Kia is out to prove that not all exciting cars come from Europe

kia performance offensive news quotes details models gt concept 1
Kia has rarely been associated with fun, driver-focused cars. Top executives are looking to change that perception by making the company’s next-generation models more entertaining to drive, and by taking the lineup in a more aggressive direction.

A toned-down version of the stunning GT concept (pictured) introduced in 2011 will be the centerpiece of the imminent performance offensive. Set to go on sale next year, it will retain the show car’s four-door coupe body style while adopting a tamer, less futuristic design. Buyers will be asked to choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a frugal turbodiesel, and a turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 engine rated at 380 horsepower in its most basic state of tune. A tweaked version of the six-cylinder will power a range-topping, track-oriented version of the GT, according to British magazine Autocar.

The GT moniker will also be applied to sportier versions of existing cars. Notably, an Optima GT will soon follow the footsteps of the Cee’d GT that’s currently sold in Europe, though it doesn’t sound like we’ll be seeing the model in the United States. We won’t be missing out on a lot, because the Optima GT will be similar to the SX trim that’s already offered here. It will use a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 245 horsepower, it will feature a specific body kit, and it will offer more dynamic handling.

The next-gen Rio will spawn a GT-badged hot hatch that will likely get a turbocharged three-cylinder engine in the name of fuel efficiency. Finally, Albert Biermann, the head of Hyundai-Kia’s performance development department, told Car & Driver that he’s pushing for a Sportage GT, though the crossover hasn’t received the proverbial nod of approval yet.

Kia stresses that its performance offensive has boundaries. Notably, the GT4 Stinger concept that debuted during the 2014 edition of the Detroit Auto Show stands virtually no chance of making the jump to production because the coupe segment is shrinking.

“Two-door coupes are a little bit on the decline. It would be nice to make a new coupe, but if there is no demand, what’s the point?,” said design boss Peter Schreyer.

Read more: Kia to leap into the compact crossover segment

The Kia GT will make its official debut at a major auto show next year, and it will land in showrooms in time for the 2017 model year. The rest of the GT-badged models will trickle out of the brand’s design studio over the coming years.

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