Posted 19 Mar 2012 Share this article
A New Cerato small car will spearhead no fewer than four redesigned models from Kia next year – including next-generation Grand Carnival, Rondo and Soul models – but chief designer Peter Schreyer says the ambitious Korean brand’s relentless new-model onslaught is far from finished.
Fresh from adding four-door sedan and three-door hatchback versions of the sleek new five-door Rio hatch, Kia Australia’s next major model release will be the facelifted Sorento crossover, which will arrive in August riding on the new monocoque platform that will also underpin the forthcoming Santa Fe from sister brand Hyundai. Cerato is Kia Australia’s joint best-selling model (alongside Rio) and the new model will go on sale here in early 2013, based on the same YD platform that underpins Hyundai’s redesigned i30, which is due here in the next few months. Like the new Europe-only Cee’d hatch, which made it global debut at last week’s Geneva motor show, the jointly developed Cerato will be more spacious and refined than the model it replaces, but the biggest surprise will be inside. Mr Schreyer said the new Cee’d provides vital clues to the design of the next Cerato, which will initially appear in sedan form before being joined by two-door coupe, five-door hatch and (as previewed by the Cee’d CW) station wagon body styles.
From top: Kia K9, Trackster, KV7, Naimo, GT, Ray EV, Picanto, Rio and Sportage. “It will be a bit different because the Cerato is more of a sedan-style car, but you will see that they are relatives,” said Mr Schreyer in Geneva. “You will recognise it as part of the Kia family, but it’s a different car.” Kia says Europe’s new Cee’d – and therefore Australia’s new Cerato, on which it is based – will offer more front, rear and cargo room than before, as well as major improvements in noise, vibration and harshness. “The interior has improved even more than the exterior,” said the former Audi designer. Presenting both five-door hatch and wagon models in Geneva, Kia said the new Cee’d will also be more refined and engaging to drive than the initial “breakthrough” C-segment hatch that put Kia on the map in Europe five years ago. Australian sales of the current TD Cerato sedan, which was based on Hyundai’s superseded HD Elantra, commenced in early 2009 – followed by the two-door Koup coupe variant later that year and the Cerato hatch in October 2010. Also in the pipeline for Kia in 2013 is a replacement for funky Soul hatch, the exterior design of which was previewed by the radical Trackster concept, which should provide its unique rear-sloping roof profile and also – for the first time – a three-door body. Asked how many of the Trackster’s design cues would carry over to the production version of the new Soul, Mr Schreyer said: “You will see some influences, yes. I think it would be nice to have a three-door Soul. It would be nice to make one. There is a chance to get that.” As we reported in late December, a 2.0-litre turbocharged version of Kia’s Optima sedan flagship now appears more likely for Australia than the Optima Hybrid, while 1.6-litre turbo versions of the Rio, Cerato, Koup and even Optima are also on the cards. However, Kia Australia now appears to have put plans to introduce the pint-size Picanto city-car on the back-burner – at least until a major midlife makeover appears in 2014. “We still want Picanto, but we’ve got to convince Korea there’s a market for it here,” said Kia Australia spokesman Kevin Hepworth. “Supply is not really an issue, but we’ve just launched the Rio three-door and there’s a fear it may interfere with that. It’s about perception and positioning, but Picanto is definitely not off our radar. “If the market goes the way a lot of analysts are predicting and city-cars gain more traction here then it will have a better chance, but the timing of the facelifted version could also be a factor.” Rounding out Kia Australia’s 2013 model rollout will be the third-generation Grand Carnival people-mover and, possibly, a replacement for its smaller sibling, the Rondo seven-seater. The redesign of both people-movers will bring Mr Schreyer full circle as he will have presided over the renewal of all Kia’s core models, but the global design chief says his critically acclaimed work is far from done. “For me it’s very rewarding when I’m next to a car at the traffic lights I’ve designed. I always look at the people driving them. “The Sportage and Optima and maybe the Rio are the ones that took the biggest steps – I’m proud of them. “The Cee’d is also for me a milestone, but a milestone comes every mile. It’s not like a music piece that is over at a point in time. “Working in design is a constant flow of models that are developed in parallel. At the time those models come out, we are already working on other stuff and maybe starting to replace some of the models I’ve already been involved with. That is the way we do it, so for me it’s not done. “With Kia design, we have reached a point where the product range is there and we get so much positive resonance from everywhere. “It’s a big success and of course this makes one proud. It’s rewarding to get all these comments, but I’m not ready at the moment to say it’s done, goodbye or whatever. I want to keep going.” Mr Schreyer indicated that additional niche models could be on the horizon for Kia, which has just released its new K9 luxury sedan in Korea and is now rolling out the all-electric Ray to domestic fleet organisations. Conspicuous by its absence at Geneva was the V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive GT sedan concept, which is based on Hyundai’s Genesis and is currently doing a showcar tour in the US. “There is a lot of interest in the GT,” said Mr Schreyer. “No decision has been made internally, but I’m hoping for a positive outcome. “We are always adding new products, like the Ray and K9. And I think we can still add more.” Mr Schreyer said his 200-strong design team – including about 50 staff in each of Kia’s Korean, German and US studios – was stretched to the limit.
By Martin Pettendy, GoAuto.com.au