Kia wants to become as respected for the ride and handling of its cars as it is for its design and quality.
So says the firm’s European chief operating officer, Michael Cole, who highlighted the appointment of the former BMW M development chief Albert Biermann to the role of its performance vehicles boss as evidence.
“Dynamics is a key focus for us, with teams working on it across the business,” Cole told Autocar. “We have built a reputation on design, quality and reliability, but now there is a lot of focus on ride and handling. We also want to be a benchmark on ride and handling.
“We can compete, but we want to better that and be renowned for our dynamics as well.”
Cole said the appointment of Biermann showed that Kia had “strengthened” in that department.
“He chiefly works on performance cars like the Optima GT, but his influence is now felt everywhere, and he’s more involved across the business. He’s a sign of our commitment that we want to make this a real strength across our brand.”
Kia has two performance models at present, with the Ceed GT and the Optima GT. It also has sporty-looking GT Line as a trim level on certain models and this will be rolled out across the line-up, including on the new Rio.
Cole said: “When we did Ceed GT, our plan was not to have an outright high-performance muscle car, but a car that’s comfortable to drive, responsive and fun to drive – not at the really hot end, but still fun.”
Kia is soon expected to crown its high-performance range with a new four-door coupé inspired by the GT concept from 2011. As recently revealed by Autocar, the production model is due to be seen next year, although Cole was more coy on the subject.
Cole said the production GT is still “a work in progress”. He added: “There’s been no final announcement. It’s a very exciting project. There will be a time when it’s right for us. We’re rightly focused on the core segments but we see this as an opportunity. We'll hopefully go through with it and not too far away, but there’s nothing to confirm yet.”