Say you’re shopping for hats and come across two you like. Both protect and insulate your head. Problem is, one’s a Ralph Lauren, the other’s from Rivers. There’s probably little difference in quality, it’s just one makes you feel fuzzier on the inside than the other.
It’s here we find the Pro_cee’d GT’s (from here on called the ProCeed to save ourselves from grammatical insanity)biggest issue. Kia’s still struggling to break the prejudice its cheap and gloomy beginnings helped mould.
It’s not an image problem – that’s what Miley Cyrus has – more an awareness problem; Kia’s crop is much better than it used to be, and the ProCeed GT’s here to let the speed-craving crowd know.
Designed by a Frenchman, developed in Germany, and built in Zilina, Slovakia, Kia’s first performance car is a multilateral effort and we’re the first market outside of Europe to take delivery.
Thanks to its birthplace, the GT has the base Ceed’s exclusive multi-link rear set-up, providing Kia’s grip guru, Graeme Gambold, with a more capable device to apply a local suspension tune.
The front-driver borrows the first turbocharged petrol engine in the brand’s line-up, the 150kW/265Nm ‘Gamma’ four-cylinder from the Koup Turbo, with a shortened intake path, matched to a “simplified” main muffler. It’s available with a six-speed manual only. Front brakes are 300mm rotors clamped by performance pads, while its 18-inch wheels are wrapped in 225mm Michelins.
Get the car on a challenging road, such as the winding tarmac of southern Tasmania or ripple-strips of Baskerville Raceway, and it becomes clear why Kia equipped the ProCeed GT with a pair of well-bolstered leather-and-suede Recaros.
The spherical gear knob feels nice in your palm but is used sparingly due to the efficiency of the engine’s twin-scroll snail. Peak torque arrives at 1750rpm, sticking around until 4500rpm before peak power chimes in at 6000rpm. Where natural breathing 2.0 litres would ask for more cogs, the Gamma feels adept, making for easy progress up and down mountain roads.
But progress comes at the expense of drama. From the inside the engine sounds boring, and has us pleading for some sound engineering.
First impressions suggest the steering lacks feel, but is superbly weighted. It’s also more accurate on-centre than other electric systems we’ve driven. Combined with good front-end point, the GT starts to stack up as a capable back-road beast.
The ride isn’t completely insulated from potholes but manages a compliance similar to similarly priced European sports hatches. Trailbraking into an apex at seven-tenths activates the lively rear-end, which doesn’t mind stepping into oversteer. It can get a little too dancy, though, occasionally feeling unstable in Baskerville’s bumpy braking zones.
Kia upped the spring and damper rates found on the base ProCeed, concentrating on the rear end’s firmness, but we’re told the GT was a little ‘benign’, and was given a stiffer disposition for local roads. The result ensures more rear-play at high speeds, but as you approach its outer edge, it can be confidence sapping.
However, the amount of fun available for a smidge under $30K puts the ProCeed GT in the same bang-for-your-buck light as Ford’s Fiesta ST. Sure it may not be as focused, but it’s also hard to ignore the important stuff included in its package.
For instance, even the base GT scores Recaros, a leather steering wheel, cruise, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, 18s and a five-year warranty. It only foregoes superfluous luxuries found in the dearer GT-Tech like a panoramic sunroof, active HID headlights and push start.
It pleads an even louder case when you consider it seats five, the interior buttons have a pleasant European tactility and its plastics don’t feel like recycled school chairs. Nor is it hard on the eye.
Okay, so there are a few markdowns, like the lack of any torque vectoring, the cable-type transmission slots without much conviction, it’s not going to set a drag strip on fire and any colour other than red’s going to cost you $595.
Otherwise it’s a cut-price Korean version of a three-door Volkswagen Golf GTI. Boil it down and there’s really only one thing keeping Kia from selling as many ProCeed GTs as it deserves, and some might argue that’s the small, shiny plaque on top of its grille.
3.5 out of 5
Engine: 1591cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 7.7sec (claimed)
Price: From $29,990