Kia shifts up a gear
Kia is planning to broaden the brand appeal with a number of new launches and facelifts for some existing offerings.
The first to arrive here is the Optima Sportswagon, an estate version of the saloon, and it will be joined in an October launch by the new hybrid, the Niro, a Qashqai challenger, which has a trendy crossover style body design. A plug-in version will arrive by the end of next year.
Next March a new Rio and Picanto will be launched and by the end of 2017 a new B segment crossover will also be revealed.
The good news for petrol heads is that a new performance car is on the drawing boards with the promise of a lot of punch under the bonnet. Kia executives speaking at the launch of the Optima Sportswagon last week spoke of the brand's push towards more sporty cars in the future with power output engines between 250 - 270bhp.
There is also a new cee'd on the way - expect it in the showrooms in 18 months and the Carens model is due a facelift.
Kia plans to sell 400 saloon models this year and next year over 700, including 200 - 250 of the Sportswagon in EX trim level with prices fixed at €29,950. It will be powered by the 1.7 litre diesel engine which is used in the saloon model and also the Hyundai i40 and a plug-in hybrid version is due by the middle of next year.
A plug-in hybrid version of the Optima saloon with a pure electric range of 54kms and emissions of just 37g/km of C02 may be offered at a price in the region of €33,000 when all tax incentives and grants are taken into consideration.
A high-powered GT version was also launched, but there are no immediate plans to bring this to the market here.
The Sportswagon has a surprising amount of rear legroom and the luggage area has plenty of space also. It can accommodate up to 552 litres which extends to 1,685 litres when the rear seats are folded.
The body design gives a smooth wind-cheating shape and although the external dimensions are much the same as the saloon, it looks bigger and more impressive.
The 1.7 litre CRDi engine with 140bhp supplies plenty of power and can be mated to a six-speed manual or seven-speed double clutch transmission. Kia claims 4.4L/100km (over 60mpg) with the manual transmission and 4.6L/100km with the automatic.
The plug-in hybrid in the saloon has a two-litre petrol 155bhp petrol engine aiding the lithium-polymer battery pack and 50kw electric motor giving C02 emissions of just 37g/km and official Kia fuel consumption figures of 1.6L/100km (180mpg) suggests it could be as much as three times as economical as the diesel version. But these figures are achieved under ideal factory conditions.
But there is no doubt of the high economy of hybrid technology so Kia should be looking at making its hybrid saloon and Sportswagon available here.