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Frankfurt show: Kia officially outs GT sports sedan

Svelte: The GT sport sedan has been described by the company’s chief design officer Peter Schreyer, as “exactly the kind of car Kia should be making”.

Kia GT concept odds-on to reach production as the brand’s first RWD sports sedan

13 Sep 2011


KIA’S first rear-wheel-drive concept car, the GT sports sedan, is almost certain to become reality within a couple of years when the mould-breaking production version could emerge with V8 firepower and the same rear ‘suicide’ doors as seen on the show car.

First seen in official teaser shots three weeks ago before undisguised images leaked last week, the stunning new Kia GT was formally revealed on the eve of its global public debut at today’s Frankfurt motor show.

Officially, Kia says the sleek four-door concept heralds a striking new design direction for the company, but GoAuto understands the GT will be a key plank in the ambitious Korean brand’s inexorable march upmarket from the entry-level models for which it is known.

Described by the company’s chief design officer, former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, as “exactly the kind of car Kia should be making”, the svelte GT concept combines a rear-wheel drive layout with muscular proportions and a four-seat interior for the first time in a Kia.

Asked how easily it could be put into production, Mr Schreyer said the GT’s stance and proportions would not only influence future model designs from Kia but could transfer directly to a formidable new showroom model from Kia.

“I think the way we made it it’s not unrealistic,” he said. “I think it would not be a problem to translate into a production model without losing the proportions.

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“Of course, at the moment it’s a concept, but the way we did it’s pretty realistic. To translate a car like that into production is a lot of work, but I think if we get the green light it would be pretty much be the same – you would recognise it for sure.

“We just do the study now and see how the reactions are and then we calculate and see what to do.

I think it would give Kia more credibility, as sporty halo car.

“One of the great things about working on this project was that this is a very real car. It felt good to be working on a car that could roll down the road tomorrow.

“Yes, it would be a dream to put this into production – it has a logical layout, with four seats and good luggage space, and it’s also engaging and dynamic and makes a strong statement. It’s exactly the kind of car Kia should be making.”

Mr Schreyer said he didn’t believe it was stretch for Kia to produce a model so different from its current offerings but dismissed suggestions it was attempting to emulate premium brands such as BMW by following the rear-drive sports sedan formula.

“I think we have come quite a way in our short history,” he said. “We are going our own way. BMW is a premium brand and we are still a volume brand, but I think we can make a statement and extend our product range and this is a suggestion, so let’s see what comes out.”

One Kia insider told GoAuto the Kia GT was an accurate preview of an all-new production model that could retain the concept’s B-pillarless design with rear-hinged rear doors.

“Kia doesn’t build concept cars for nothing,” he said, adding that the production GT may also eschew the show car’s 291kW/534Nm turbocharged 3.3-litre Lambda GDI V6 – the Hyundai-Kia group’s first V6 turbo engine – for a high-performance ‘Tau’ V8 from the Hyundai Genesis sedan, at least for the US market.

Like the latest Genesis V8 sedan, the GT is fitted with Hyundai’s own new eight-speed automatic transmission.

Kia’s parent company Hyundai has finally confirmed the next-generation Genesis Coupe will be produced in right-hand drive configuration for Australia, but is yet to commit to a RHD version of the even more impressive Genesis sedan, upon which the Kia GT is believed to be based.

If the GT reaches production, it is not only likely to beat Hyundai’s Genesis sedan into Australian showrooms, but could become the first V8-powered Korean model to be sold in Australia.

“It’s just a concept, but it could use the basic layout of the Genesis,” said Mr Schreyer. “I think that something like this would make sense.”

Kia has released few technical details for the GT, except that it rides on a 2860mm wheelbase (significantly shorter than the Genesis sedan’s at 2936mm), measures 4690mm long overall – making it almost 300mm shorter than the 4976mm Genesis, and slightly shorter than the mid-size Optima sedan – and is the same 1890mm wide while being about 100mm lower than the Genesis at just 1380mm.

While the Optima – known as the K5 in Korea – is Kia’s largest model in Australia, it is dwarfed in Korea by the Hyundai Grandeur-based K7, which itself is expected to be dwarfed by Kia’s first large rear-drive limousine, based on the Hyundai Equus.

Kia is also believed to be working on a compact rear-drive sportscar in the vein of Mazda’s MX-5, which could emerge at the Detroit show in January, but for now the GT represents Kia’s first foray into the rear-drive sports sedan market.

“This concept allows us to explore exciting new design directions, as using a rear-drive layout creates very different proportions compared to a front-wheel drive car,” Kia said.

“The classic front-engined, rear-wheel drive layout of a performance saloon has distinct appeal, not just for the domestic Korean audience, but also for the European and American markets.”

Kia said work on the GT concept started in November 2010, but the idea of a powerful rear-drive sedan has been on the agenda of the Korean maker’s European design team for some time.

Kia’s European design chief Gregory Guillaume said the design team was inspired by the spirit of iconic 1970s GT cars, which he described as “sumptuous and elegant vehicles capable of whisking passengers from Paris to the south of France in effortless style and at high speed”.

“We wanted to create something similarly graceful, athletic and confident, but not aggressive or overbearing,” he said.

The Kia GT features a number of aeronautical themes, including multi-piece propeller-style alloy and carbon-fibre wheels, jet-like rear-view cameras, a low-slung front air intake, an aerodynamically efficient rear diffuser and winglets that curve in from the front flanks to the headlights – a motif that draws inspiration from Mr Schreyer’s first landmark concept for Kia, the “seminal” Kee coupe seen at the 2007 Frankfurt show.

While it also shares a number of central design elements with the Kee and last year’s Pop concept, Kia says the GT’s long bonnet, cab-rearward stance, powerful rear shoulders and truncated rear-end make its proportions unmistakable for anything other than an athletic rear-drive sedan.

Headlining a list of unique design features is a copper signature line that runs from the base of the A-pillar along the roofline to the base of the rear windscreen, comprising a tick-shaped motif that recalls the front quarter-light windows of the rakish GT cars that inspired the Kia design team.

Also finished in copper – the warm, tactile metal was one of the stand-out materials at the DMY International Design Festival Berlin, according to Kia’s colour and trim team – are the GT’s brake callipers, a subtly ‘bubbled’ roof to create more front and rear headroom and a discreet ‘power bulge’ and air intake for the bonnet.

A key exterior highlight is the alloy-framed central grille flanked by complex headlight assemblies housing a bank of six deeply recessed LED lamps, which are echoed by a single sweeping wing-shaped tail light that incorporates two sets of three upright ‘stanchions’ and flows around the car’s flanks.

Injecting what Mr Schreyer describes as an air of grace and confidence are a pair of conventional front and rear-hinged rear doors that open outward at a slight upward angle to reveal a clean, uncluttered and classy cabin with plenty of room for a driver and three passengers despite the low roofline and narrow glasshouse.

This is thanks in part to one-piece seats that ‘float’ on arched supports, although Kia says it deliberately chose to emphasise the car’s transmission tunnel to reinforce the fact it is a powerful, rear-drive sedan.

Attempting to counter that muscularity is a driver-focussed cockpit that does away with a button-laden centre console in favour of a glass instrument panel like that seen on the Pop, featuring three layers of organic LEDs to produce a three-dimensional shape as well as free up the centre console.

The driver can select the data display via fingertip controls on the small, dished three-spoke steering wheel, while a large red starter button and ‘twist-and-go’ transmission selector are combined in a single compact unit and video from the cigar-shaped rear-view cameras is displayed on a pair of compact, thin LED screens mounted on the doors.

Kia says the GT’s metallic-treated leather seat trim not only provides a visual link with the car’s exterior copper highlights, but makes the areas with which the driver and passengers come into regular contact appear buffed and smooth, making the cabin appear warm and welcoming.

The coupe-like GT was one of three major drawcards for Kia at this year’s Frankfurt show, where the all-new Rio three-door and facelifted Soul hatchback also made their global premieres.

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