A man­ual goes by

It’s one of the bet­ter drives of the year so far, but only if you can op­er­ate a clutch pedal

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test -

“IT’S a Kia?” was the re­sponse af­ter a walka­round.

The ap­prov­ing nod slowly be­gan as the out­puts and price tag were re­layed. This wasn’t an iso­lated in­ci­dent dur­ing time with the Pro­ceed GT.

Kia’s en­trant into the hothatch mar­ket might have taken its time get­ting here but it has been worth the wait.

VALUE

It’s not the bar­gain-base­ment propo­si­tion of the hot-hatch seg­ment — Kia has slid the en­try model in at $29,990 for the GT and its fea­tures list starts with 18-inch al­loy wheels wrapped in Miche­lin 225/40 Pi­lot Sport 3 tyres, leather/ suede Re­caro sports seats, sports leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel and gearshifter, du­al­zone cli­mate con­trol, cruise con­trol with speed lim­iter and au­to­matic head­lights (with cor­ner­ing lights). There are re­vers­ing sen­sors, Blue­tooth phone and mu­sic link (as well as USB) to the six-speaker au­dio, a model-spe­cific LCD sports in­stru­ment panel, power win­dows and power-ad­justable, heated and fold­ing mir­rors with pud­dle lights.

The Tech model is priced from $33,490 and adds a panoramic sun­roof, key­less en­try and start, door han­dle light­ing, ac­tive xenon head­lights, pri­vacy glass and a (worth­while) lug­gage net — per­haps the lat­ter and the xenon head­lights are the only two fea­tures that would be worth get­ting.

Dis­ap­point­ing from a value per­spec­tive is the cost of the ser­vic­ing regime — for five years it tal­lies up to $2886, which is steep.

The Peu­geot 208 GTi, the Citroen DS3 Sport and Ford’s Fi­esta ST match it for in­ter­vals of 12 months and 15,000km but cost much less — the Fi­esta’s is half as much.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The en­gine is shared with the three-door Hyundai Veloster. The Kia adds a multi-link rear end and a con­ven­tional twodoor set-up (but more on that later).

The 1.6-litre al­loy “Gamma” en­gine has vari­able valve tim­ing on both sides to pro­duce 150kW and 265Nm. Sport­ing a twin­scroll tur­bocharger in­te­grated in the ex­haust man­i­fold and di­rect fuel in­jec­tion, the perky four has min­i­mal lag and peak torque present from 1750rpm to 4500rpm, flex­i­bil­ity that’s felt from be­hind the wheel.

Fuel econ­omy isn’t too shabby for the squirt it pro­duces — the claim is 7.4L/100km, al­though the enthusiasm elicited by the chas­sis had the trip com­puter in the realm of 11L/100km on test.

DE­SIGN

Sit­ting in size and price be­tween the likes of Ford’s Fi­esta and Fo­cus hot ST mod­els, the Slo­vakian-built GT builds on the strong styling of the base hatch, which is not sold here.

Road pres­ence is set by a deeper, more ag­gres­sive front split­ter and ex­tra air in­takes, in which there are two banks of four LED driv­ing lights — some even liked the square LED ar­range­ment.

Kia DNA shows through the over­all look of the front end, which is not a bad thing at all, with the broad-shoul­dered and wide stance flow­ing through the flanks to the rear, which has rear LED lights and a dif­fuser wrapped around the dual ex­hausts.

The brand’s Essendon spon­sor­ship was in hind­sight a lock-in, given the pen­chant for red-lit black in­te­ri­ors. The GT is no ex­cep­tion.

The cabin is dom­i­nated by ex­cel­lent Re­caro leather/suede sports seats, with a grippy sports leather steer­ing wheel and gearshifter, rub­ber-dot­ted al­loy sports ped­als and a smat­ter­ing of al­loy trim bits.

In­form­ing the driver is a clear two-mode LCD panel that can dis­play con­ven­tional di­als or a per­for­mance dig­i­tal dis­play, which adds boost and torque gauges to a dig­i­tal speed read­out, but don’t ditch the dyno just yet.

Smaller oc­cu­pants are eas­ily ac­com­mo­dated in the back and the 380L boot can be ex­panded to 1225Lwith rear seats folded; a lit­tle ex­tra space is also avail­able be­neath the cargo bay floor.

SAFETY

The main­stream model gets five stars in Euro NCAP, so you’d ex­pect a sim­i­larly equipped GT to repli­cate that rank­ing — safety fea­tures in­cludes sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, a hill-start helper, anti-lock brakes (which Kia says halt the GT from 105km/h in less than 37 me­tres), six airbags, seat belt re­minders and three child seat an­chor points.

It also has rain-sens­ing wipers, au­to­matic head­lights, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing and au­to­mat­i­cally locks its doors when un­der way and will au­to­mat­i­cally un­lock if there’s an im­pact.

DRIV­ING

Straight away the GT feels a live­lier beast than its Hyundai cousin, de­spite tip­ping the scales a lit­tle heav­ier. The ride around town is firm and a lit­tle rat­tled over small bumps but not be­yond the scale of its com­pe­ti­tion in the seg­ment.

The 0-100km/h claim of 7.7 sec­onds sounds a lit­tle on the tardy side yet it nips through traf­fic on a flex­i­ble torque band and doesn’t need to be stirred of­ten, al­though the crisp and neat gearshift will en­cour­age clutch work.

Sadly, for now, there’s no auto op­tion, which will limit vol­umes. The sup­ply-con­strained GT is ru­moured to be com­ing with a seven-speed dou­ble-clutch auto, so hope re­mains for the man­u­ally chal­lenged. The chas­sis ben­e­fits from the mul­ti­link rear end ab­sent from the Veloster, with which it shares the pow­er­plant, as well as in­put from the lo­cal sus­pen­sion and steer­ing gu­rus — up­rated dampers, springs and bushes, a

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