KIA PRO CEE'D GT REVIEW
The Kia Pro Cee'd GT is the Korean brand's first truly sporty car, but is it a match for the best new hot hatches?
You could argue that the new Kia Pro Cee'd GT is proof of the Korean brand's growing confidence. It's the company's first "performance-oriented" model and the first of its cars to be sold in the UK with a turbocharged petrol engine. Kia goes so far as to say that it "marks quite a significant change" in direction.
Let's not get carried away, though - Kia doesn't actually use the term hot hatch, preferring the less suggestive "sporting hatch". It also asserts that the car shouldn't be judged against hard-edged cars such as the Renaultsport Megane and Vauxhall Astra VXR and it's keen to point out that the cheapest Pro Cee'd GT costs almost £6000 (£5850 to be precise) less than the basic Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Even so, the Pro Cee'd GT certainly looks like a proper hot hatch. The standard Pro Cee'd's handsomely sculpted shape is a good place to start and although the additions for the GT are the usual mix of sill extensions, deeper bumpers and larger wheels, the sporty makeover is unusually well-judged.
Distinctive "ice cube" LED daytime running lights dominate the front of the car, while there are restrained twin exhaust tailpipes at the rear and the 18in alloy wheels don't look too large or outlandish.
Mechanical changes over lesser Pro Ceed models are limited to tweaks to the MacPherson strut-front/multi-link rear suspension, with increased damper rebound and compression rates.
There's also a larger rear anti-roll bar, while the electrically assisted power steering has been "tuned for a more direct and sporting feel" and the Flex Steer function that allows drivers to select varying levels of assistance on other Pro Cee'd's is absent.
Power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that's related to the one used in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo. Peak power is 201bhp, with peak torque of 195lb ft available from 1,750- to 4,500rpm.
That's no match for the Ford Focus ST, which develops 247bhp and 266lb ft. The Renaultsport Megane and Vauxhall Astra VXR both have more than 250bhp and the Golf GTI - the least powerful of the mainstream mid-size hot hatches manages 217bhp and 258lb ft.
In fact, the Pro Cee'd GT is a closer match for the Ford Fiesta ST and Pegueot 208 GTi, which have 180- and 197bhp respectively. The Kia is heavier than those two and has less torque, however, so it isn't as quick as either.
It is, nonetheless, a decently rapid car. Kia quotes a 0-60mph time of 7.4sec, which is half a second behind the Fiesta ST, but still pretty nippy.
Working the engine hard - a key part of any good hot hatch's appeal - isn't as enjoyable as it ought to be, though, because although the engine has plenty to give at the top of the rev range, it sounds increasingly coarse as it nears the redline.
Even when revved moderately, the soundtrack is mundane - there's not the suggestive growl or hearty whine that you expect. Overall noise levels are low, however, so the Pro Cee'd GT is one of the most refined and easy-to-live-with sporty hatches around.
The ride is surprsingly civilised, too, with a forgiving nature over most surfaces, whatever the speed. While this degree of slack in the suspension benefits comfort, it inevitably blunts the handling compared with the more focused set-up that you get with many rivals.
Body movement is reasonably well controlled, but there's more initial lean through corners than you might expect and you can feel the car's bulk shift around as you change direction. The steering reacts quickly and is well-weighted, but it feels inert around the straight-ahead.
Michelin Pilot Sport tyres help to provide good grip, but if you push hard understeer takes over and the front wheels will edge predictably wide of your intended line.
In all, the Pro Cee'd GT is a car that you can drive quickly with confidence, but you're likely to have more fun in five minutes with a Fiesta ST than you would in a week with the Kia.
Inside, the Pro Cee'd GT gets a similarly restrained spruce-up to the outside - it's the usual tale of leather-trimmed, red-stitched steering wheel, shiny black trim and supportive, generously bolstered seats. It looks good, and build quality is excellent throughout.
As with any Pro Cee'd, there's plenty of space for four plus luggage, making this one of the most practical cars in its class. Only the new Skoda Octavia vRS will have a significant advantage for space.
At a fiver less than £20,000 the Pro Cee'd GT looks like a lot of car for the money - you pay much the same for mid-spec versions of most of the mainstream hatchback rivals and there's also the reassurance of Kia's seven-year warranty.
Running costs are nudged up by a surprisingly inefficient engine, however: EU Combined fuel economy is 38.2mpg - 1mpg less than the much more powerful Focus ST and 8.9mpg less than the Golf GTI.
Standard equipment is comprehensive. Basic "GT" trim includes air-conditioning, cruise control, automatic headlights, reversing sensors, Bluetooth, electrically folding/heated door mirrors and part-leather seat trim.
Upgrading to GT Tech bumps the price up to £22,495 and adds luxuries such as satnav, a reversing camera, keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, climate control and xenon headlights.
A limited-run GT 1st Edition model will also be offered: 50 will be available in the UK, for £23,995. Additional standard kit includes a range of cosmetic upgrades and an electric sunroof.
Stick to the basic car and the Pro Cee'd GT is an affordable sporty(ish) car that's also sensible everyday transport. It's a shame that Kia didn't make a grander gesture and attempt to build a full-fat, rip-snorting hot hatch, but maybe that's a step too far for now...
Kia Procee'd GT
Engine/transmission: 1,591cc four-cyl turbocharged petrol. Six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
Price from/on sale: £19,995/now
Power/torque: 201bhp @ 6,000rpm/ 195lb ft @ 1,750-4,500rpm.
Top speed: 143 mph
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 7.4sec
Fuel economy: 38.2mpg EU Combined
CO2 emissions: 171g/km
VED band: H
Verdict: Quick, stylish and affordable, but not as much fun as a hot (or even "sporting") hatch should be and the engine is characterless and thirsty.
Telegraph rating: Three out of five stars.