Autoblog thinks the answer is “yes”, especially since Peter Schreyer, Kia’s head of design, has long been a proponent of a low cost Miata competitor. Details vary from “vague” to “non-existent”, but popular opinion is that Kia is hard at work on a low cost roadster to compliment the Genesis coupe offered by parent company Hyundai. By limiting the model range and engine options, Kia could substantially undercut the price of drop-top amusement, cutting into a segment long dominated by Mazda.
Kia wouldn’t be the first company to build a Miata competitor. Mercury offered its front-wheel-drive ragtop Capri from 1989 to 1994, and even used the same 1.6 liter four that Mazda adopted for the Miata. Sales ranged from “disappointing” to “bleak” in the U.S., and the car was pulled off of life support after a five year run. Toyota offered up the MR Spyder from 2000 to 2007, but the car’s limited storage space and modest power diminished its appeal. GM launched the Pontiac Solstice (and its sister car, the Saturn Sky) in 2006, but killed off both divisions just as the U.S.-built roadsters were establishing a presence in the segment. By all accounts, they were even better handling than the third generation Miata, also launched in 2006, and both the Pontiac and the Saturn were available in a 260 horsepower turbocharged version. Oh, what could have been, give a few more years of development.
What will it take for Kia to succeed in this segment? Handling has to be on par with the current Miata, which is no minor task. The price has to be less than Mazda’s, which currently starts at $22,960 and tops out at $27,660 for the highest trim level with a cloth top. Finally, more horsepower is always a good thing, and the Mazda currently puts out 167 ponies. I say build it with the 274 horsepower motor from the Hyundai Sonata Turbo, then sit back and prepare to write orders.