Until now the South Korean Kia brand, a subsidiary of Hyundai, has concentrated on selling soundly engineered, reliable, attractively priced, bread and butter models with that all-important 7-year/100,000 miles warranty.
That path has served them well with record UK sales year after year but their direction has changed with new European designed and built models. With their production plants working to full capacity there is now less inclination to chase volume sales. Sportier, niche ‘halo’ models are now on their menu and these should raise the public’s perception of a staid brand of perfectly functional but ‘conservative’ cars.
The new Procee’d GT is their first such image changing model. It is manufactured at Kia’s Zilina plant in Slovakia and only sold in Europe. Using the three door coupe style body of their Procee’d C-segment hatchback, which to date has 1.6-litre 133bhp petrol and 1.6-litre 126bhp CRDi diesel engine options with prices ranging from £17,495 up to £20,800, the new GT is powered by a 1.6-litre T-GDI turbocharged 201bhp petrol engine. There are three levels of specification, GT, GT Tech and the GT 1st Edition (only 50 units available in the UK) with prices starting at £19,995 and rising to £23,995. A GT version of Kia’s five-door cee’d hatchback with the same T-GDI engine and 6-speed manual transmission will join the range next year.
The Procee’d GT three door undercuts most other hot hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus ST, VW Golf GTI, Renault Meganne RenaultSport 265 but is similar in price to the lesser powered Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.6T 180 and the SEAT Leon 1.8 TSI 180 FR competitors.
In this sporty ‘hot hatch’ sector core to this Procee’d GT’s potential appeal is still value for money specification, good looks and 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 in ‘old money’. This amount of torque is available from just 1,750rpm to 4,500rpm but 80% of maximum torque is available from less than 1,500rpm. This gives 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 only if pushed really hard outside the parameters of legal motorway speeds. The zero to 60mph acceleration time is 7.4 seconds and top speed is 143mph.
As for fuel economy and CO2 emissions? The turbocharged petrol unit officially returns 38.2mpg in the Combined Cycle and my test drive spell covering all types of roads, short and long journeys returned an acceptable 34.8mpg given the performance. 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 Procee’d GT will costs £285 in VED road tax under the First Year rate reducing to £200 for year two onwards. Company car drivers will pay 26% in Benefit-in-Kind tax.
A real joy to use was the very slick and precise six-speed close ratio gearbox which added to the sports driving enjoyment. With its lowered suspension the car felt well planted during fast cornering with virtually no body-roll and plenty of front end grip. However the car didn’t feel that agile and nimble due in part to the lack-lustre feedback from the numb steering. The relatively soft suspension gave a comfortable ride smoothing out the worst of the bumps and it remained in control stopping floating during fast cornering on winding roads.
Unfortunately a combination of 18-inch alloy wheels shod with low profile tyres, although they looked nice, meant there was considerable road noise intrusion especially on motorways. The Recaro seats finished in leather and suede were comfortable and gave good support.
Outside the Procee’d GT looks really smart, very athletic and eye-catching and should help Kia’s aim 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. Of course the Kia grille, which to me looks like pursed lips, will split opinions although the high-gloss mesh continues the sports image. At the rear is a steeply angle tailgate window emphasising sports performance as 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 little cramped for leg and headroom. There is an overall black treatment for upholstery, facia, doors and roof lining which made it made it cosy but gloomy. However there is enough bright trim around the dials and pedals to give the image 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.
Specification is comprehensive even for the lowest price GT version with all the usual items from electric windows and mirrors to air conditioning, sports seats, cruise control and speed limiter, automatic lights, cornering lights, reversing sensors, Bluetooth and so on. The GT Tech spec additions include a seven-inch touchscreen with sat nav, 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 xenon adaptive headlights.
There is 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 making 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 they will work anywhere.
The Procee’d GT will only account for a few hundred extra sales in this specialist low volume sector but it might just enhance customer perceptions of the brand in the UK.
MILESTONES: Kia Procee’d GT Tech 3-Door Hatch. Price: £22,495. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, T-GDI turbocharged direct injection, DOHC, variable valve timing, 4-cylinder petrol engine, 201bhp, 195lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 143mph, 0-60mph 7.4 seconds, 38.2mpg Combined Cycle (34.8mpg on test), CO2 171g/km, VED road tax £285 First Year rate then £200 year two onwards, BIK company car tax 26%. Insurance group: 30. Warranty: 7-years/100,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,310mm, W 1,780mm, H 1,430, boot/load space, 380 to 1,225-litres. For: Game changer for the Kia brand image, spirited low to medium speed performance, very well equipped, comfortable, sporty good looks, well priced. Against: Needs to be more engaging to drive, too much road noise intrusion on motorways. Miles Better News Agency