Kia‘s new designs are helping brand the Korean automaker in a more positive light, particularly here in North America with the stylish new Optima. But in other parts of the world mid-size sedan’s don’t hold the same cache, nor do they sell all that well, so Kia is looking at alternative ways to create a boost in brand image.
In a recent interview, Kia product boss Benny Oeyen commented on three such methods, including a hot hatch, convertible or coupe. While the coupe idea, along the lines of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, may seem like the obvious choice, it’s the hot hatch the is the most likely. The reason for this is the importance of small hatchbacks in other parts of the world, like in Europe were sub-compact models, like Kia’s new 2012 Rio, make up the majority of sales for automakers.
A Rio hot-hatch is also the easiest to bring to market, as it would be based on the existing new car. Plus, it helps put the brand focus exactly where Kia wants it to be.
Exactly what a juiced-up Rio might bring to the table is unclear, with standard models in Europe getting 1.4-liter gasoline and diesel engines as well as a tiny 1.25-liter gas engine. One possibility is the 138-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that’s expected to come standard in the North American model, although for a ‘hot hatch’ we’d like to see more.