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Kia to lob four new variants in January

Cerato GT, Picanto GT and X-Line expected to boost Kia’s line-up in early 2019

18 Oct 2018

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) will roll out a trio of warmed-up GT models early next year, including the long-mooted Picanto GT, while a much-needed update for the Rio light hatch is also around the corner.
As reported, the recently revealed Cerato GT is powered by a 150kW/265Nm turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and has independent rear suspension for sportier ride and handling.
The Cerato GT will be offered in sedan and hatchback body styles when it arrives in January, which will likely coincide with the Australian Open tennis event, of which Kia is the major corporate sponsor.
At the same time, Kia will finally launch the Picanto GT warmed-up micro hatch, which is not to be confused with the GT-Line that is already sold in Australia and adds GT-inspired interior and exterior styling tweaks.
The Picanto GT uses a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine developing 74kW/172Nm, which is a 12kW/50Nm increase over the 1.25-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit in regular variants, while its 0-100km/h sprint time of 10.1 seconds is 1.9s quicker.
In Europe, the GT is only offered with a manual transmission, but it is unclear if the Australian-spec version will come with the option of an auto.
Another Picanto variant that is expected to land at the same time – although it is yet to be officially confirmed by KMAu – is the X-Line, which adds crossover-style design flourishes including cladding around the wheelarches and front and rear kick plates.
Revealed ahead of last year’s Frankfurt motor show, the Picanto X-Line is also powered by the 1.0-litre three-pot and it sits 15mm higher than the regular Picanto.
The Picanto has been a sales success for Kia, following the launch of the previous-generation model late in its life cycle, back in April 2016. 
The current model lobbed in May last year and with 4180 sales to the end of September, it is by far the biggest seller in its segment that now only counts the Mitsubishi Mirage (880) and Fiat 500 (589) as its direct competitors.
In fact, the Picanto outsells many models in the one-size-larger light-car segment, including the Volkswagen Polo (3652), the recently discontinued Holden Barina (2722), the Suzuki Baleno (1531) and the Renault Clio (733).
KMAu general manager of media and corporate communications Kevin Hepworth confirmed that an update to the Rio light hatch was imminent, but would not be draw on what the update would bring.
As GoAuto has reported, the refresh is likely to address some of the criticisms levelled at the current-generation model when it was launched early last year, with it to usher in the Picanto’s 1.0-litre unit and a seven-speed dual-clutch as part of its new ‘Sport’ grade.
The 1.4 litre naturally aspirated petrol engine will continue to power all other variants, but it is expected to finally get a six-speed automatic transmission to replace the old four-speed shifter.
Meanwhile, Mr Hepworth acknowledged that the sales growth the Cerato has enjoyed in the past two years has slowed because of the runout of the outgoing hatchback, with the new-gen version not landing until later this year, several months after the launch of the sedan.
“Growth is not going to be 24 per cent like it has been,” he said. “It is going to be seven to eight per cent, which is where we are running now. And in a compressing market that is still good.”
Mr Hepwroth added that the lack of a new Cerato hatch has had an impact on Kia’s overall sales performance this year, but said the company would get “close to” 60,000 units by year’s end, which would be about a nine per cent lift over its 2017 tally of 54,737 vehicles.
“If we have had three months of not being able to sell half of our biggest selling model (Cerato), that is going to affect something,” he said. “It always will.
“Where there are challenges, there is always opportunity.”

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