KIA is preparing the ground for a fleet of more performance-focused and sporty models to proliferate the Australian range, united by a new GT brand, and building on the high-performance kudos infused by the rear-drive Stinger sedan.
With sales of the Stinger averaging about the 180 per month mark, Australians are demonstrating they are happy to write a cheque for a high-performance Kia, and the company says that a shifting perception of the brand has the potential to take the company further into more sporty markets.
Kia Motors Australia COO Damien Meredith explained the strategy will be split into two levels of GT treatment “There’s GT Line and GT,” he said.
While the GT Line would look after a customer wanting more visual sporty touches over substantial performance enhancement (think Volkswagen R-Line and Renault GT-Line), variants with a GT badge would offer a genuine boost in power and handling over standard models.
The next GT model to follow the Stinger GT is yet to be confirmed but Meredith suggested a warmed-up version of the Cerato hatch and sedan is in the running as an early arrival.
“For example, if you had the opportunity for a stronger, faster engine in a Cerato and you could have IRS (independent rear suspension) and a few other bits and pieces, would you go down that line and have a sedan and hatch with that componentry?” he said.
“The answer would probably be yes and we would call that GT.”
While Kia has the Stinger as its performance flagship, sister brand Hyundai has also recently broken into the driving enthusiast market with its potent i30 N hot hatch, but Meredith said Kia had no plans to try and cut the N’s grass.
“There’s nothing in our plan to match an N, but we’ll look at something with regards to Cerato.”
Another addition will be a more focused version of the bantamweight Picanto hatch, which has been given the green light for Australia. The compact hatchback weighs in with a turbo 1.0-litre three-cylinder, fat bodykit, bigger 16-inch wheels and lowered suspension that has undergone local tuning.
Dubbed the Picanto GT Line, the littlest representative of the new performance brand is on sale now from $17,490 in auto-only.
Below the pumped-up GT variants, the strategy to appeal with more sporty cars will extend to the GT Line and a range of Kias that wear more dynamic styling addenda. While the first model is yet to be confirmed, Meredith said the company would eventually like to extend the GT Line range-wide.
“We would like to see a GT Line in each of our products including the SUVs,” he said.
“We will still, in each of the line-ups, look at having GT Line in each of the segments as we’ve done with Picanto. That doesn’t stop us from having a Picanto GT either.”
In Europe, the Kia Rio GT Line is already on offer, posing another possibility that could join the Australian GT movement in the coming months.
Kia has tested the high-performance market in the past with the Proceed GT but, with a manual gearbox only, the accomplished hatchback failed to find a broad audience. For its second attempt on the hi-po segment though, the Stinger has made waves with serious power channelled through rear wheels and an automatic transmission.
“It’s selling relatively well, we’re averaging about 180 Stingers a month,” said Meredith. “If you talk to the dealer network, they are ecstatic about the car, it’s obviously brought a new channel of people into the business to buy our brand.”
With the new GT approach, Kia is planning to keep that influx of driving enthusiasts flowing.