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Driven: Kia Ceed GT. Image by Kia UK.

Driven: Kia Ceed GT
Something suspicious here: technically, the new Ceed GT is pretty much the old Ceed GT. But to drive, it’s a lot, lot better…

   



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Kia Ceed GT

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Good points: on paper, looks like nothing has changed... but it's a much more engaging machine to drive than its predecessor

Not so good: why couldn't it have the 2.0-litre, 250hp unit out of the i30 N?

Key Facts

Model tested: Kia Ceed GT 1.6 T-GDi
Price: Ceed range from £18,600; GT from £25,535 as tested
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door warm hatch
CO2 emissions: 163g/km (VED Band 151-170: £530 in year one, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Power: 204hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 265Nm at 1,500-4,500rpm
Boot space: 395-1,291 litres

Our view:

Albert Biermann. Two little words, and yet he's done so much for both Kia and Hyundai. Admittedly, the German former boss of BMW's M Division would say that he is but one man, leading a team of Korean engineers and specialists who are in truth responsible for all the hard graft and vehicle output, but it's hard not to hold him up as the catalyst that has seen some of the two far eastern companies' products levitate from the 'not bad' dynamic category to a 'good grief, where on EARTH did this chassis come from?!' level.

This car, though, is a mystery to us. It's the Ceed GT, based on the all-new, third-generation of the Korean hatchback which launched in 2018. And, on the face of it, precious little has changed from the old GT, which we last drove as a pro_cee'd when it still had that stylistically awful badging and was a three-door version of the Ceed, rather than the gorgeous shooting brake it has now become.

Anyway, back to this Ceed GT tale-of-the-tape. Both the old one and this car are powered by a 1.6-litre T-GDi four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, which makes 204hp at 6,000rpm (modest, by current class standards). They both can hit 143mph flat out and will reputedly return the exact same 38.2mpg combined economy. The new GT has a solitary extra Newton metre of torque, its 265Nm coming on stream 250rpm earlier, at 1,500rpm, than the old car's 264Nm - and the 2019 Ceed GT holds onto that peak until 4,500rpm... which is something the old GT used to achieve, as well. Hmmm.

There are a few areas where the current GT creeps ahead. It now has five doors instead of three, as three-door cars now sell about as well as ice does to the Eskimos. Its CO2 figure of 163g/km is 8g/km better than the older model, which slides the present-day version into a lower VED band than it would otherwise sit in with 171g/km. It's also pricier, which is perhaps not such good news: this Ceed starts at £25,535 today, whereas you could have bagged a 2014 Proceed (we're not writing it with all the underscores and commas in it any more, thank you) GT for as little as £19,995. This increase is a reflection of both Kia's improved quality levels and industry standing during the past five years, as well as inflation, of course.

So we're going to focus on one little detail of the on-paper stats, which is meaningless pub banter normally but which we think indicates the big difference between old Ceed/Proceed GTs and the new ones. This car will now do 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. That's seven-tenths quicker, despite the fact it's still a six-speed manual and front-wheel drive. Ah, so the Ceed GT 2019 is lighter than the Proceed GT 2014, then? Erm... no. No, it's not. It's actually 27 kilos heavier, at 1,386kg.

Thus, this unaccountable seven-tenths (has to be the gearing, but we're going to go with witchcraft, if it's all the same to you) is an example of the magic Biermann has wrought on the big two Korean marques. Because, to look at it on paper, you might think the Ceed GT hasn't changed a bit. But we're here to tell you it has changed a lot. An awful lot. And much for the better, too. Like the 1.4 Proceed we had the week before, it's self-evident in the GT's steering within the first 500 metres behind the wheel that this is leagues ahead of its predecessor. It's maybe not bursting with feel, but the weighting and accuracy of it is superb, and it's therefore much more rewarding to deal with in all driving conditions.

Then there's the engine. Now, if this thing has only 204hp, we'll eat our titfers. It feels, and sounds, far stronger and more alluring than that, punching the Ceed GT forward with real purpose. True, it's not quite the 2.0-litre from the magnificent i30 N, and you can't help but muse on how good the GT would be if it did have said four-pot, but this 1.6 feels much more potent and refined than, well... what was apparently the same 1.6 in the old car. Kia says the 1.6 has been 'updated for the new model', but given its near-identical stats it's hardly like all-new internals will have been bolted into the unit, is it?

The air of refinement filters into the Ceed GT's ride and handling, because it's a fabulous hatch to simply get about in, with a great ride and deeply impressive sound suppression, while the benefits of having a smaller, less powerful petrol turbo engine can be seen in a best fuel return of 37mpg; and this wasn't even achieved on a motorway, but rather pottering about on local roads. However, you don't buy sporty, range-topping models for comfort (well, not that often, anyway), so it's good news on the handling front, where the Kia feels lively, involving and pretty well-sorted. Turn-in is excellent, grip levels are high and there's a wonderful breadth of operating bandwidth to the damping, so that the Ceed GT feels just as good thrapping along nuggety back lanes as it does sweeping through faster corners on A-roads. Factor in a nice-to-operate six-speed manual and decent brakes, and you've got a really tidy package right here. We genuinely loved driving the Kia...

...to the point that we'd like to give it a higher overall mark. But we're not going to, and here's why. There's a lot to be said for not just joining the C-segment hot hatch masses with a 250-280hp entrant, undercutting all the major players on price and spec, and then hoping the seven-year Kia warranty will pull its stunt of dragging punters into showrooms. The truth is that, while there are plenty of B-segment warm hatchbacks, larger C-segment analogues of the same thing are rather thin on the ground. So the Kia is to be commended for standing alone in the marketplace and offering customers not looking for outright performance thrills and spills something different, and for driving as well as it does regardless of its slightly less intense outlook on life. We've not even mentioned that we think it looks great, perhaps more obviously sporty from the rear than it is at the front, but still nicely stanced and discreetly detailed enough to let you know it's the true GT version (and not just a GT-Line with a 1.0 T-GDi triple). The interior's also very good, with enough highlights to make it stand out from the cabin found in other, lesser Ceeds.

But, as there is no out-and-out hot version of the Ceed Mk3 to sit above it, maybe the GT is a missed opportunity. This is clearly a chassis which can take a lot more than 204hp, even if we don't believe the car is only making 204hp in the first place. And then you start to get cynical, imagining that Hyundai has told Kia it can't have the 2.0-litre four-pot out of the i30 N, no, not even the 250hp one without the limited-slip diff, go away now please, you're bothering us. And that makes us a bit sad; that there's the suspicion this Kia Ceed GT - so obviously moved on significantly from its predecessor - is something of a skewed shot with an open goal gaping. Nevertheless, if you want a fast five-door but you're not prepared to pay 30 grand and more for a full-on hot hatch, the GT is clearly the very first car you ought to be looking at as the alternative. It's brilliant.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus ST EcoBlue: if you don't want the 280hp petrol Focus ST, this 190hp diesel is the alternative - and the Kia's rival. So let's not beat around the bush: the Ceed GT is nicer to look at, quicker, better to drive and cheaper to buy.

Peugeot 308 GT: the petrol 308 GT has bit the dust, your choice in the French range is now just a 180hp diesel, and it'll cost you from £29,205 for an ageing car that's dynamically inferior to the Kia. Suddenly, the £26k Ceed GT starts to make perfect sense...

Renault Megane GT: has four-wheel-steering and some input from the Renault Sport division, but we reckon the Kia's the more rounded, rewarding car of these two to drive. The Megane GT, though, can call on its RS brother as back-up - what does the Ceed GT have in reserve?


Matt Robinson - 14 May 2019



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2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.

2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.2019 Kia Ceed GT UK test. Image by Kia UK.








 

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