorento large SUV has piqued the interest of some law enforcement agencies as a replacement for the Ford Territory that ended production in October.

Kia had four Sorentos under evaluation by Victoria and Queensland Police, with changes requested by the agencies to the alternator and brakes, according to Mr Meredith.

If the Sorento is approved by the two police forces, Kia would need to produce them with all of the extras required for a functioning police car at the South Korean factory.

Mr Meredith said there were benefits for the brand in having its models used as police cars.

“Huge positive benefits,” he said. “Certainly volume for a start. And then secondly I think that there is a bit of (brand) cache and reliability when people see those cars driving around badged, they know that they are reliable and robust. They are initial benefits I would say.”

Meanwhile, the mooted compact SUV that will sit under the Sportage is unlikely to head Down Under anytime soon, with Mr Meredith acknowledging that it would not land before 2018.

“There is nothing in our plan at this point in time,” he said of the Mazda CX-3 rival.

Another Kia SUV, the Niro hybrid, has been formally ruled out for the Australian market after Mr Meredith previously said in June it was being re-evaluated for a local launch.

“My view is that Niro footprint was smaller than that of the Sportage and because of its configuration with hybrid, it was more expensive so it didn’t make sense to us to bring in a smaller footprint with a higher price at that point in time,” he said. “We did ask them to go back and try to re-evaluate pricing structure. As it turned out they could not get it below Sportage. We didn’t see great value in bringing that to market at this point in time.”

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