TEST DRIVE: Kia pro_cee’d GT

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Steve Sharpe drives Kia’s new Cee’d hot hatch

The pro_cee’d GT is an important and an exciting car for Kia, in addition to one whose name requires serious concentration while typing.

The company itself describes the three-door pro_cee’d GT, and its sibling the five-door cee’d GT, as the most anticipated and exciting new model in its history.

The cars are the first hot hatches to come from the Korean brand and further illustrates how ambitious Kia, and its partner manufacturer Hyundai, have become.

Having established itself as a value-for-money, reliable family-orientated brand, Kia is now looking to move onwards and upwards.

Because if the pro_cee’d GT is a success, it opens up a whole new market for the Korean manufacturer – the stylish, value for money hot hatch.

Kia have admitted right from the off that the GT isn’t the most powerful hot hatch in the showroom, but has been developed for an “enthusiastic driving experience whilst remaining practical, affordable and comfortable for everyday use”.

It’s powered by a turbocharged version of Kia’s 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol engine, the first turbocharged petrol engine in a UK Kia model, which accelerates from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds and has a top speed of 143mph.

The suspension has been re-tuned and a larger rear anti-roll bar is joined by 18-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres.

The steering has been tuned for a more sporting feel and the brakes are the largest of any fitted to the cee’d range.

The GT certainly looks the part, having undergone a makeover to give it a more sporty appeal.

And they’ve done a brilliant job, managing to keep the identity of the standard cee’d but giving it an injection of style.

There’s a lower, broader bumper and air dam and a wide central lower air intake, underscored by a red trim line, which is flanked by gloss black inserts housing the GT’s unusual ‘ice-cube’ LED daytime running lamps and foglights.

Side skirts and dual exhausts add to its sporty appeal

The overall impression if one of understated style rather than showy extravagance, which must have been the desired effect.

The designers have done a great job inside the cabin, too.

Slip into the front seat and the first thing you notice is are the Recaro sports seats. You instantly feel gripped and well supported, and there is power-adjustable lumbar support fitted to both front seats.

The cabin has a dark tone, but is lifted by touches like the red contrast stitching on the part leather / part suede upholstery, steering wheel and door trims.

You get further enhanced performance feel by the presence of perforated grip areas and an overstitched ‘GT’ logo on the leather steering wheel and stainless steel pedals with non-slip rubber inserts.

It’s a really attractive, well put together cabin with high-definition LCD displays – the digital italicised speed readout is reminiscent of a video game – which gives you a little digital tune and car display to welcome you on ignition.

Despite its small stature, the pro_cee’d is actually pretty roomy inside. There’s plenty of legroom and headroom in the front, while three people can fit comfortably in the rear.

Being a three-door, the wide opening, larger doors mean that you have to lean forward on getting in the front, but it means that entry to the rear is made simpler over the folded front seats. The boot’s a good size, too, so it does fulfil its promise of everyday practicality.

Out on the road the GT can’t compete with the true hot hatches in the sector, but it feels quick and handles extremely well.

It’s quick off the blocks and accelerates swiftly, with brisk acceleration rather than electrifying. The power is spread out well, with plenty in mid range, while the turbo kicks in to give really good power at higher revs.

The steering is precise although a little light on feedback from the road, but the GT corners well and feels safely planted on the tarmac.

The retuned suspension and low, flat stance results in very little body lean, meaning you always feel secure when taking tight corners.

The six-speed auto gearbox is slick and precise, although I found it sometimes had the tendency to ping from fifth gear back into fourth, rather than sixth, if the right amount of pressure wasn’t applied.

It’s also pretty comfortable on longer journeys. There’s some noise coming in when travelling at higher speeds but the GT takes all but the biggest potholes in its stride and the general ride quality is good.

Taking everything into account, Kia’s first foray into the hot hatch market has been an impressive one.

Value for money has been, and will always be, at the heart of Kia’s philosophy and the pro_ceed GT is priced to undercut its big-name rivals.

There are two trims available, the GT at just under £20,000 and top-spec GT Tech, at £22,500.

Both are well- equipped - the GT gets Recaro seats, air conditioning, cruise control, automatic lights, cornering lights, reversing sensors, Bluetooth phone connectivity with music streaming and voice recognition, a six speaker radio/CD player with iPod connectivity, a unique ‘GT’ TFT LCD dash binnacle display, electric windows, electrically operated and heated folding mirrors with puddle lights and privacy glass on the rear windows and tailgate.

There’s also a load of safety and security measures as standard.

GT Tech adds a 7-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, European mapping and full UK postcode recognition; a reversing camera display integrated into the navigation screen; heated front seats and a heated steering wheel; and an engine start/stop button with a smart entry system.

There is exterior door handle illumination, rain-sensing front wipers, dual-zone automatic air conditioning with an ioniser, an automatic de-fog system, an automatic-dimming rear-view mirror and Xenon adaptive headlights with headlight washers.

The hot hatch sector is an extremely tough one, but Kia seem to have tackled it the right way with its first try.

While the pro_cee’d GT isn’t the fastest or the best handling hot hatch on the block, it blends neat handling and good power with everyday practicality.

Unlike a blistering hot hatch, you don’t feel you need to keep the car reined in to avoid screeching away in a flurry of smoke and tyre screech.

The power is there but it’s under control, which is no bad thing in an everyday, practical hatchback.

It’s a well-equipped, good looking car for under £20,000 and Kia’s seven-year, 100,000 mile transferrable warranty is always an added incentive. It’s adds up to a great little package.

Fact file

Kia pro_cee’d 
1.6 GT
Engine: 1.6 litre petrol

Transmission: Six-speed manual.

0-62: 7.4 seconds.

Top Speed: 143mph.

Economy: Avg 38.2mpg

Price: £22,495 OTR