Hello, is there anybody in there ?
In the past 20 years, perhaps the biggest change in the UK car buying publics habits, has been their acceptance of Korean cars. Where once Hyundai & KIA were perceived as ‘Japanese,’ today, most customers who own one in Britain are aware that they are Korean brands offering up value for money motoring alongside reliability & increasingly quality & style. What is so surprising is how quickly – the past 5 years really- that both marques have moved from pretty boring looking models such as the Mk 1 KIA Sportage & Hyundai Tuscon, to what is available in 2015. KIA in particular have concentrated their efforts on making attractive cars such as the Sportage Mk2 & Optima, whilst pitching them head on in to the competitive SUV & family saloon markets. In 2013, KIA launched their first ‘hot hatch, the Pro cee’d GT to get a foothold on the European market for such cars, a market traditionally dominated by VW, Ford , Peugeot & Renault.
Scanning performance figures for the Pro Cee’d GT, it becomes quite clear that the KIA is closer to being ‘warm’ than ‘hot’. Designed, developed and constructed in Europe, it’s the marques first implementation of a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and generates 201 bhp. This means that it will reach 60 mph in 7.4 seconds & go on to hit a top speed of 143 mph, both impressive for KIA’s first attempt to tackle this sector with the GT.
In order to succeed, the Pro Cee’d GT has to look good & this KIA doesn’t disappoint, with a stylish exterior that’s bound to turn heads. For example, a set of four ‘ice cube’ LED daytime running lights, fitted either side of the front grille give the hot hatch a unique look & with the addition of a honeycomb grille, bespoke alloys, dual exhausts at the rear & a single red stripe across the front splitter, this is car one will notice in a subtle way, which is good.
Climb inside the GT & you’ll find a well thought out interior with quality to the fore especially across the dashboard. Recaro sports seats keep you firmly in what is a fantastic driving position. There’s also no cheap plastic on show, with all trims finished in leather & brushed alloy for the pedals. There’s no scrimping here from KIA as all trims come with leather, reversing sensors & Bluetooth as standard.
KIA sent me the top of the range Tech model, which brings with an increased price tag that includes the addition of xenon headlights, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, red stitching on the steering wheel, gear shift,black door centre trim & seats, black centre facsia air vent surrounds & door trim & a 7″ touch-operated sat-nav system.
More surprisingly, the GT offers excellent cabin space both in the front & the rear with room for two six footers in the back & at a push someone smaller to sit between them. The boot will hold 380 litres of luggage, with the rear seats split 60:40, which frees up additional room as & when required.
Safety is to the fore with the GT fitted with electronic stability control, (ESC) vehicle stability management, (VSM) ABS with EBD & brake assist system (BAS), hill-start control, twin front air bags, twin side air bags, twin curtain air bags & impact sensing auto door unlocking.
I drove the GT to Newcastle & back for the UK launch of the smart forfour & really enjoyed it’s effortless acceleration when overtaking, sharp handling, tremendous road holding & comfortable cabin. Connecting my phone through Bluetooth was simple & the whole infotainment package was easy to use & to understand. The only omission was the lack of a DAB radio.
As you would expect from a performance tuned version of a standard three door hatch back, the Pro Cee’d GT takes a hit in terms of fuel economy. Lacking start/stop it delivers a claimed 38.2 mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 171g/km, both of which let it down when compared to it’s rivals. Traveling mostly on the motorway to Newcastle & back, I averaged just 32.6 mpg, because the GT is just too much fun to drive slowly, the whole point of this type of car anyway.
As with it’s move into the SUV market with the Sportage, KIA have done remarkably well to produce such a good car in this class for it’s first attempt. As they say, things can only get better & that’s a stark warning to the European manufacturers to stay on their mettle because if they aren’t aware of it already, with 65,000 cars sold in the UK last year, KIA are here to stay.
A Comfortably Numb 3.5/5.