First drive: Kia ProCeed GT

The ProCeed GT is the second Kia – after the rapid but ragged Cerato Koup Turbo – to be aimed at keen drivers, but is not a GTI, ST or RS rival.

Think ‘warm’ rather than ‘hot’ hatch and you’re right on the money.

Built in Slovakia primarily for the EU market, the ProCeed is Kia Australia’s first European small-car offering, its first C-segment three-door hatch, its first with a multi-link rear suspension, and its first with indicators on the left.

If you like red, you’ll find a starting price of $29,990, but all other colours attract a rip-off metallic ‘premium’. However, even in $33,490 GT Tech guise (basically a sunroof and HID headlights), the value-for-money force is strong.

The fact that the ruggedly handsome GT looks like a $41,490 Golf GTI rival for about Polo GTI money is enough for many buyers to succumb. And the newcomer does not lack form in the performance or dynamic departments, either.

Behind the ProCeed’s beaky proboscis is a variation of the 1.6-litre T-GDI twin-scroll turbo direct-injection four-cylinder petrol unit from the Koup and Hyundai Veloster turbos.

It delivers an impressive 150kW of power at 6000rpm, but it’s the range in which its 265Nm of peak torque is spread (between 1750-4500rpm) that really tells.

Revvy yet strong down low, the GT is rapid enough from standstill for most punters, but its portly 1448kg means the ProCeed’s pace only steps up when you’re on the move, with strong and seamless acceleration right up to the 6500rpm redline.

The Euros don’t care for autos, so there’s none available, but never mind because the GT’s six-speed manual is the Korean maker’s sweetest-shifter yet.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise, though, is how smartly it steers and handles.

Unlike every other Kia small car sold in Oz, the Slovak sidesteps the cheaper space-saving torsion beam rear end for a more complex multi-link suspension set-up – just like the Ford Focus and VW Golf.

It also has quicker (electric) steering, stiffer springs, improved dampers, thicker rear anti-roll bar and bigger four-wheel disc brakes.

The result is weighty and responsive steering, though more feedback and less rack rattle would be welcome.

Aided by tenacious Michelin tyres, the GT feels planted, reactive and controlled, but the ESC can interfere too early, the ride deteriorates markedly when surfaces become bumpy, and the level of road-noise intrusion over some bitumen is as bad as most German cars.

The spacious and highly specified interior’s style and solidity is on a par with the Euros, with special mention going to the excellent Recaro front buckets, jet-fighter-style digital speedo and torque/turbo boost gauges, classy glossy trim, tacky red stitching and superb driving position.

There’s a cavernous hatch, but rear vision is poor.

Overall, there is enough good stuff for keen drivers to sink their teeth into, and that’s a first for Kia car in Australia, too.

Kia JD ProCeed GT

Plus: Steering, handling, performance, design, value, warranty
Minus: Firm ride, rack rattle, blind spots
Engine: 1591cc, inline, 4-cylinder, dohc, turbo
Max power: 150kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 265Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 1448kg
0-100km/h: 7.7sec
L/100km: 7.4
Price: From $29,990
On sale: Now

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