Tuesday, 3 December 2013

REVIEW - Kia pro_cee'd GT

Undoubtedly one of the most interesting cars of 2013- and not just for its imaginative and heavily-punctuated name- is the Kia pro_cee'd GT. I genuinely could not wait to get behind the wheel of Kia's first ever attempt at a hot hatch. For the last decade there has been the usual suspects, and so it's always good when new players come into the frame. But how would the new boy on the block fare against its rivals? Could it match the competition in terms of driving thrills, and would it tick the 'hot-hatch' boxes that are critical to success? Read on to find out...

Looks - 10/10

One of the most crucial features of any hot hatch is the ability to turn heads. And I was surprised just how much the Kia managed to do this. You would have thought I was driving a Ferrari the way everybody was looking at me. I think part of them wanted to know what it was, but many commented just how well the pro_cee'd GT looked. At the front there are some stunning LED daytime running lights which, when added to the wide profile, the honeycomb grille and GT badge create a rather aggressive look. You can be sure people will notice it as it bears down on them in the rear-view mirror. Also worth noting are the stunning alloy wheels, red brake calipers, and the sporty-looking twin exhaust at the back. The pro_cee'd GT manages to be curvy and bold at the same time, and looks from from every possible angle I tried that's for sure.

On the inside the traditional sporty touches are there to continue the persona created outside. You have alloy pedals, a chunky steering wheel with red stitching, vast body-hugging Recaro seats, and a few GT badges dotted about. Theres a short-throw gear lever, and the materials are really top quality. I've been in German saloons which didn't feel as premium and as well put together as the Kia did. I must also mention the instruments. They're huge, and the LED display never misses a beat. If you push the GT button on the steering wheel you get a different display which shows torque and turbo gauges, which-frankly- is the kind of touch that makes you fall in love with cars like this. In every aspect of its looks the Kia was a winner, and I will take anybody who disagrees to Specsavers.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

Another thing a good hot hatch must do is drive like one. And by that I mean it must feel like a zippy little go kart that can corner at a billion miles per hour and could beat Michael Shumacher in a drag race. Underneath the bonnet of the pro_cee'd GT is a 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged petrol engine. This makes for 200PS and 265Nm, which allows a 0-62mph dash in 7.4 seconds and a top speed of
143mph. Admittedly, this falls short of rivals such as the Focus ST, Astra VXR and M├ęgane Renaultsport. But these cars all have 2.0-litre engines. And the Kia is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. It pulls well in every gear, even from low revs, and there's a lovely little burble from that engine. The 6-speed box is a dream too, allowing you to work the engine to squeeze the most out of it.

The pro_cee'd GT handles like an absolute dream as well. Turn in is razor-sharp, and you can point the nose anywhere you want.What's more the steering is nicely weighted, and gives good feel for what the front wheels are up to. With all hot hatches understeer is a concern, but you can really chuck the Kia about and it will cope just fine. The suspension setup was just right for my tastes too. It's nice and firm on the road without breaking your back. On a long motorway drive you never feel like you're bouncing around, but on a bumpier, twister road you feel planted and can tell what's going on underneath. The seats also contribute a vast amount to cornering; holding you in place as the g-force builds. The sole reason the Kia cannot score a perfect 10 here is the brakes. They just didn't match the feel of the rest of the car, and never instilled the same confidence as the steering and suspension. I feel that some more upmarket Brembo's and bigger discs would put the pro_cee'd GT in a different league altogether.

Economy - 8/10

Now a hot hatch is supposed to feel like a supercar, but cost normal hatchback money to run, give or take a bit. The pro_cee'd GT will offer 38.2mpg on a combined cycle, and emits 171g/km CO2 which puts it in VED band H. Road tax is £285 in the first year, and £200 every year thereafter. That's not too bad, but then from the 1.6-litre I would have maybe hoped for slightly cheaper tax. Also, if you want to achieve 38.2mpg you'll have to be gentle with your right foot, because if you're not the Kia is rather thirsty indeed, and you could find yourself filling up more regularly than you'd hope. But then that's the same with any hot hatch; it's about finding the right balance of sensibility and fun.

Practicality - 10/10

With any three-door car, you would expect there to be some practicality issues, particularly in clambering into the back. But the pro_cee'd GT is actually very spacious. The back is easy to get in and out of thanks to rather large doors, and once in you have a pleasant amount of room; two adults can fit comfortably in the back, but three reduces this somewhat. The front seat occupants are spoilt for choice, and the adjustment on the steering wheel and seat allows for just about any driving position you could want. I like the seatbelt arms as well, which saves you dislocating a shoulder trying to reach behind you.

The boot is a generous size, and to drive day-to-day the Kia is a joy. It's quiet and refined, easy to park, has good visibility all round and- with gadgets such as cruise control- is great to take on a long drive too. I did quite a few miles in the Kia, and from a quick blast to a long run it never felt tiresome, and for all these reasons combined it's another 10 out of 10 for the pro_cee'd GT.

Fun - 10/10

Final category then, and I suspect the 10 out of 10 comes as little surprise here. I always give credit to a car that puts a smile on your face, no matter how it does it. I loved the attention from people, who wanted to ask me about the car, and whenever I caught the sight of those daytime LEDs reflected in other vehicles I was reminded of the sporty nature of the looks. But best of all, by a mile, was putting the Kia on a few of the local A roads, which had me grinning from ear to ear. I just wanted to keep on driving, around the next bend, over the next hill, and few cars make me want to do that as much as the pro_cee'd GT. I didn't want to hand it back to Kia at the end of the week!

Concluding Remarks 

So to summarise then, I have saved the pro_cee'd GT's best feature until last. The price. £19,995. No, that isn't a typo. The Kia really costs less than twenty grand. What's more, you get the standard Kia 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and the list of standard equipment is rather impressive. Or for the really tech savvy amongst us, you can add £2,500 for the GT Tech. This adds satellite navigation, heated seats and steering wheel, a reversing camera and automatic air conditioning. Not bad at all, and by my calculations both work out at extremely good value. I really urge any of you doubters out there to go and drive a pro_cee'd GT because you will know exactly what I'm talking about. So for more information visit a dealer or log on to Kia's website. So then, I'll leave you with this. The Kia  pro_cee'd GT; a modern interpretation of the classic 'hot hatch' that will put the fun back into driving.

Total Score - 47/50

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