Kia is looking to enter the small roadster segment with its own take on the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Mazda may soon be facing some serious competition in the affordable roadster market.

After having the segment virtually all to itself as European roadsters have migrated steadily up-market, Mazda’s little MX-5 Miata may soon face challenges from Subaru, Toyota and now, it seems, even the Korean carmaker Kia.

“I’d like to have a Kia MX-5,” Paul Philpott, president of the maker’s European operations, acknowledges.

How soon?  Not immediately, as “2011 and 2012 are about establishing the brand,” which is undergo huge growth in both Europe and the U.S.  “But for 2013 and 2014, we’re thinking about halo models that stretch the company forward.”

While observers might initially dismiss that as little more than wishful thinking, Kia’s global design director Peter Schreyer also weighed in during an interview with the British publication, Auto Express, asserting, The brand deserves a sporty car, like a roadster.”

The Kia MX-5 competitor will likely make its debut in 2013 or '14, officials say.

The addition of a Miata-class roadster would fit nicely into Kia’s ongoing effort to establish a clear brand image for itself, which began with the distinctive Soul.  It’s a “big program,” according to Philpott, who concedes that this is essential if Kia is to rid itself of its reputation as the cheaper little brother to better-known Hyundai.

“In the past,” he says, “we have been too close together, but if Kia is fun, dynamic and more youthful, Hyundai is more about style and comfort: more upmarket. VW manages brands more effectively than most. If you think Hyundai is more like VW, Kia is more like SEAT.”

What else is in store?  According to the European CEO, the replacement for the Soul will be along in about two years, while Kia is working up a new crossover that will slot below the already small Sportage.

Will the Kia roadster make it to the States? Stay tuned, though it appears this will likely be a global offering that could actually enhance roadster demand – the segment typically responding well to new sheet metal.

Mazda’s class Miata will also be facing new competition from the joint project launched by Subaru and Toyota.  For the moment, the smaller maker is simply referring to its planned 2-seater as the Boxer Sports Car, a reference to the design of its Subaru-designed small engine.  Toyota has been using the codename FT-86, a second concept version of which debuted at the recent Geneva Motor Show.  (For more, Click Here.)

The two makers plan to go into production in spring 2012, a year or more ahead of the Miata-like Kia.

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