Kia pro_cee’d GT

IT is not hard to understand why Kia’s Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer was made a President of the Korean brand late last year.

Kia pro_cee’d GT

Engine: 1,591cc turbocharged, four-cylinder petrol

Power: 201bhp and 195lb.ft. of torque

Performance: 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds and 143mph

Economy: 38.2mpg (combined)

CO2 emissons: 171g/km

Price: £19,995

Doused in the sunshine of Southern France his design team’s latest creation, and the car Kia is referring to as its first performance offering, the pro_cee’d GT, looked irresistible at its launch event in Nice.

The assembled motoring hacks had already trawled through various images and specification details during the flight to the land of Euro-glitz but there was nothing to do justice to the slickest car to come out of Korea so far.

In the biggest shock since a tubby Seoul rapper mimicked a horse riding action to top the UK singles chart, Schreyer’s latest design is a stand-out rival to anything Volkswagen, Ford, Vauxhall, Renault or Ford has to offer.

Even after the surprise sprung with the attractive Sportage SUV, the pro_cee’d GT’s muscular stance and super-smooth hewn-from-billet styling succeeds in moving the Kia success story on apace.

With the demanding hills that hug the billionaire’s playground that is the French Riviera at our disposal we had the perfect opportunity to strip away the layers of design flair and get down to the nitty-gritty, though.

With 201bhp and 195lb.ft. of torque on tap from a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine the GT should tackle the gradients and push purposefully out of the numerous hairpins to be found on the infamous Route Napoleon.

In terms of power it lags behind the 265bhp Renaultsport Megane (£25,225), 247bhp Ford Focus ST (£21,995) and 217bhp Volkswagen Golf GTi (£25,845).

But at £19,995 it is also a chunk cheaper than all three and still posts decent acceleration with a 7.4 second sprint to 60mph and a 143mph top speed.

Despite referring to the GT as Kia’s “First performance car” the Kia PR team on hand in France were keen to point out that this isn’t a hardcore “road racer.”

So this is a stylish, rapid hatch in the Kia mould, boasting a seven year warranty and impressive value.

GT and GT Tech (£22,495) equipment grades are available from launch.

The former comes with twin exhausts, 18-inch alloys, ‘ice cube’ LED running day lights, embroidered Recaro seats, Bluetooth handsfree phone connectivity, cruise control, dual zone climate control as standard.

The instrument panel’s central display can also be switched from a standard analogue speedometer into a Gran Turismo-style sports display with boost and torque readouts.

Much of the interior architecture is familiar cee’d fayre, but the sculpted GT steering wheel, aluminium pedals and Recaro seats elevate it into a sportier plain.

Climbing onto the higher plains of the Riviera landscape it soon becomes apparent that the GT is not without dynamic polish.

Despite anti-roll bars and suspension rates stiffened from the standard pro_cee’d, there is a surprising level of compliance in the ride. Not enough to induce unwanted roll through French switchbacks, though.

I was left me pondering whether an impressive ride or the impressive road surface on France’s Tour de France route should claim most credit for this uncanny comfort.

Kia’s 1.6-litre engine is the first turbocharged unit it has offered to UK customers.

In aural terms it is an extremely refined unit at low revs. In and around town it is barely audible.

As the revs rise it does become more vocal.

Power from the unit is linear, 201bhp is achieved at around 6,000rpm, meaning that it is well worth seeking out every last drop of available grunt and exploiting the surprisingly bassy soundtrack from those twin exhausts.

Peak torque is achieved between 1,750 and 4,500rpm. As a result overtakes can be dispatched with confidence — even with the limited opportunities of a mountain road to contend with — and low revs can be maintained to achieve decent fuel consumption when the desire to press on is not taking hold.

Kia claim the GT is capable of 38.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 171g/km, despite the lack of its fuel-saving start/stop system.

That low-rev capability also ensures that the GT is well capable of maintaining a decent lick on give-and-take roads.

The lack of a differential means that traction can be broken even on dry tarmac under wide throttle openings, but impressive traction is generated by the front end nonetheless.

Even Kia’s trademark vague steering seems to have acquired a dose of feedback to help the driver meter out his progress through and beyond an apex.

There is no doubting that the pro_cee’d GT is a softer-edged proposition than the Renaultsport/ST/GTi posse but at a price that positions it on a par with hot hatches from the class below (208 GTi and Renaultsport Clio) it makes a compelling case for itself.

Under the watchful eye of Peter Schreyer Kia’s European Design Centre has created a hatchback that could attract a huge audience with its looks alone.

The fact that it proves to be a rapid, comfortable and well-equipped alternative when you prod beneath the surface demonstrates that Kia has trodden its own path and come out with a winning formula once again.  


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