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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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