Overall rating: 4/5
It's taken a while, but Kia has finally added some red highlights, bucket seats and something interesting under the bonnet of its cee'd hatchback. For a first effort the pro_cee'd GT is really rather good. Sadly, its price means Kia Ireland will make it a special order model only
In the metal 4.5/5
Eight 'ice-cube' LED driving lamps housed in gloss black inserts in the GT's deeper, more purposefully-styled front bumper make for a distinctive looking new contender in the hot hatchback market. Make that 'warm', as Kia claims it's not aiming for the hardcore hot hatch fan, though you'd be hard pushed to tell from the looks, which build markedly on the standard pro_cee'd. There are twin exhausts in a diffuser-effect rear bumper with vertically stacked lights, smart 18-inch alloys, side skirts and GT badging. Underlining that all is a neat red trim line on the bottom of the front bumper. The pro_cee'd GT is a good-looking car.
That attention to detail continues inside. There are Recaro seats and a chunky steering wheel with perforated leather and contrasting red stitching, while the simple, predominantly black interior is highlighted by some smart chrome accents and red GT badging. It's a high quality, comfortable driving environment. One standout feature is the switchable TFT speedometer, offering either a conventional dial, or boost and torque meters and a digital speedometer.
Driving it 4/5
The GT's numbers back up Kia's stance on the car's positioning. Two hundred and four horsepower is barely entry-level hot hatch output when even the Golf GTI can push out 230hp. Likewise the 7.9-second 0-100km/h time is relatively tardy, being around 1.5 seconds less than Ford's Focus ST and that Volkswagen. Unfortunately, the Kia is priced on a par with those.
But in isolation the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine does a respectable job in the GT. There's little incentive or need to rev it out, it delivering its best between 3,000- and 5,000rpm. The six-speeder's ratios suit its delivery, even if the shift quality isn't particularly noteworthy in its accuracy or speed, but likewise it's not obstructive or poor either. That's true of the steering as well, which offers quick enough response and precision, if not masses of information, or feel.
If there's one element of its make up that stands out over the rest it's the ride. The suspension exhibits balance, delivering good control, without the harshness or brittle low speed ride of many of its contemporaries. The chassis delivers plenty of grip, and traction is good too, the pro_cee'd GT able to carry its speed with real sophistication. Even high-speed mid-corner bumps do little to upset it, the body control being impressive as well. Push too hard into a bend and there's inevitably some understeer, but it's gentle and clear, and there's throttle adjustability there if you want to back off and bring the nose back in.
The brakes are strong, with decent pedal feel, though hard use sees the pedal go a touch soft. Admittedly you really need to be trying hard to see them run out of bite. It's the roundedness of the entire package that's the GT's defining feature, it by no means the fastest car in the class, but neither does it disgrace itself in any department; indeed, for Kia's first stab at a hot hatch it's mightily impressive, making us wonder what could be possible if its engineers liberated a few more horses from that engine.
What you get for your money 3/5
As Kia has gone mainstream some of the value proposition has been lost, and despite a generous roster of standard equipment the predicted price tag of the GT (in excess of €36,000) means it'll struggle to steal devoted fast Ford or GTI fans away. For the record there are Recaro leather and suede seats, LED lights, climate and cruise control, cornering lights, reversing sensors, 18-inch alloys and iPod and Bluetooth telephone connection. Then there's a seven-year warranty to consider.
Fittingly, Kia chose the new three-door version of the cee'd to launch its GT performance brand, but it has confirmed that a five-door variant will be introduced later this year sharing the same mechanical specification and attractive detailing. Sadly, we don't expect it to be any more affordable.
Kia's new pro_cee'd GT is not the fastest or sharpest contender out there, but arguably it's better for it. As a good-looking, fun day-to-day proposition it's an enormously appealing one. Tellingly, it's also enjoyable and capable when pushed. Its rounded ability feels rather more old-school hot hatch than the somewhat singular in purpose mega hatches that dominate the category today. All the more extraordinary is that it's Kia's first effort, and it's a very good one indeed. Shame about the price then.