Kia is preparing the next phase in its assault on mainstream European brands: a hot hatchback in the classic mould of the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Management at the Korean firm have confirmed to Autocar that a high-performance model is in the pipeline. “We are preparing turbocharged engines,” said Soon-Nam Lee, Kia’s overseas marketing director. “We are tuning suspension and we are preparing a Golf GTI rival.”

Autocar understands that the basis for the hot hatch is likely to be the next generation of Kia’s three-door Cee’d, whose styling could be influenced by the Koup concept, a two-door fastback coupé first revealed at the New York show in 2008.

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The five-door Cee’d is four years old next spring and due for replacement then, although it may be the autumn before the three-door Cee’d variant appears.

Power for the Cee’d GTI is almost certain to come from Kia’s latest 2.0-litre turbocharged Theta II engine, as fitted to the latest Optima saloon in the US.

The unit produces a hefty 274bhp and 269lb ft in the large saloon, although Kia is likely to retune it to around 220-230bhp for the smaller hatchback.

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Kia sees 2012 as the year when it begins to deliver driving dynamics and sportier models to assist its design department in differentiating its brands from those of sister firm Hyundai.

However, Kia COO and senior vice-president Thomas Oh insisted the firm would not build a loss-leading ‘halo’ car to help its cause. “It must be economically viable in terms of volumes,” he said.

Soon-Nam also confirmed Kia will definitely make a convertible; a soft-top concept, the Excee’d, was seen in 2008. “In Europe — particularly Germany and the UK — convertibles are very popular, especially in the spring,” he said. “We have a plan to introduce a Soul-based convertible; this is intended for 2014.”

John McIlroy

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