2014 Kia Proceed GT road test review: Excitement begins
THINK back a decade, and any thoughts of Kias were associated with cheap and cheerful.
But the South Korean brand is invoking smiles for a host of new reasons nowadays.
Former Audi designer Peter Schreyer has been integral to the turnaround, with inspiring new lines across the Kia range. He's been so good that parent company Hyundai is also now using his expertise.
Those wanting an example of how Kia has turned full circle should look no further than this stout little hatchback.
The glamorous Proceed GT (officially spelt "pro_cee'd") has arrived.
Hailed as the new hero car for brand, Kia Australia has been lobbying head office for this vehicle since it first came on the agenda. European built, which explains the left-sided indicator stalk, the Proceed GT is available in two trims and starts from $29,990 plus on-roads with the up-spec Tech available from $33,490.
You feel like a racer when behind the sports steering wheel.
The front leather Recaro seats with suede at the rump are among the most comfortable sporting pews we have experienced with near perfect bolstering at the sides and bases.
Dual red stitching on the seats, leather steering wheel and gear knob, combined with glossy black finishes and a black headliner make for an athletic interior.
The central operations are typically Kia with red digital displays, and those wanting some extra internal zing should wait for the sat nav which is expected to become available later in the year - although expect the price to rise slightly.
We loved the central changeable speedometer, which can be altered between an analogue set-up or a digital read-out flanked by turbo boost and torque bars just by pressing the GT button on the steering wheel.
On the road
How often in the past could you say "let's take the Kia to the track?". We'd guesstimate never.
Yet during a testing session at Baskerville Raceway just outside Hobart this little hatch excelled in every department.
Take a bow Graeme Gambold and the Kia Australia suspension engineers. The Proceed GT has brilliant poise and drivability.
And that prowess translates to the road.
Powered by a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, the same donk we've seen in the Koup, its statistics on paper don't scream raw pace. It takes about 7.7 seconds to reach 100kmh but in the metal the Proceed GT feels much quicker.
Only available with a six-speed manual you get linear power up to redline, and then throw it into a bend with confidence.
Picking your cog well before the corner offers the best performance and when balanced you can jump back on the throttle to power out with panache. The Proceed GT is a remarkably easy car to drive quickly.
It hangs on nicely too, and while we have been critical of Kia tyre choices in the past, the GT is armed with Michelin Pilot Sport 3 rubber which deliver rail-like characteristics.
The dual exhaust has a nice tune, but you have to work up into the rev range to hear it bellow.
What do you get?
Base GTs come with the leather/suede Recaro seats, cruise control, sports pedals and scuff plates, CD stereo with Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, dual zone air-con along with rear parking sensors and reversing camera, as well as electrically operated and heated folding mirrors with puddle lights.
GT-Tech adds a panoramic sunroof, smart key with push button start and door handle lighting, active HID headlamps with washer, privacy glass and luggage net.
In Europe the Proceed received a five-star safety rating, and with six airbags plus the gamut of technology associated with anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, it's expected to be replicated by Australian standards.
There are more hardcore options like the VW Golf GTI (from $41,490), Ford Focus ST (from $38,290) or Subaru WRX (from $39,990), this is more likely to attract those also considering the Hyundai i30 SR ($27,990), Holden Cruze SRi-V ($26,490) or Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo ($32,990).
Expect fuel consumption in the realm of eight litres for every 100km, which is pretty good for a car of this ability, but insurance premiums could be on the high side for some drivers due to the turbocharged engine. Those with a poor driving history or youngsters should do some research first.
Capped priced servicing is available, but the intervals are short at six months or 7500km - that's due to the quality of our unleaded fuel and it would be advisable to use the premium juice for best results.
Four adults can be carried within the GT confines, it just requires the front passengers to be mindful of leg room by shifting a few rungs forward.
You get dual cup holders in the centre console and bottle holders in each door.
In front of the shifter is a sizable spot for phones, MP3 players/iPods and other gear, close to the auxiliary port, 12 volt plug and USB access.
The rear pews have a 60-40 split fold, the boot has 380 litres of space and when the seats drop it expands to 1225.
From the front the quad ice-cube LED running lights stand out.
At the back are dual pipes, which shows the Proceed GT means business.
It sits squat on the bitumen, like a sprinter flexing.
Built at Kia's Zilina plant in Slovakia, the hatch as an awesome European edge with bold shoulder lines and athletic proportions.
Fun, athleticism and value. Kia has ticked a lot of boxes with this awesome little hatch.
It punches well above its weight in terms of performance and price-tag.
This is the kind of car which you look forward to driving, one which inspires you to leave your desk and search for some bends.
Those who can live with a manual and three-door configuration would struggle to find better for this coin.
Model: Kia Proceed GT.
Details: Three-door front-wheel drive compact performance hatch.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 150kW @ 6000rpm and 265Nm @ 1750-4500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
Consumption: 7.4 litres/100km (combined average)
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.7 seconds; top speed 230kmh.
Bottom line: GT $29,990; GT-Tech $33,490. Premium paint $595.
What matters most
What we liked: Australian suspension changes make for a car easy to throw around, linear turbo performance, Recaro seats.
What we'd like to see: Sat nav system for improved dash look (coming later in the year), automatic transmission option - there are whispers of a dual clutch box being developed.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty with one year roadside assist (extends with Kia dealer servicing). Capped price servicing for the first five years, average price of $461. Servicing intervals are every six months or 7500km.