Kia Pro_Cee'd review: South Korea hatches a beauty

WARMER: Kia Pro_Cee'd GT. Picture: LACHLAN BENCE

WARMER: Kia Pro_Cee'd GT. Picture: LACHLAN BENCE

PRO_CEE'D GT changes the game even if we'd love to change the name.

Kia has quietly consolidated a reputation for building sensible and affordable cars. Now it can boldly add the word "exciting" to that list. (Or should that be ex_Citin'g?)

The three-door Pro_Cee'd GT is the only version of Kia's Slovakian-built C'eed hatch the company has brought to Australia (there is a "Tech" pack option which adds push button start, active headlamps and panoramic sunroof, but it is essentially the same car). If the intention was to add some pizazz to the South Korean brand's line-up, we are tempted to say it suc_Cee'ds admirably.

Mechanically, the Pro_Cee'd GT has some similarities to the Kia Cerato Koup. The powerplant is a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol four with 150kW peak power and 265Nm of torque. However it has a different, more focussed personality. The Pro_Cee'd is only available with a six-speed manual, and has a more advanced multi-link suspension rather than the simple torsion bar rear suspension of the Koup. So, while the Cerato Koup is meant to be a turbocharged cruiser, the Pro_Cee'd GT is intended to be a legitimate performance car.

And it is.

Subjectively speaking, we reckon the Pro_Cee'd is the best looking machine to wear a Kia badge in Australia yet, inside and out. With its so-called "ice block" daytime running lights, sleek lines and red highlights, the Pro_Cee'd GT makes its intentions clear but, if anything, we were more impressed with the interior layout.

Kia Pro_Cee'd GT

The LCD instrument display, which can be customised to include a digital speedometer and turbo boost gauge, is a nifty touch, and the general layout of the audio, communication and climate functions imitates the best. If the materials themselves aren't yet in the top division, they are still miles ahead of where Kia was just a few years ago. The Recaro sports leather and suede seats are also ideal for the task; supportive and comfortable, with groovy red stitching on black. Rear accommodation is also decent for a three-door.

Outright performance is "warm" rather than sizzling. The Pro_Cee'd GT is not as quick as benchmark hot hatches like the Renault Clio RS200 and Megane RS265, or the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but it is impressively nimble and a lot of fun to drive. The manual gear shift snicks into place nicely and the turbo engine winds up quickly enough. We whipped the Pro_Cee'd GT Tech around the Ballarat Airport precinct and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It feels light and well balanced.

Then there is the price: from just over $30,000 for the GT, and an extra $3500 for the Tech pack.

The Pro_Cee'd GT is well worth a look in its own right, but it is also most welcome in what is says about the Kia brand. It's all Pro_Cee'ding to plan.

Your local dealer is Bedggoods Kia: 5339 3111

Kia Pro_Cee'd GT Tech

ENGINE: turbocharged 1.6-litre turbo petrol inline four

POWER: 150kW at 6000 revs

TORQUE: 265Nm at 1750-4500 revs

TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual

DRIVE: front-wheel-drive

FUEL: petrol, 7.4-l/100km (ADR 81/02)

BRAKES: ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with ABS, brake assist and dynamic stability control

ANCAP SAFETY RATING: five stars

FEATURES: panoramic sunroof, dual zone climate control, leather-suede seats, rear view camera, Bluetooth connectivity, 18-inch alloy wheels

PRICE AS TESTED: from $33,490 plus on road costs

OTHERS TO CONSIDER:

FORD FOCUS ST: from $38,290

HYUNDAI VELOSTER SR TURBO: from $32,990

PEUGEOT 208GTi: from $29,990

RENAULT CLIO RS200: from $29,290

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