THE path to building a brand is all about perceptions. Think of one car manufacturer and the word ‘dependable’ might spring to mind, think of another and ‘performance’ may be the first word to enter your head.
But I’d wager all of them would like to boast the word ‘desirability’ as a perception of their marque.So, I’m sure, does Kia. The South Korean company progresses apace, now fielding a 10-car model range, from the little Picanto city car to the big Sorento 4×4. In between, you will find the motors that have shifted consumer opinion, the accomplished cee’d family hatchback and – even more so – the Sportage SUV (sports utility vehicle) crossover.
I reckon the maker has definitely moved on from being perceived as a worthy, reliable, good value-for-money brand to one that (while continuing to hold those qualities) you really want to buy … yes, desirability.That shift is confirmed by the tasty pro_cee’d GT, a hatchback with power, pace, dynamic handling, tempting price tag – and truly knock-out looks.I spent a week in the three-door coupe for Flush Magazine and certainly wished it had been seven days more … or longer.
The first eyeful was rewarding. With svelte yet muscular lines, the low-slung car works from all angles, squatting like a sprinter in the blocks on 18in graphite alloys with a broad-shouldered stance. The sporty detailing includes a front end treatment with low, broad bumper and air dam and a wide, central, lower air intake. There’s a diffuser section in the rear bumper, separating funky dual tailpipes.The cabin, with sweeping dash and figure-hugging leather/suede Recaro seats continues the sporty theme, and (for your inner space cadet) there’s a ‘GT button’ on the steering wheel, which allows the driver to switch from sweeping-needle speedo and rev counter to a digital speed readout accompanied by performance info including engine torque and turbo-boost pressure.
Kit abounds – from heated steering wheel to exterior door handle illumination, the spec sheet runs to three brimming A4 pages.
It includes the likes of privacy glass, heated, folding door mirrors with LED indicators, projection headlights with automatic control, cornering lights, ‘ice cube’ LED daytime running lights, air-con, steering wheel-mounted controls, powered lumbar adjustment for driver and front passenger seats, stainless steel pedals, red contrast stitching for upholstered surfaces, cooling glovebox with door damper and illumination, ambient interior lighting, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, and reversing sensors.
On the practicality front, the pro-cee’d GT offers a decent sized boot (boasting luggage net, hooks and under-floor tray) and 60/40-split folding rear seats, a centre console storage box, and front cabin map light with sunglasses storage.
There’s no shortage of safety technology either, with features including electronic stability control and vehicle stability management, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist system, emergency-stop signalling, hill-start assist control, and impact-sensing auto door unlocking.
But the crowning glory of this car is its combination of high performance and gloriously taut handling. The ride seems a little lively at low speeds over broken surfaces, but that disappears as speed mounts.There’s power enough from the 201bhp engine to thoroughly enjoy yourself without scaring the horses, and maker’s performance figures of 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds with a top speed of 143mph tell their own story.
It’s a drive-me car … Kia has achieved the ‘D-word’.
Make/model: Kia pro_cee’d 1.6 T-GDi GT
Technical: 1,591cc, 201bhp, turbo-charged petrol engine with 6-speed manual transmission.
Performance: 0-62mph, 7.4 seconds; top speed, 143mph.
Fuel: 38mpg (combined).Emissions: 171 g/km CO2
Price: £19,995 OTR