Kia is mobilising on the international scene, looking to move towards a more sporting persona for the brand. These intentions have been signalled by the likes of the GT4 Stinger and the sleek GT Concepts. Even current design studies for mainstream products have an overtly sporty theme happening. Kia’s existing line-up, however, is dominated by mass market sedans, hatches and SUVs, with a few curiosities like the Koup and Soul thrown in but now the brand is taking its first sporting steps with the introduction of the Proceed GT. The what?
The name might be quirky but the GT, as we’ll refer to it henceforth, is the company’s first foray into the performance hatch market. It’s loosely based on Cerato origins, but it springs from the Euro-centric Proceed. It’s not some half-arsed attempt either. Kia has substituted the platform’s usual torsion beam for a multilink set-up and reinforced the rear of the monocoque with more high strength steel to realise a stiffer body. Sports suspension has the usual stiffer spring and damper rates, and fi rmer bushes while roll bars swell in girth too. There’s an upgraded software map for the electric steering while big (for a Kia) 300mm front discs are bolted on, along with a set of 18s wearing 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Developed in Europe, and with 480 laps of the Nürburgring under its belt, that is just the start of the process for South Seas-bound GTs. Australia and New Zealand are the only countries outside of Europe to receive the new GT and it undergoes the ‘ANZAC’ suspension tuning process by the Aussies to adapt it for Antipodean conditions. They further fiddle with the steering tune, ESP settings and the damper valving, and dial out some understeer with an even thicker rear roll bar.
It uses the same 1.6-litre 150kW/265Nm turbopetrol as the Koup with its twin-scroll turbocharger and dual vvt set-up to aid low end torque and response. The turbo housing and exhaust manifold are cast as one to save some weight and improve gas flow. Unlike the Koup, it’s only available with a six-speed manual transmission. This helps improve the performance aspect of the GT compared with the Koup. Both cars weigh in at 1373kg and they also turn in the same 0-100km/h time of 7.7s (right on Kia’s claim for the GT). But the manual trans processes the engine’s output more effi ciently and so runs a more respectable 80-120km/h time (4.42s vs 5.19s). They are priced similarly with the auto-only Koup at $42,490 and the GT lobbing in at $43,990 but these two are intended to appeal to different customers. So what exactly is the GT up against? There’s the Hyundai Veloster, which uses the same platform and engine, while the fi vedoor VW GTI and Ford Focus ST are both considerably more powerful and expensive. So perhaps the closest competitor is the 208 GTi which is similarly priced and powered, but smaller and 160kg lighter too. Also on the smaller side, there’s Fiesta ST and new Mini Cooper S. The GT’s dimensions, price and engine size see it carve out its own niche within a niche. And it’s a tiny market we are talking about with Kia NZ reckoning on selling around 60-70 units this year. So while it won’t be driving Kia’s local ambitions for a 14 percent increase in sales to 3200 units in 2014, cars like the GT help with brand awareness. As Kia NZ GM, Todd McDonald, explains,
“The model aligns itself well with the international Kia direction of having more character and attitude and this car delivers that aspiration for the brand.”
Kia has been turning out some impressive designs of late but the GT is easily its best yet. It’s a genuine head turner and people are almost shocked to discover the car they are admiring wears a Kia badge. There’s one spec level for the GT and it’s loaded including, amongst other things, heated leather Recaros, cruise with a speed limiter, reversing sensors and camera, extended Bluetooth, adaptive xenons, a smart key, and a full safety kit for a five-star rating. While you can never really call a three-door practical, large portals and easy folding front seats make entry into the rear no chore, and there’s plenty of space there too. It’s genuinely roomy. The boot too is generous with split folding as well. It’s all well made, and suitably funky inside.
The GT works from a stable platform with an abundance of grip. With masses of quality Michelin rubber on the road, there’s little chance of wheelspin when firing out of bends. There’s not enough torque to require any ESP intervention and so the tyres ensure what’s on offer is put to good use. Along with well-tamed body roll, the rubber helps the GT hold its line in a curve. You can take it by the scruff of the neck and it doesn’t immediately raise the white flag but rather hangs in doggedly. It has a sweet ride for the genre, with just a touch of firmness to the springs. They can sort fairly demanding bumps out well too although the rear end can move about on occasion and this will finally tip the front end into understeer. The steering is a little light on weight and feedback and can require the odd adjustment in bends but it doesn’t kick back, or feel odd when turning, nor does it have any weirdo self-centring obsessions.
The wee turbo makes for easy round-town running with its torque flowing freely in the 1200-3000rpm zone but more enthusiasm requires at least 3500rpm to be dialled in and then it’s pretty much done by 5000rpm as it runs short on breath. We found working the gearbox over, rather than the engine, worked better, shifting at 5000rpm to get back in the torque zone. And the gearbox is likeable with a well defined gate and light shift action that makes even the third to second downshift easy to master. With a light clutch and a well defined bite point, it’s not hard to work this manual. What’s not so good? The seating position is too high and fuel use can get up there for what is a small engine. It’s rated at 7.4L/100km but that can double after a good flogging. While the tyres make everything stick superbly, the noise they create can verge on rowdy over rough chip, and this drowns out the engine note completely. And it could definitely do with a mite more power to make things just a bit more lively. So it’s not Golf GTI quick nor is it 208 GTi nippy, it’s an inbetweener. It can hustle when need be, but is also quite civilised and comfortable too, a character that befits its GT badge well.
So it’s not Golf GTI quick nor is it 208 GTi nippy, it’s an inbetweener. It can hustle when need be, but is also quite civilised and comfortable too, a character that befits its GT badge well.