KIA HAS ANNOUNCED that 50 Forte LPi Hybrids will be trialled around the world, with two cars expected in Australia for local feasibility studies.
Powered by LPG (liquified petroleum gas) and featuring a fuel-saving gas/electric powertrain, the Forte LPi Hybrid could form the basis for an ultra-frugal Cerato variant.
The Korean-market only Kia Forte LPi Hybrid uses just 5.6 litres of LPG per 100km on the combined cycle and emits just 99 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
With the Forte LPi Hybrid's 1.6 litre engine tuned to run exclusively on LPG, the cost of keeping it fuelled up would be a fraction of the cost of a petrol-powered vehicle with similar fuel economy.
Taking power to the front wheels is a CVT gearbox. A stop-start system reduces fuel consumption in urban driving and a regenerative braking system charges up the on-board lithium-ion batteries during braking and coasting.
A drag-reducing bodykit cuts wind resistance and improves fuel economy as well.
The Australian arm of the Korean automaker is keen to see it in local showrooms, and hopes to start evaluating the model on our soil soon.
"As far as the Forte LPi Hybrid goes, we’re certainly interested in evaluating the car here before we go any further," Kia's Public Relations MJonathan Fletcher told TMR.
"We hope to be able to bring at least one car here before the end of the year for evaluation purposes."
Differences in the composition of LPG sold in Australia and that sold in Korea will likely be the deciding factor in whether or not we see a Cerato LPi Hybrid anytime soon.
"We'll be testing the feasibility of the vehicle for Australian conditions, including the engine's compatibility with Australian LPG," Mr Fletcher said.
"The proportions of butane and propane vary widely in Australian LPG, it's certainly something we need to be mindful of."
Uncertainty surrounding production of right-hand drive LPi hybrids is another potential stumbling block. The UK, Australia and Japan are currently the only sizable RHD markets that could potentially receive the vehicle.
Tak Uk Im, President and CEO of Kia Motors Australia, says there are no technological barriers to putting the LPi hybrid powertrain in a RHD Cerato, but a decision on whether there's a business case for such a vehicle has yet to be made.
However, with an extensive LPG distribution network and a motoring public not averse to gas burners, such a car would seem to be a logical addition to the Kia range in Australia.
The Forte LPi Hybrid evaluation vehicles are expected to arrive later this year, with trails commencing shortly thereafter.