Kia-GT-2

Long derided for making cheap but hardly cheerful cars, Kia and Hyundai have since found their place in the mainstream through a combination of attractive design and massively-improved perceived quality, while still maintaining competitive pricing.

And now with Hyundai gnawing at the heels at the luxury segment with the Genesis brand, Kia is apparently also looking to trade up with a new rear-wheel drive sports sedan of its own, according to Reuters. The news agency quoted two sources close to the matter as saying that the new car, codenamed CK, will enter production in May 2017 with a targeted annual output of 60,000 units.

To be built at a Kia factory near Seoul – once the company moves some production of the Rio to the new Mexico plant early next year – the new model is said to be taking on the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5, suggesting that it’ll be a sleeker, more low-slung offering than a traditional sports sedan.

Kia-GT-8

In fact, Kia has already shown a desire to build such a car, unveiling the GT concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Since then, however, production plans for the show car has been a bit of an on-again, off-again affair, but this news could indicate that the handsome GT has finally been given the green light.

Other details include that the new car will be smaller than the Genesis Coupe and will be offered with 2.0 litre, 2.2 litre (likely diesel) and 3.0 litre engines. This would be Kia’s second rear-wheel drive sedan after the K900 luxury sedan and, according to Reuters, the first compact sports sedan from either Kia or Hyundai – the latter would mean that it could come to market ahead of Genesis’ own offering.

The report iterated the need for Kia to differentiate itself from Hyundai and Genesis as it moves upmarket – the establishment of the Genesis brand in the luxury sector has made it difficult for Kia to play in that field, particularly after the tepid response to the K900. “As Kia has no luxury brand, it is trying to position itself as a sporty brand,” said a third source.

Kia-GT-15

But even as it moves to the sportier end of the segment, Kia brand positioning could still come into Genesis territory, as the latter is also set to launch its aforementioned sports sedan and coupe. Hyundai is also said to be looking to build high-performance variants of its models – including Genesis vehicles – after poaching former BMW M chief engineer Albert Biermann.

As a result, Kia is banking on the new sports sedan to replicate the success of the Soul, which kickstarted (in the United States, at least) the design revolution instrumented by then Kia chief design officer Peter Schreyer, now the chief designer for the whole Hyundai Motor Group.

“Kia hit a home run with the Soul – they figured out how to keep it fresh and fun,” said consultancy AutoPacific’s product analysis manager David Sullivan. “Apply this formula to a rear-wheel drive sedan and they might be able to go after a younger consumer who is bored with the played-out BMW 3 Series but wants to move out of their Soul they have had since college.”