For a good long time, the Hyundai-Kia approach to building and marketing vehicles was thoroughly confusing.
Hyundai would market a sporty model like the Genesis Coupe (or Tiburon before it), while Kia sold the stylish Optima sedan. “OK,” you thought, “Hyundai = affordable and fun-to-drive and Kia = affordable and stylish.” Then Hyundai went for the luxury end of the spectrum with its Equus sedan. Still, there was some differentiation.
But then the Korean automaker decided to copy the Equus on Kia’s roster and call it the K900. At this point, things were really starting to blur, but clarity was still a ways off. Hyundai models slowly moved upscale while Kia vehicles edged closer to the performance and styling categories.
Finally, Hyundai revealed its “Genesis” sub-brand, which would include pure luxury models. Kia, on the other hand, showed off concepts like its GT Concept and Stinger GT4. Then there’s Hyundai’s “N Performance” brand, which will function as an in-house tuning division akin to Audi’s RS, BMW’s M, and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG. Of course, there’s still overlap among regular ol’ Hyundai and Kia models, but at least each category will have its own label, especially once Kia begins applying a “GT” badge to its performance models.
The first of those hotter Kia’s will be a production version of its GT Concept sometime in 2017. We should see the halo GT model (most likely in four-door coupe form) at this year’s Paris Motor Show. Other GT models will include Kia’s Procee’d GT and Optima GT.
Now we’re learning that Kia is also working on a compact hot hatch akin to Ford’s Fiesta ST. The new model will receive the Rio GT name in 2017 and will pack somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 horsepower via a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. The Rio GT’s platform will focus on weight savings and improved handling. Inside, Kia promises the interior and infotainment system will take a “quantum leap.”
Differentiators between the two brands will likely remain label-based instead of characteristic-based for a while yet, but as the two brands nurture greater credibility in the market, there will likely be greater opportunity for niche vehicle construction.