Bliss on the twists

Kia’s warm hatch adds flair to fun and leaves the power play to oth­ers

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

AUS­TRALIA’S favourite sports car, the Toy­ota 86, has one ma­jor fail­ing: there are only two seats. For those put off by its limited oc­cu­pancy rates, there are just as com­pe­tent cars with sim­i­lar flair and han­dling, backed by a sec­ond set of seats for friends for a weekend drive.

One of these is the Kia Pro_cee’d GT three-door hatch (we’ll just call it the Pro­ceed).

Like the 86, it is built to hus­tle through round­abouts and around back roads rather than to be an out­right pow­er­house.

VALUE

Ford’s Fi­esta ST at $25,990 looms large against the $29,990 start­ing price for the Kia. Both are sold only with man­ual gear­boxes and both rely on turbo 1.6-litre four-cylin­der en­gines to drive the front wheels.

The Kia earns ex­tra points here for its coupe-style looks. As such it’s a cross­over be­tween the purist ap­proach of an 86 and the squared-off hot-hatch prac­ti­cal­ity of the Ford.

Other ri­vals in­clude the Hyundai Veloster, Re­nault Clio RS200 and Polo GTI.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The Pro­ceed shapes up as the first overtly sporty car in the Kia line-up.

The en­gine is up to the job, crank­ing out 150kW/265Nm and a slick-shift­ing man­ual gear­box en­sures the driver is al­ways on the boost.

Of­fi­cial com­bined fuel use is 7.4L/100km or 9.7L/100km in city run­ning. Cars­guide was close to the lat­ter, so sen­si­ble driv­ers should eas­ily see just over 8.0L in daily driv­ing.

The trick driver’s dis­play tog­gles be­tween views. Click for a cir­cu­lar speedo flanked by a tacho on the left and huge fuel gauge on the right; click again for a dig­i­tal speed read­out flanked by turbo boost and torque bars. The de­tail in that only serves to high­light the tired red-on-black look for the in­fo­tain­ment and clock/seat belt re­minder high in the dash.

DE­SIGN

Chief de­signer Peter Schreyer was hav­ing a good day when he signed off on the GT. This is a sharp-look­ing car from any

an­gle, though the kinked roof pil­lars block some rear view.

The quad-pack of driv­ing lights on the bot­tom cor­ners gives the car a unique, pur­pose­ful look.

The in­te­rior can’t match the ex­te­rior looks. The plas­tics are a mix of mid-range util­ity and soft-touch on con­tact points. Blue­tooth pair­ing is easy and, de­spite the dated dis­play, the in­fo­tain­ment works well.

SAFETY Full marks here. The Kia scores 36.19/37 in the ANCAP crash test anal­y­sis to eas­ily earn a five-star score. The front oc­cu­pants and pas­sen­ger’s leg were rated “ac­cept­able” in the frontal off­set crash test and that’s as bad as it got. The re­sult puts the Pro­ceed GT in the top ranks of small cars, only just be­hind the likes of Audi’s A3 and the Mazda3.

DRIV­ING The fun­da­men­tals are all there in the sporty Kia. A rorty turbo en­gine, well-sorted sus­pen­sion and de­cent steer­ing feel make this a sen­sa­tional ve­hi­cle to ex­plore tight, twisty roads. It snorts and snarls well past le­gal speeds but is a com­posed run­ner around town, where the light gear­box makes it easy to find a cog amid the traf­fic.

The front-end grip will em­bar­rass limpets and en­cour­ages driv­ers to ex­plore the sur­pris­ingly high dy­namic lim­its of the car — this is a chas­sis in need of more mumbo.

The in­te­rior has a few sporty touches with­out stray­ing from the con­ser­va­tive Kia norm.

There’s enough room to take rear pas­sen­gers for short runs and the front Re­caro seats, be­yond re­proach, are tilted back to keep the oc­cu­pant locked in po­si­tion with­out the dis­trac­tion of slid­ing on the seat.

The steer­ing wheel ad­justs for height and reach, the gear lever falls eas­ily to hand and the steer­ing is light with­out be­ing overly ar­ti­fi­cial.

Ul­ti­mately, though, this car is about the feel-good fac­tor — on that ba­sis the Kia is a win­ner.

VER­DICT Get over the ridicu­lous name and the Kia warm hatch is a snake charmer, con­stantly on the look­out for curves.

The rear seat adds a de­gree of util­ity to an other­wise sporty de­sign and makes it less self­ind­ul­gent than other pseu­dosports cars on the mar­ket.

Add some dash: Ex­te­rior styling is sharp but in­te­rior is mixed and in­fo­tain­ment is dated

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