Kia’s emergent adventurous spirit comes to the fore with this car.
Pros: Looks the part, feel-good factor from a great chassis.
Cons: Should have sat nav and a more modern infotainment system, door count will turn off family fun, silly name.
This is Korea’s most adventurous performance pitch, being an incursion into hot hatchdom, a territory that is patently ruled and zealously guarded by European brands. Trying to muscle in here surely means laying down a gauntlet to a bunch of true toughs.
The basis is a model Kia created for Europe, the Proceed hatchback. We see for $43,990 the ultimate three-door edition that delivers something of the right honed and hardened look.
But is it enough of a full-blown hottie? Within the wolf pack, there’s a basic rule: You either give the bash or get it.
Were this car to run with the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI it would get bitten. They’ve all got more power, are more honed … are better ‘ultimate’ performance drives.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way, and really shouldn’t. Think of the Proceed GT as a lone wolf, a solitary hunter. The reason why is a price that is patently very carefully considered, with $6000 to $15k clearance.
Design and engineering:
Three-door cars are hard sells, but this one is at least very pleasing to look at; properly hunkered, oozing with purpose and, though the kinked roof pillars block some rear view, really nicely sculpted.
Powertrain and performance:
Should we be impressed by a ‘mere’ 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre engine? Actually, to a point, yes. It sprints from 0-100km in 7.4 seconds and runs to a top speed of 230km, which makes it more rapid than rabid. On the road it feels quick, but without quite pinning you back in your seat like the best hot hatches around.
While it could do with more top-end shove and a decent exhaust note, the engine is not without character or appeal. There’s decent shove from 2000rpm to the redline, it demonstrates good flexibility and torque delivery is strong enough to make it work without bunny-hopping disgrace around town and pull strongly within the gears on the open road.
It’s tempting to say that, at 80 percent of the usual price for a decent hot hatch you’re getting 80 percent of the usual experience. Yet in so many ways this model is still a fantastic proposition in its own right, basically.
It is still a 100 percent effort in respect to Korean capability. Basically, it’s that country’s best sporting model yet … a plaudit that perhaps might ring slightly hollow because, erm, it is after all an intrinsically European effort, having been designed and engineered in Germany and built in Slovakia.
I know the market is going off manual gearboxes, but this is a good one nonetheless, albeit one that demands frequent use. A more sophisticated traction control would help; this one always seems to be a second or so behind the action.
Ride, refinement and quality:
Yes, the GT is firm enough to be fidgety. That’s in keeping with the type. So, too, road noise intrusion on coarse chip. Nonetheless, it’s a car that I would have be happy to chuck into corners all day, every day.
I’ve never driven a Kia – actually, any Korean car - that dynamically asserts as positively and coherently as this one. The steering, bereft of that gimmicky ‘flex’ function, has great feedback, the chassis is well-balanced; the all-disc brakes have great bite and the handling agility is enhanced by those boots. ZR-rated 225/40 Michelin Pilot 18-inchers are very swish fare.
Practicality and packaging:
It’s cosy but comfy. The cabin’s tight, but not so self-indulgent that it cannot offer room to take rear passengers, at least for short runs.
Kia has done well for the sporty side by splashing out on some Euro-tastic Recaro sports seats and a decent thick-rimmed steering wheel, adjustable for height and reach. The driving position is great and heightens the sense of involvement.
The GT also takes an electronic speedo display that can be switched from normal analogue-look to a racy digital readout flanked by torque and turbo output gauges: A bit chintzy, but useful too. This still doesn’t distract from the dull main cabin plastics and the dated-looking infotainment cluster that cries out for a touch screen and sat nav.
How it compares:
Yes, I know this car has a snowball’s chance of majorly changing our existing buying patterns, simply because the clientele for manual, three-door cars is extremely limited. Yet it surely has to make a powerful impact on how we view Kia - actually, Korean – product. If affordability allows, you’d always go for the Golf or Focus but, if cash flow is constrained, then this model is an excellent alternate.