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Driven: Kia pro_ceed GT Tech. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia pro_ceed GT Tech
Kia's first hot hatch is a decent effort, but can it really compete with the class establishment?

   



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| Test drive | Kia pro_cee'd GT |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

Good points: supremely refined, loaded with kit, sharp looks, decent performance
Not so good: engine and exhaust notes lack drama, quite costly in Tech trim, not the quickest, competition is fierce in this sector

Key Facts

Model tested: Kia pro_cee'd GT Tech
Pricing: £22,495 as tested; pro_cee'd GT starts from £19,995
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door hot hatch
Rivals: Ford Focus ST, SEAT Leon Cupra, Volkswagen Golf GTI
CO2 emissions: 171g/km
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Power: 204hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 264Nm from 1,750- to 4,500rpm

Our view:

Kia, along with parent company Hyundai, is surfing the crest of a wave right now, with buyers snapping up its vastly improved products. But when you're trying to build brand credibility, such a commodity can only be stretched so far in the early stages of development. By making a hot hatch 'GT' version of its cee'd (five-door) and pro_cee'd (three-door) models, there's a danger Kia has over-reached itself too soon.

Looks-wise, there are no complaints about the front end, crazy octet of daytime running lights or not. It has a hawk-like expression and is suitably mean with its red highlights and hourglass grille. It's not a bad car in profile or from dead-on rear either, but from the rear three-quarters there's a hint of distended Fiat Bravo about it that shows the Koreans haven't quite finished slavishly aping European styling when required. Pity, because otherwise it's a tidy design as hot hatches go, with just the right amount of subtle menace to the aesthetics.

Inside is very, very good, although the infotainment system on this high-spec Tech model sometimes infuriates. If you want the map on at all times, even when not using navigation, you must have the whole media (including audio) on and if you turn the car off with the sound muted, next time you fire it up the music comes on at whatever volume it was previously set at - not good if you've forgotten the Kia does this and you're leaving a quiet residential street at 11pm. Also, it won't remember from journey to journey that you want your MP3 player on shuffle - something we found in the Hyundai i10 too. These niggles are a shame, because the graphics and control system of the central screen are excellent, there's a superb TFT dial in the main cluster that can be switched into a driver-focused GT display and the front Recaro seats are wonderful; also, the steering wheel is a bit busy with buttons but otherwise it's a pleasure to hold.

Get the Kia moving and it quickly impresses with its all-round resolved nature. As first attempts go, the Koreans have made a better fist of the GT's demeanour than some much bigger brands have when launching into this arena - Renaultsport Mégane 225 and original Audi S3, to name but two. The pro_cee'd GT is stiffly sprung but well damped, giving a firm secondary ride that's just on the right side of acceptable, as well as the ability to filter out bigger bumps and imperfections; the steering isn't ideal but it's sharp, consistent and thankfully lacking that dead zone around the centre that so many other modern set-ups seem determined to possess; body control is marvellous; the gearbox is precise and the ratios well-spaced; and it stubbornly resists the worst of the two dread steers - torque- and under- - that every hot hatch must avoid. The 1.6 has loads of torque and is keen to rev, and the GT soon feels a lot quicker on the road than its modest on-paper stats might suggest. Enjoyable, too.

What holds it back is that it's just too damned quiet. Full marks for making the GT a car you'd want to live with long term; minus points for calibrating the engine and exhaust to be near inaudible no matter how hard you're gunning the pro_cee'd. As a hot hatch, it should be more aurally exciting than this. The chassis is also resolutely neutral, strive as you might to coax it into anything approaching oversteer. And the brakes could do with more progressive pedal feel, because they seem inert for the first 30 per cent of travel.

There are other drawbacks, too. The first is that 204hp in a Golf-sized hatch is now not a lot, especially given that the hot Clios, Fiestas and 208s of the world have this sort of output. Then there's the price tag. In this Tech guise, it is extremely well-equipped and so will undercut its rivals comfortably. But does £22,500 sound a lot for a first-timer in a market where image is king? You'd have to fork out another couple of grand for even base models of our three rivals listed below, but we're ready to bet you'll see more STs, GTIs and Cupras on the roads in the months ahead than hatches with an underscore in their badging; that's without even considering the awesome RS Mégane 265. The sub-£20k standard GT is not a bad starting point but then it falls into the clutches of faster supermini-based models. It's as if the pro_cee'd is between a pricing rock and a... well, you get the picture.

Overall, the pro_cee'd GT comes across as a textbook way of making a hot hatch, a bit like an obdurate, risk-free century from Jonathan Trott; gets the job done well, but you'd rather be watching Chris Gayle smearing some almighty sixes over the ropes. And the other hot hatches in the class are the equivalent of calypso cricket - crucially, they're more fun, so you don't mind paying the extra. As good a first effort as the GT is, and it is a very good effort at that, in our opinion the pro_cee'd needs a tiny bit more sparkle to make it a genuine, left-field contender in the hot hatch marketplace. We look forward to one day trying the Koreans' second performance effort with that in mind.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus ST: sharper handling and sportier sounds, Ford's dynamic prowess continues unabated in the Focus. Its little brother Fiesta is even better, though.

SEAT Leon Cupra: newcomer offers plenty of punch-per-pound and is well-specified as standard. Cheaper 265 model is the one to worry the GT Kia.

Volkswagen Golf GTI: the all-rounder benchmark. Does the Kia's refined behaviour thing to an even more accomplished level and has brand cachet the pro_cee'd can only dream of.


Matt Robinson - 15 May 2014



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2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.



2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 

2013 Kia pro_cee'd GT. Image by Kia.
 






 

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