Kia to Unleash Wave of GT Variants

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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. 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. “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.” Biermann admits that not all Kia models will have a GT version, but several others are planned, positioned above the existing Kia lineup 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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Kia will introduce a turbocharged Soul Hatchback This Year

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The only thing more popular than the Kia Soul, sales of which have risen each year since it was introduced for 2009, seems to be the commercials Kia drums up for the little hatchback. You know the ones we’re talking about—they’re filled with dancing hamsters (which Kia dubs Hamstars) and typically feature catchy, of-the-moment hit songs. The latest such ad is out, and it’s chock-full of those now familiar tropes, not to mention Hamstar appearances, but what really caught our eye was a winking tease at the end of the spot that hints at a coming turbocharged Soul model.

In the closing frames of the new Soul ad, an overview of the Soul lineup is shown and includes the regular gasoline-powered model, the electric model, and something new: a “Turbo” version, coming Winter 2016. We’ve heard rumors about a possible turbocharged Soul for years, but this is the first hard evidence—and apparent on-sale timing—that we’ve seen. We really like the Kia Soul in its current form, as it offers standout styling, a roomy interior, and useful in-car tech for not a lot of money. The only thing the breed has been missing is more pep; currently, the gas-powered Soul is offered with either a 130-hp 1.6-liter or a 164-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the latter of which is paired only with an automatic transmission. Kia has a 201-hp 1.6-liter turbo four in its parts bin, now on the Kia Forte5, that would add quite a bit of pep, as well as manual and dual-clutch automatic transmission options.