• New 201bhp Kia pro_cee’d GT tested on UK roads
• 0-60mph in 7.4 secs, 143mph top speed
• Available to order from July 1, priced from £19,995

The Kia pro_cee’d GT is more than just a new car; it represents a major step for the company, as it’s their first ‘performance-orientated’ car. Complete with a 201bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, it’s effectively the first hot hatch with a Kia badge.

Ahead of its launch next week, we’ve had the chance to drive the car in the UK, and our first impressions are very favourable. In fact, the good news starts even before you turn the key: this is a seriously good-looking car, with a lower and wider bumper than the regular pro_cee’d, black gloss highlights and ‘ice cube’ LED running lights.

Inside, too, it’s all very smart, with red stitching on the seats, steering wheel and door trims that contrasts with the otherwise black cabin. The finishing touch is a TFT display that allows the driver to switch between regular analogue-style dials and GT performance information simply by flicking a switch on the steering wheel.

Even Kia admits the car is more concerned with everyday usability than outright performance, but it’s still a deceptively quick car. Peak torque comes in at less than 2000rpm, which has two benefits: first, it’s very easy to drive; and, secondly, when you put your foot down, it responds quickly.

The result is a car that is wonderfully easy to drive quickly – or slowly, for that matter. Some hot hatches can be pretty hard work in the real world, as you have to keep the revs high to get the best from it, but not this pro_cee’d GT.

The only disappointment is that, when you do rev the engine hard, it sounds quite strained. This is most noticeable when you’re accelerating in the lower gears, but given how strong the engine is at low revs, it’s not a problem you need encounter too much.

To cope with the power, the GT has stiffer suspension than a regular pro_cee’d, and that gives it good poise and control through the corners. Yes, it’s not as sharp as full-on hot hatches like the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI, but it’s a very good compromise: sporty when you turn in to bends, but not overly sensitive.

It’s much the same story with the steering, which does without the Flex Steer system of other models in the range. It’s a little sharper than the regular pro_cee’d, but still light enough to be easy when manoeuvring. Hot hatch aficionados may want a little more feedback, but overall it suits the car.

The suspension, too, is a little softer than you might expect of a hot hatch, allowing some roll in bends, but still with decent control when you’re pushing on. However, it does still give a firm ride, something that’s most noticeable around town and on the motorway, where poor surfaces are felt only too obviously.

The conclusion is that the GT isn’t an out-and-out hot hatch – and, to be fair, Kia never describes it as such – but it makes a fine, everyday ‘warm’ hatch with a good spread of talents. It provides its driver with strong, easy performance and an enjoyable drive, but without some of the disadvantages you might associate with a more extreme hot hatch.

In typical Kia fashion, it’s good value for money, too: well-equipped and more powerful than similarly priced warm hatches, like the Ford Focus Ecoboost 180 Zetec S and Seat Leon FR Cupra. On top of that, of course, the car is backed by an excellent seven-year warranty.

Above all, this is a car that shows that Kia is able to venture into new areas of the market with real success. The company may never have made a car like the pro_cee’d GT before, but that inexperience doesn’t show. This is a fine car that will – quite rightly – bring new buyers to the brand.

By Andy Pringle

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