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Kia pro cee’d GT Tech

Click to view picture gallery“The pro ceed GT Kia’s first
  high-performance model
is
  the new halo model for the entire
  Kia range. Until now the South
  Korean Kia brand has focused
  on selling soundly-engineered,
  reliable, attractively-priced,
  bread-and-butter models...


AND IT'S A SALES PHILOSOPHY that's served Kia well, scoring them record UK sales year after year. But their direction has changed with new European designed and built models. And with their production plants working to full capacity, there's now less inclination to chase volume sales so sportier, niche 'halo' models are now also on the menu.

Manufactured at Kia's Zilina plant in Slovakia and only sold in Europe, the new pro cee'd GT is Kia's first such image-changer. Using the three-door coupe-style body of the latest pro cee'd hatchback, which are powered by either 133bhp 1.6-litre petrol engines or 126bhp 1.6 CRDi diesel units. Prices for these mainstay models range from 17,495 up to 20,800.

“The pro cee’d GT will
spurt from standstill to
60mph in 7.4 seconds
and max out at 143mph.
So where does that
leave fuel economy?
My test drive covered
all types of roads, as well
as short and long
journeys, and returned an
acceptable, given the
performance, 34.8mpg.
..”
But it's the new pro cee'd GT that's got everyone talking. Powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine outputting a muscular 201bhp, it's available in three levels of specification: GT, GT Tech, and the limited edition GT 1st Edition (only 50 units available in the UK). Prices start at 19,995, rising to 23,995.

For the record, a GT version of Kia's five-door cee'd hatchback utilising the same turboed petrol engine and six-speed manual transmission will be joining the Kia line-up next year.

The three-door pro cee'd GT undercuts most other hot hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus ST, VW Golf GTI, and Renault Megane RenaultSport 265, yet is similar in price to the lesser-powered competitors fielded by Vauxhall and SEAT — Astra GTC 1.6T 180 and the Leon 1.8 TSI 180 FR.

In this sporty hot hatch sector the pro cee'd GT's appeal remains value-for-money specification, good looks and now, of course, performance. The 1.6-litre, four-cylinder GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) petrol engine, originally developed by Mitsubishi Motors, now has an exhaust-driven turbocharger added to its specification which boosts power by 51% to 201bhp and, more importantly, torque by 61% to 265Nm (or 195lb ft in 'old money'). This torque is available from just 1,750rpm in a wide band all the way to 4,500rpm, with 80% of maximum torque available from less than 1,500rpm.

This serves up good, punchy acceleration and response from low- to mid-range speeds. Once you get into the higher rev band performance falls away quite sharply and the engine starts to sound stressed — but then only if pushed really hard outside the parameters of legal motorway speeds. The pro cee'd GT will spurt from standstill to 60mph in 7.4 seconds and max out at 143mph.

So where does that leave fuel economy? The turbocharged petrol unit officially returns 38.2mpg in the Combined Cycle — my test drive covered all types of roads, as well as short and long journeys, and returned an acceptable (given the performance) 34.8mpg.

The CO2 emissions are 171g/km — a shade more than the more powerful and heavier Ford Focus ST 5-door hatch with its 247bhp, 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that officially returns 39.2mpg. The pro cee'd GT incurs a road tax bill of 285 for the first year; year two onwards will see owners paying a bit less: 200. Company car drivers will pay 26% in Benefit-in-Kind tax.

“A lowered suspension
ensures the GT felt well
planted during fast
cornering, with virtually
no body-roll and plenty
of front-end grip.
..”
A real joy to use was the GT's very slick and precise six-speed close-ratio manual 'box, which added to the sports driving enjoyment. A lowered suspension ensures the GT felt well planted during fast cornering, with virtually no body-roll and plenty of front-end grip.

However, the car didn't feel quite as agile and nimble as it could have due in part to the lacklustre feedback from the rather numb steering. The relatively soft suspension delivers a comfortable ride, smoothing out the worst of the bumps; it also remained in control, stopping 'floating' during fast cornering on winding roads.

Unfortunately a combination of 18-inch alloy wheels shod with low-pro tyres (admittedly they look very nice) meant there was considerable road noise intrusion, most noticeably on motorways.

Visually, the pro cee'd GT looks really smart, very athletic, and eye-catching, and should help Kia to move to a more desirable brand image. Its lowered and wide stance coupled with the coupe side profile leaves you in no doubt this is intended to be a sports machine. The ice-cube LED daytime running lights are unique, and add to the quality image.

The Kia grille will split opinions although the high-gloss mesh underscores the sports image; at the rear the steeply angled tailgate window further emphasises sports performance as too does the under-bumper diffuser and dual exhaust tailpipes.

Inside, the cabin has a classy look, if not a roomy one — the rear is a tad cramped for leg and headroom. The leather-and-suede Recaro seats look the part and proved to be comfortable, as well as giving good support. The overall black treatment for upholstery, fascia, doors, and roof lining made it cosy but a touch gloomy. However, there is enough bright trim around the dials and pedals to give the ambience a lift, and the glossy black trim inserts for the fascia and door handles/pulls added more glitz on my GT Tech spec version, which carries a 22,495 price tag. It's also practical, with a 380-litre boot that expands to 1,225 litres if you need to cart something around other than passengers.

“The pro cee’d GT looks
really smart, very athletic
and eye-catching, and
should help Kia to move
to a more desirable
brand image. Visually it
leaves you in no doubt
it’s intended to be a
sports machine.
..”
Even on the lowest price GT version, equipment is comprehensive with all the usual items from electric windows and mirrors to AirCon, sports seats, cruise control and speed limiter, automatic lights, cornering lights, reversing sensors, Bluetooth and so on.

The GT Tech trim additions include a seven-inch touchscreen with SatNav, a reversing camera (needed because of the restricted rear visibility), heated front seats and steering wheel, start-stop button, automatic wipers and de-misting function and adaptive Xenon headlights.

There's no doubt that Kia has greatly improved their products with European design and quality of production. Now they need to add a little finesse in handling refinement, just as Ford and VW do with UK-specific suspension and steering settings to cope with our poor road surfaces and make their cars more engaging to drive. They, along with the likes of BMW, have come to the conclusion that if suspension tweaks, handling and steering responses work in the UK, then they will work anywhere.

The pro cee'd GT will only account for a few hundred extra sales in this specialist low-volume sector but it's pretty certain that it will enhance customer perceptions of the brand as a whole in the UK.

While it needs to be more engaging to drive, and there's too much road noise intrusion on motorways, that doesn't stop the GT being a game-changer for the Kia brand image. Owners will like the very well equipped and comfortable cabin, enjoy the spirited low-to-medium speed performance, and take pleasure in driving something with the GT's sporty good looks.
David Miles

Kia pro cee'd GT Tech | 22,495
Top speed: 143mph | 0-60mph: 7.4 seconds | Average Test MPG: 34.8mpg
Power: 201bhp | Torque: 195lb ft | CO2 171g/km