Kia's Future Will Be Sportier, but Let's Not Kid Ourselves

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
kias future will be sportier but lets not kid ourselves

Hyundai has clearly committed itself to sporting models. While we’re positive the new N badge will attach itself to a handful of undeserving models in the years to come, go-fast versions of the overseas i30 and North American Veloster show it won’t be the norm. The brand seems to have hit upon something and intends to keep funneling high-performance models through its N sub-brand.

Now with a sporting model of its own, Kia wants in on the fun. But the Stinger GT looks to be in a safe place as the company’s premiere performance model for a while. Rather than focusing on lap times, the Korean brand intends to build smaller range of GT models with an emphasis on everyday performance. That could be a kinder way of saying “watered down,” or simply an admission that Kia wants fun-loving automobiles but knows it can’t step on Hyundai’s toes.

Kia is, after all, a value brand, and not many of its customers are interested in track day mayhem — or the associated expenses. But they would probably all appreciate the option to buy something that encourages you to misbehave slightly when the traffic clears up.

“For Kia, it is not the decision to enter with high-performance cars,” Albert Biermann, head of Hyundai Motor Group’s performance development division, told Autocar in a recent interview. “We did it with Hyundai N but there’s a clear decision not to with Kia, and GT needs to be a reasonable package. With the Ceed GT now, the minute you go high-performance, you need to work at a race track, and then the costs go up and the business case gets very challenging. Doing that next step is not an easy step.”

The company chose to keep the 2.0-liter turbo out of Europe’s Ceed GT, despite its presence in the base Stinger. That was likely done to minimize cost and ensure it doesn’t get in the way of the hot hatches coming from Hyundai. But the Ceed GT isn’t a snooze fest, either. Its 1.6-liter unit, found in the Hyundai Elantra Sport, is good enough for 201 horsepower — more than enough to be enjoyable in a relatively light automobile.

Kia’s progress toward performance will be steady, with GT versions introduced on some if its models in the coming years. Biermann said the next big leap takes place with the next-generation Optima. “For the next Optima GT, you can expect an interesting powertrain and suspension at the next level,” he said. “It’ll be the next level of Kia driving performance.”

However, the brand says it wants to see improved dynamics across the board, which is something else Biermann has been working on. “You can accept a little compromise on ride comfort, especially in Europe, for some sportiness,” he explained.

That should manifest itself primarily through improved body control and heavier steering. But Kia doesn’t want to paint itself into a corner, either. “It can be the way the gearshift feels, the way you feel when you sit down in the cabin — it’s a wider philosophy that’s being introduced and there are many more things to follow,” said Biermann.

While the automaker did not conform a GT variant of the Soul, the performance head did say it would be the next model to benefit from that wider philosophy. Expect superior agility from the third-generation model, scheduled to debut next month.

[Images: Hyundai Motor Group]

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  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Sep 30, 2018

    Stinger is a damn fine looking car and pretty fast. Whether it's as good as an Infiniti or Audi right now doesn't matter. Just remember how far they've come in the last 5-7 years and project that into the future.

  • Gtem Gtem on Oct 01, 2018

    "“You can accept a little compromise on ride comfort, especially in Europe, for some sportiness,” he explained." Just when Kia gets out of the woods on poor ride quality in the last 3 years or so on their cars, they're going back (albeit with better handling to go with it). I've praised a base LX-FE Optima rental I had on here before, I thought the ride handling balance with the base 205/65R16 tires was nothing short of superb.

  • Theflyersfan As a kid, a neighbor had one of these full-sized conversion vans with the TV and wet bar in the back. And it was so cool to go in - as a kid it was, driving it had to be terror at times with blind spots, iffy power and brakes, and the feeling that you're hauling your living room with you! Kids of the 1970s and 1980s had this experience. Afterwards with minivans and then CUV everything, not so much.And I'm crushed that a 1977 van doesn't have some kind of mural on the sides. Coyote howling at the moon, American flag, Confederate flag, bright stripes, something! You can't have a 1970's era van with plain sides! At least a "Don't Laugh. Your daughter's in here" bumper sticker on the back. I always get a Gacy or Bundy vibe with these vans...
  • Jeff S In the EV market Tesla is not a niche player it is the major player. According to the latest data of the California-based vehicle valuation and automotive research company  Kelley Blue Book, Tesla has the lion’s share with 75 percent market share in  the electric vehicle market in the first three months of 2022.Tesla has dominated the electric vehicle market for years in the United States. The electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla accounted for 79 percent of the new electric vehicles registered in the United States in 2020 and 69,95 percent in 2021. The decrease in the market share in 2021 might be explained by backlogs and the global chip shortage, but the company is ramping up its sales and has already increased its market share to 75 percent in the first quarter of the year. According to Kelley Blue Book, the top 10 EVs sold in the US in the first quarter of 2022 are;[list=1][*]Tesla Model Y[/*][*]Tesla Model 3[/*][*]Ford Mustang Mach-E[/*][*]Tesla Model X[/*][*]Hyundai Ioniq 5[/*][*]Kia EV6[/*][*]Tesla Model S[/*][*]Nissan Leaf[/*][*]Kia Niro[/*][*]Audi e-Tron[/*][/list=1]Tesla has delivered 310,048 vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, another first-quarter record. The success of Tesla is proven once again as the company has three electric cars in the top 10 most selling electric vehicles in the United States, while no other manufacturer has even two different models on the list.Tesla leads all others, selling slightly over 936,000 units in 2021. This gave the company a market share of nearly 14%.Mar 30, 2022
  • Jeff S I did not know Plymouth had a full size van prior to the mini vans. I did know about the Plymouth pickups and the Trail Duster.
  • Arthur Dailey When I grew tired of the T-Bird trying to kill me by refusing to start at the most inconvenient times/places, I replaced it with a '79 fullsized Dodge (Sportsman) van. Similar to this but with a different grille and rectangular headlights. The 4 'captains' chairs in my van were pretty much identical to the ones in this van. Mine certainly was not as nicely finished inside. And it was a handful to drive in snow/ice. One thing that strikes me about this van is that although a conversion it does not seem to have the requisite dark tint on the windows.
  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.