After becoming a force to be reckoned with in the family hatchback and SUV markets, Kia are now pushing into more niche markets, including the hotly contested hot hatch market. AutoNews therefore recently sampled Kia’s contender, the strangely-named pro_cee’d GT Tech. This svelte 3-door hatchback takes aim at the Golf GTI and Vauxhall Astra VXR sector, although in the power stakes its’ 201hp is outclassed, at least on paper, by the 220hp of the Golf and awesome 280hp of the Astra.
Performance is not just about power figures, though, torque plays a huge part in driving enjoyment, and here the gap widens further. The Kia delivers 265Nm from 1750rpm, against the Golf’s 350Nm from a lower 1500rpm and the VXR’s 400Nm from a speed which Vauxhall seem coy about declaring.
The Kia suffers in economy and emissions against these benchmark competitors as well, the Kia’s 38.2mpg combined and 171g/km comparing poorly in particular with the Golf’s 47.1mpg & 139g.km.
In performance terms, then, the Kia gets off to a poor start on all fronts, however it is redeemed slightly by its price, starting at £3,600 less than the Golf GTI and £4,300 below the Astra. The price differential increases further when you dip into the Golf’s options list to match the spec. of the pro_cee’d to add sat-nav and a reversing camera, inflating the Golf GTI’s price to £4,500 more than the Kia.
So how good is the pro_ceed GT? First impressions are of a sleek & stylish 3-door coupé, wearing the now-definitive and recognisable Kia corporate “Tiger Nose” grille. Fit & finish of the exterior is impressive, with tight shut lines to the doors, bonnet & tailgate. Inside, the aura of upmarket quality is continued, with fabulous leather & alcantara Recaro seats which, whilst they may not boast the signature tartan material of the Golf GTI are nevertheless incredibly appealing. Indeed, if the badges were hidden, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a car from one of the upmarket German brands.
Gloss black trim abounds in the cockpit, with even the steering wheel getting its share of the material. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of taste, let’s just say that this particular juror is undecided, having painful experience of how easy gloss black trim can be to scratch, forever after looking scruffy & decrepit.
In one of the first adoptions of digital instrumentation on a mid-market marque, the centre dial, which is digital, is flanked by two conventional moving-needle displays. Configured to mimic in one mode a traditional moving-needle display, which it does very effectively, the centre instrument’s display can also be switched to an altogether more high-tech, and colourful, full digital display.
Starting the Kia was accompanied by a musical chime, similar to that on switching on some electric cars, although I’m struggling to see why it was needed. Once under way, engine noise was pleasantly subdued, not quite as pleasantly however so was the performance, which never felt as if it was in a position to challenge the best of its competitors – not too surprisingly given the shortfall in power and torque.
Dynamically, the Kia also felt a little wooden, with fairly heavy steering providing little feedback, a sharp clutch, a bumpy ride, and brakes which needed a good shove. The gearchange, although kitted out with a very pleasant golf ball knob, was a little too heavily spring biased towards the 3rd/4th plane, meaning that 5th to 6th upshifts could be tricky.
In conclusion, the pro_cee;d is a great effort in terms of quality and price which stacks up well as a worthy competitor to the “pretend” hot hatch market where “show” is more important than “go” and which is inhabited by contenders such as the Astra GTC. However, even in this sector it is hampered by relatively poor emissions and fuel economy, whilst bearing the insurance burden of a fairly high-power engine. In the true hot-hatch arena, sadly for Kia, the pro_cee’d GT Tech does not yet hold a candle to the Golf GTI in particular which remains the benchmark for the class.
Interested? Find out more on the Kia pro_cee’d GT website here.