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Car and Driver: Kia to Unleash Wave of GT Variants


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Kia Ceed

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For as much as all automakers strive for it, excitement is an overrated virtue when it comes to selling cars. Kia managed to move 626,000 units in the U.S. last year, with a range offering all the thrills of low-fat vanilla, but the brand is now set to try and boost its global fortunes further with a range of new “GT” models.

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The first GT-badged Kia was the European Pro’Ceed hatch (pictured), which received a reasonably positive response when it went on sale in 2013, enough to encourage the creation of a wider range. An Optima GT is about to be launched in various markets and is basically a tuned-up version of the U.S.-spec Optima SX, complete with the same 245-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine but with a more aggressive chassis tune. Several other variants will follow.

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“The C’eed GT is a very well balanced car,” Albert Biermann, Hyundai-Kia’s head of performance development told us last week at the company’s Namyang engineering center, “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.”

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Biermann admits that not all Kia models will have a GT version, but several others are planned, positioned above the existing Kia line-up but more affordable than the Hyundai N performance variants that Biermann and his team are also responsible for engineering. We’re told that there will be a GT version of the new Rio hatchback, most likely powered by a three-cylinder turbocharged engine, and Biermann also says he’s keen to create a Sportage GT, although that’s not been signed off yet. We’re told the plan is to ultimately offer GT versions globally, so that will include the U.S.

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Below these GT versions, regular Kias are also set to get more dynamic focus, with Biermann saying that he wants to create a generation of Kias that “drive as well as they look,” and which will get firmer suspension settings and more direct steering than their Hyundai platform-buddies. “Kia is meant to be more emotional,” Biermann said, “Hyundai is the quieter brand. Kia can stretch much further and I think we will be able to do more aggressive cars.”

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Aggressive—not really a Kia word, is it? Sounds like the brand likes the sound of that better than “vanilla.”

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