The Kia Pro_cee’d GT is proof that Kia believes its brand image is strong enough in the UK to launch its first ever hot hatch.
To term the newcomer as a hot hatch may be overselling it slightly, as even Kia prefers you call it ‘warm’, with its 201bhp 1.6-litre turbo seriously outgunned by models such as the 247bhp Ford Focus ST. As a result, it feels punchy but not with the kind of manic mid-range boost and top-end shove you get in the current crop of fast hatchbacks.
Instead, there’s a generous kick of torque between 1,750rpm and 4,000rpm, but try to take the engine past that and it soon runs out of puff. Still, a 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds confirms that this car is no slouch, although the engine note is a bit of a drone.
Its big test comes in corners, and it’s here that the GT doesn’t feel sufficiently special. There’s more front grip than in a standard Pro_cee’d, but the steering does not feel quick or weighty enough. It means that where a Focus or VW Golf feel eager, the GT seems more ponderous. Not enough information is passed through the steering wheel to the driver, either, disappointing anyone expecting to find a cut-price GTI rival.
Also, despite not feeling as quick or fun as its rivals, the Kia’s suspension actually seems firmer than most cars this side of a Renaultsport Megane 265. This is fine on bumpy B-roads, but on rough city streets abrupt thuds make their way into the cabin.
That’s a shame, because it detracts from the premium feel that’s apparent everywhere in the Pro_cee’d GT. The interior looks great, with classy additions such as the sports steering wheel and excellent sports seats, and refinement is top-notch. There’s more tyre roar at motorway speeds, but the low level of wind noise is impressive, as is room in the back seats and boot.
Despite those low-slung looks, adults fit in comfortably, and the 360-litre load space (plus 20 litres under the boot floor) is competitive. Our major gripe is the fact that the upwards-sweeping window line makes it really tricky to check your blindspot when changing lines.
The Pro_cee’d GT starts from £19,995 – far cheaper than the near-£26,000 Golf GTI, but not far off the £21,995 Focus ST. As we said, though, the Kia doesn’t really fit in this company; it should perhaps be considered alongside the SEAT Leon SC FR 1.8 TSI.
It has the same performance and eye-catching looks and can be specced with all the kit of the £22,495 GT Tech – it comes with sat-nav, 18-inch alloys and part-leather seats – for about the same price. Swinging things in the SEAT’s favour is the fact it’s cheaper to insure and run, more comfortable and feels more fun.