Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where Are The Sporty Korean Compacts?

Customized Kia Forte Koup in Washington state

Our posting of the 2014 Kia Soul is a great example of how the Korean automakers are truly coming out with appealing cars, and that they know how to cater to American tastes. They had a great first effort, and are following it up by an even better second shot.

I was over at Autoblog this morning and read their quick spin of the new Ford Fiesta ST. From their notes, it sounds like it's going to be a total kick in the pants to drive. It's not news that compact performance cars are a ton of fun. They're not that expensive and offer up a ton of fun factor. Fiat's got the 500 Abarth, Ford's got the Focus ST and the above-mentioned Fiesta ST, Chevy offers its turbo Sonic RS, Honda's got the Civic Si; there's the Nissan Juke, the MAZDASPEED3, and of course, the Subaru WRX, and the granddaddy of the hot hatch movement, the Volkswagen GTI. There are others out there, not to mention older models. (The Colt GT, Suzuki Swift GT, and Chevrolet Sprint Turbo are still on my short list.)

However, other than the 2013+ Veloster Turbo, neither Hyundai or Kia offer a performance version of their compacts. I suppose you could count the Genesis Coupe, which is a lot of fun, but it's more along the lines of a true sports car versus a scrappy, high-strung performance compact. Where's the turbo version of the Accent? Where's the Kia Rio with a 1.6-liter turbo engine and a six-speed? How about a hopped-up Kia Soul to compete against the Juke?

There are more and more enthusiasts souping up their Hyundais and Kias, such as the great-looking Forte above. But it's all aftermarket stuff. Short of the Veloster Turbo, the Koreans aren't offering a good platform for compact car tuners and enthusiasts to build off of. Heck, you can't even get a new Forte or Rio with a manual transmission unless you get the base LX model.

Seeing how well both Kia and Hyundai are doing in the U.S., it wouldn't surprise me if at some point (and some point soon) we start seeing more performance-oriented compacts and subcompacts from the Koreans. Remember: competition is good, and frankly, I'm all for more sporty compact/subcompact cars.


Anonymous said...

The upcoming Kia Forte Koup has a turbo (same engine from veloster?) and 6-speed. Should be a nice addition to the sporty compact market.

Kevin T. said...

The 2013 Kia Rio SX 5-door was available with a 6-speed manual transmission, but it was a limited production model. Motor Trend said "A limited run of just 459 SX five-doors with six-speed manuals were built and sent to Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, four East Coast markets, and Southern California." Hopefully, depending on how quickly those cars sold out, they'll make more for 2014.