The slot below the Kia Rio will be filled by a new model, the Kia Picanto, either late in 2015 or mid-2016, CarAdvice has learned.
Kia Australia chief operating officer, Damien Meredith, told CarAdvice at an event in Sydney this week that buyers can expect the new Kia Picanto model to be priced at $14,990 driveaway, so a list price of $13,990 plus on-road costs could be the official ask.
As well as that, the car will be sold as a five-door model only, despite being offered in the potentially-more-affordable three-door guise in some markets.
The Picanto is set to be offered in one specification only, powered by a 1.2-litre petrol four-cylinder engine producing 64kW of power and 123Nm of torque, with the only transmission to be offered locally will likely be a four-speed automatic.
Based on Kia's New Zealand numbers (the car has been on sale there for some time), despite the little Picanto's pint-sized body it isn't as frugal as some rivals - claimed consumption could be as high as 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres, where rivals like the Suzuki Celerio and Mitsubishi Mirage offer more frugal budget motoring (4.8L/100km and 4.9L/100km respectively).
Kia claims the reasoning behind that is because no-one is buying manual models, even if a prospective $12,990 driveaway sticker price could draw some punters in. The Mirage, for instance, starts at $11,990 plus on-road costs for the manual, and the Celerio manual kicks off at $12,990 driveaway.
"What we've asked for is the highest spec," Meredith said, before going on to suggest that manual plays no part in that mix.
"If you look at the success of what Hyundai did last month: if you get a car at a price point and you're offering free automatic - magic happens," he said, referring to the i30's astonishing 5521-unit sales tally in June, which came off the back of a strong retail offer on the base model with a "free" automatic gearbox.
"Right now we've got Rio five-door auto at $16,990, the Picanto, same: five-door, auto, at $14,990 - we believe it will sell in reasonable numbers.
"I don't want to be the cheapest in the marketplace. I want to have the best offering."
How many? Based on some rough maths from Meredith, it should be able to sell 250 units per month. That's less than half the average monthly tally of Mirage sales, about 100 more than Suzuki sells of its Celerio, and just under what Fiat sells of the dearer 500.
As for timing, the new model is either going to arrive in the final quarter of 2015 - that's if the brand takes the current model - or "around this time next year" if Kia Australia waits for the updated version, which sees a few minor styling tweaks. Meredith said his preference was for this year, so we expect to see it in showrooms before Christmas.