Kia is considering a go-fast GT-badged version of its Sportage SUV, according to reports overseas, along with at least one new hot hatch.
Albert Biermann, Kia and Hyundai’s performance development boss, told press in Korea this week company hopes to add performance variants for most of its core models.
Autocar reports Biermann suggested these cars are unlikely to get more expensive technology like the electronic limited-slip differential that will feature on the i30 N ‘Plus’ variant a’la Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance.
Unlike Hyundai’s upcoming N division, Kia’s GT models aren’t aimed at high-intensity sports applications. They’re sharper and quicker than their regular siblings, however, and these latest reports suggest a high-riding model will soon join the program.
As the Korean brand looks to expand its performance range – which currently is limited to the Optima GT in Australia after the Pro_cee’d GT warm hatch and Cerato Koup Turbo were axed – Biermann told the UK’s Autocar that he would like to see a hotted-up Sportage join the line-up.
“A GT version would be a very interesting thing to do and I think we cannot go too wrong on that,” he said.
While there has been no confirmation of a Sportage GT (not to be confused with the style-focused Sportage GT Line, pictured), a performance SUV would be a logical next step, following the brand’s warm hatch (Pro_cee’d GT) and sports sedan (Optima GT).
According to a report with Evo, the company plans to announce at least one powered-up car next year, which is likely to be the Kia GT rear-wheel drive sports sedan that was spied testing this year, or a production version of the 2014 GT Stinger coupe.
Biermann is also the former chief of BMW’s M Division, and during his time there, the company launched the X5 M and X6 M performance SUVs – which makes his enthusiasm towards a hot SUV project no surprise.
Should a Sportage GT come to life, it would likely use a version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine already available in the Optima GT, which in its current form produces 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
Evo says Biermann is putting aural appeal as a top priority for Kia and Hyundai’s performance models – the Hyundai i30 N sounds awesome, listen to preview here – which suggests to a snarly exhaust note likely aided with sound generators.
Adding to the go-fast appeal could be a next-generation dual-clutch transmission (DCT) which the company is reportedly working on at the moment – expect it to debut with the i30 N.
Biermann believes DCTs “can offer an emotional experience”, let alone quick shift times and improved fuel economy.
Above: The US-spec 2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo
Interestingly, a sporting Sportage already exists: Kia offers the Sportage SX Turbo in the US, which is powered by the same 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo in the Optima GT, mated to a six-speed auto. The Sportage SX Turbo comes standard with front-wheel drive but can be optioned with an all-wheel drive system.
With the optional all-wheel drive setup, American title Car and Driver posted a 0-60mph (0-96km/h) time of 6.9 seconds in the turbocharged Sportage – not far off established hot-hatch territory. For now, however, this combination seems to be reserved for for the US-market Sportage.
In Europe there is also a more tame Sportage GT Line which employs a 130kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo paired with a seven-speed DCT, but the Australian market missed out on this variant – even though it is offered with the Hyundai Tucson.
Considering the current ‘QL’ Sportage was only released locally earlier this year, it’s unlikely we will see a turbo GT version for at least a few years, perhaps as part of a mid-life update.
A Sportage GT would give South Korea a rival in Australia to the likes of the Subaru Forester XT, Ford Kuga 2.0-litre Ecoboost and the soon-to-be released Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI (which uses the engine from the Golf GTI).
Small hot hatches on the cards
Biermann also told Evo that he is considering a smaller, lighter GT model.
According to the report, this new tiny hot hatch would likely use the company’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine, that is currently offered in the Kia cee’d hatch in the UK.
In GT Line spec, the three-pot turbo produces 88kW of power and 171Nm of torque, and pushes the six-speed manual-equipped cee’d from 0-60mph (0-96km/h) in 10.7 seconds.
A ‘smaller, lighter’ GT model using this engine would likely be based on the next-generation Picanto, giving Kia a rival to the likes of the Renault Twingo GT and the Volkswagen Up! TSI – although neither is offered in Australia.
Above: the current Kia Picanto
While few details were revealed about Kia’s pocket rocket, Biermann said: “We would love to use (the 1.0-litre turbo) in a fun model”.
Unlike the Sportage GT, however, a Picanto GT would be less likely to be made available here, as low-volume sales and small profit margins for such a small and niche model would prove a difficult business case for Kia’s local arm.
Meanwhile, Autocar reports the company is working on a GT version of the next-generation Rio to rival the Ford Fiesta ST, which would be a far more likely starter in Australia considering the hotly-contested light hot hatch segment that is also occupied by the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Renault Clio RS.