Kia faced a dilemma when they started developing their first proper performance car, the Pro_cee’d GT. How do you get your foot in the door when you’re faced by a clique of well-known badges? How do you beat the established players at their own game?
The answer is to do things slightly differently. The Proceed is the same size as a Focus or Golf so the expectation is that it’ll pick a fight with the GTI and ST. Well, Kia aren’t following expectations.
With ‘just’ 201bhp the Proceed GT looks like a poor relation in a class where most have 250bhp or more but by pitching the performance at a lower level Kia are carving out a niche for themselves. Hot supermini performance in a family-sized car with a price that falls somewhere in the middle.
But why should you give the new boy a chance? What’s the Kia got to offer?
There’s a dress code in the Hot Hatch Club. Big wheels, a roof spoiler, sill extensions, bumpers with enlarged air intakes and a chrome exhaust or two are compulsory. Fortunately the Proceed GT took a good look at the code and dressed accordingly.
Alongside the hot hatch uniform are red brake calipers and LED tail-lights, plus a bright red stripe that runs across the lower grille. Hmm, a red stripe across the grille? Sounds familiar.
It’s even added a little flourish with a set of fetching LED running lights. They look like a cluster of glowing ice cubes and give the Proceed GT a distinctive face, one that’s easy to spot in the rear view mirror.
Another feature of hot hatches is a dark and moody cabin. The Kia obliges with black roof, seats and dashboard with only red stitching in the leather and red GT logos adding a splash of colour. The leather and alcantara Recaro seats are a highlight, being both comfortable and very supportive, and feature electronically adjustable lumbar support.
A hot hatch hasn’t got to just look good, it’s got to be quick too. 201bhp might not cut the mustard when you look at the competition but in reality it gives the GT enough performance to be plenty of fun without being a handful.
The modified suspension helps. Firmer springs and stiffer dampers are fitted, while the rear is upgraded to multi-link suspension and gets a stronger anti-roll bar. The GT has electric power steering but loses the ability of lesser models to change the assistance, but that’s no bad thing.
In many respects the GT drives just like a Golf GTI. Weighty steering with limited feel, a slick six-speed manual gearbox and suspension that’s supple enough to let it flow with the road surface without wallowing or rolling. That supple nature means you can hustle the GT along and make decent progress without suffering trauma to your spine. It also makes the GT feel very civilised around town or cruising on the motorway.
It’s only when you really push on that you discover the GT’s limits lie at speeds that would barely trouble a Renaultsport Megane, but Kia were never aiming to topple the reigning champion. Throw it into a corner and you’ll find the GT has a neutral balance and good grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport tyres. Steady on the throttle though, as without either an electronic or mechanical limited-slip differential the Kia will quickly start to push wide.
The 1.6-litre ‘Gamma’ engine delivers 201bhp at 6,000rpm and is good for a top speed of 143mph and a 60mph time of 7.4 seconds. With 195 lb/ft available from 1,750rpm to 4,500rpm the engine is flexible enough to deliver plenty of go without needing a thrashing. It gets a bit harsh in the upper reaches but there’s no noticeable benefit in pushing it to the limiter, so you learn to change up early and use the torque.
You can step into a Proceed GT for £19,995. Compare that to a 217bhp Golf GTI at £26,125. See the difference? Not much in performance but a lot in price. The GT comes with climate control, Bluetooth, multimedia support, reversing sensors and metallic or pearl paint as standard. It also includes 18-inch wheels and those Recaro seats.
Invest an extra £2,500 in the GT Tech and you get a host of desirable extras such as xenon headlights, sat-nav with a 7-inch screen, reversing camera, heated seats, dual-zone climate, keyless entry and a start/stop button. There’s even a heated steering wheel, usually the preserve of expensive luxury motors. From the outside the Tech looks identical to the GT and performance remains the same.
One feature that would have been nice to see, even on the options list, is DAB radio. Some manufacturers already offer DAB as standard but at the moment Kia are hanging onto good old FM.
The build quality of Korean cars has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and is the equal of many of the European brands. The Proceed GT is no exception. Yes, there’s the odd piece of cheap-feeling plastic here and there but the important bits have a solid, quality feel. It’s a car that feels like it’s been built to last.
One of the highlights is the TFT colour display in the instrument cluster. The speedo and trip computer are nicely detailed with crisp graphics, and with a push of a button you can switch to a digital speedometer and a pair of bar charts showing engine torque and turbo boost. Yes, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a nice touch and fits with the GT’s sporting aspirations.
At launch the GT was only available as a 3 door but now you can choose a 5 door Cee’d GT for an additional £500. The oily bits remain the same but the two extra doors will be very appealing to those looking for a quick and affordable family car.
If you don’t need the extra doors the 3-door is still a practical choice. The boot boasts 380 litres of space and rear passengers are treated to a decent amount of leg room, although the high window line and tinted glass can make it seem claustrophobic.
Seven years. Not three, not five, but seven. How can Kia offer a seven year (or 100,000 mile) warranty when most other manufacturers offer three? There are companies who have a reputation for reliability who still make you pay extra to push your warranty to five years.
It’s a sign of how confident Kia are in their own products and one that you should take as a positive encouragement. Whether you’re looking to buy new or used, that 7-year warranty is a big comfort.
It’s unfair to compare the GT to a Megane 265, Focus ST or Astra VXR. It may be cheaper but it falls short on pace and would be completely outclassed on a track.
So how about comparing it to a 180bhp Focus Zetec S for £20,095 or a 198bhp Astra GTC SRi for £22,470? The Kia looks far more exciting and cracking value.
Or how about the 208 GTI? The GT may be slightly slower but it costs the same, is a lot bigger and share’s the Pug’s ability to travel quickly in comfort.
The Final Verdict
It’s a sign of just how far Kia have advanced in recent years that they’ve got the confidence to step into hot hatch territory. They may not be gunning for the big boys but that’s a wise move.
If you’re looking to spend your own money on a new hot hatch then you should seriously consider the Proceed GT. It looks great, goes quickly enough for most and represents great value, especially in basic GT trim, all backed up by a 7-year warranty that shames its rivals and keeps residuals strong.
It’s a fantastic first effort by Kia. They may not have not swept in and blown away the competition but they have fired a warning shot across their bows. What the GT also does is leave plenty of scope for an even quicker Kia. Anyone for a Proceed GT-R?
|Looks good, generous specification, great value, fantastic warranty||Dull engine note, high CO2 rating||8/10|
|Performance & Economy||Kia Pro_cee'd GT|
|Engine||1,591cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Transmission||6-speed manual, front-wheel drive|
|Power (PS / bhp)||204 / 201|
|Torque (Nm / lb.ft)||265 / 195|
|0 - 62 mph (seconds)||7.4|
|Top Speed (mph)||143|
|CO2 Emissions (g/km)||171|
|Combined Economy (mpg)||38.2|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||1,359|