Kia is set to launch a wave of hot GT derivatives, and we’re also told that the chassis tune of the brand’s standard cars will become more dynamically focussed.
Although the original ProCeed GT was designed exclusively for Europe, Hyundai and Kia’s performance development boss Albert Biermann, the former BMW M engineer, says that future versions will be sold globally. “The Ceed GT is a very balanced car,” he told us at the opening of a new test track at the company’s Namyang R&D Centre in Korea, “but we are a few years further down the road, and if we were to engineer it now it would have some more spice to it.”
Biermann admitted that “GT is not right for all Kia models” but we’re told that the plan is to create a performance derivative for most of the company’s mainstream cars. The Optima GT is set to launch shortly, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 242bhp, and as we’ve previously reported the company is also planning a GT version of the next Rio to rival the Fiesta ST. The obvious gap in the range is a GT version of the strong-selling Sportage SUV, something Biermann admits he would love to create, although no such model has been signed off yet. “A GT version would be a very interesting thing to do and I think we cannot go too wrong on that,” he told us, “but we need to make the case for it.”
Unlike Hyundai N models Kia GTs aren’t designed to handle regular track use, with Biermann suggesting that they were unlikely to get more expensive technology like the electronically controlled limited slip differential that has been developed for the “Plus” version of the forthcoming Hyundai i30N.
Regular Kias are also set to get more dynamically focussed chassis settings, with Biermann admitting that there was still work to be done to create Kias that “drive as well as they look.” Kia models will be differentiated from their Hyundai platform buddies using firmer springs, retuned and more direct steering and also grippier tyres. “Kia is meant to be more emotional than Hyundai and we have to make cars that reflect that when you drive them,” Biermann said, “Hyundai is the quieter brand, that’s why the N-Division was created, because the brand cannot stretch as far. Kia can stretch much further, and I think we will be able to do more aggressive cars.”
He was also keen to sing the praises of his Korean engineering team. “Things happen so quickly here, it’s all about acting and getting things done, not just having meetings and talking,” he said, “I took three powertrain guys out in the Optima GT prototype last summer and told them what I liked and what I didn’t, they were writing notes the whole time. The automatic gearbox wasn’t very good, the implementation – it was slow, you could downshift before a corner and it wouldn’t give you the gear in time. Six weeks later they showed by a new iteration and it was so much better, it was like a different car, and they still wanted to know what I thought, they still wanted to make it better.”