Kia gives its five-door family hatch a dose of attitude in GT guise. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
It's hard to think of a much more inoffensive car than a Kia cee'd, so in order to inject a shot of charisma, Kia has developed the warmed-over GT version. In this guise, we get the usual host of go-faster styling addenda and a useful 204PS turbocharged engine that'll drag it to 62mph in 7.7 seconds. It's a bit off-pace when it comes to fuel economy but it's absolutely packed with standard equipment for the money.
The ingredients certainly sound beguiling. A handsome five-door family hatch with sporty styling that sends over 200PS to its front wheels. Suspension fettled in Europe, deeply-bolstered Recaro seats, a seven-year warranty and a price tag that just squeaks over the twenty grand mark. That's the sort of thing many new car buyers have been dreaming of for years, but no manufacturer has delivered. Well now you can buy such a car; the Kia cee'd GT. The cee'd is one of those cars you see everywhere but probably don't register. It's sold extremely well since being introduced back in 2007, with a second generation model fast-tracked into existence in 2012. Kia is looking to reduce the anonymity of the cee'd with this GT model. It's undeniably good-looking but is it a model that can go head to head with the better cars in its class?
The cee'd GT is built of the right stuff. Even the entry-level cee'd comes as standard with a slick multi-link rear suspension rather than the usual cheap torsion beam rear ends that Volkswagen, for example, will fit to its base Golfs. The steering's got a decent amount of heft to it by modern standards and the control weights are nicely calibrated. To this, the cee'd GT adds quite a bit of engine. The 204PS (or 210bhp if you prefer) turbocharged four-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol powerplant cranks out a chunky 265Nm of torque, which seems right on the money. The sprinting figure of 7.4 seconds to 62mph isn't slow, but neither is it enough to have you hyperventilating at the next set of lights. Although it delivers a useful 265Nm slug of pulling power at just 1,750rpm, it's quite an anodyne-sounding installation. It's the same engine we've seen in the Pro_cee'd GT and, in slightly different tune, in Hyundai's Veloster Turbo. At 1,382kg, the cee'd GT is no lightweight but its engineers have worked to deliver reasonable body control and the steering is fairly quick at 2.85 turns from lock to lock. The ride has been left a little more yielding than a full-on hot hatch and that looks set to work well on typically horrible UK roads.
Design and Build
The styling of the cee'd GT suggests that it's going to offer the keen driver a little more than it can possibly deliver. We're struggling to think of a better-looking car in its class. Five-door Focus, Astra, Megane and 308s don't have anything on this one. There's a lovely wedginess about it, with a sharply canted waistline, a low nose and a nice broad track. All of the basics have been done just right and to this essential rightness, Kia has splashed on the sports cues. There are graphite-finished 18-inch alloy wheels, spoilers, body-coloured bits, LED rear lights and running lights, a mesh grille, side sills, red brake calipers and a dual exhaust. Drop inside and it's as if Kia has raided the big book of how to remind people they've chosen the sporty option. You'll get no complaints from us about the excellent Recaro sports seats finished in part leather, part manmade suede, but we could probably do without the red stitching everywhere. The gloss black bits look good and there's little faulting the car's basic practicality, with five doors, respectable rear legroom and a 380-litre boot.
Market and Model
Kia offers two versions of this hatch. There's the GT which is priced at just over £20,000 or you can spring for the GT Tech version at around £23,000. The difference? The Tech gets heated front seats and steering wheel, a dual mode for its air con, an engine starter button, xenon lights with washers and rain-sensing wipers, amongst other bits. The standard fit 7" touch screen satellite navigation is a big plus and you also get a reversing camera and parallel park assistance. Both variants get leather bits on the steering wheel, gearshift and handbrake, air conditioning, wheel-mounted stereo controls, cruise control with a speed limiter, a cooled glovebox, a 12v socket in the luggage bay, a six-speaker stereo with USB and AUX-in along with Bluetooth to stream music from your mobile, plus reversing sensors and a trip computer. It's here, more than anywhere, that the cee'd GT distances itself from similarly-priced rivals.
Cost of Ownership
Just when you thought the cee'd GT was delivering a bravura performance right across the board, it hits a sour(ish) note. Kia has often lagged a little way behind the best European and Japanese brands when it comes to engine technology and the cee'd GT's 2.0-litre turbo four again follows that trend. Where a 220PS Golf GTI gets 47.1 miles from a gallon of petrol, the less powerful cee'd GT only manages 38.2mpg. To put that figure in perspective, it's not as good as 295PS worth of BMW 335i Sport Auto. Emissions are also rated at a wholly unexceptional 171g/km. Naturally, you'll claw some of that back with the healthy resale value that's virtually guaranteed by the excellent seven-year warranty. Fixed price servicing is on offer but do bear in mind that Kia quotes a 10,000 mile/1 year service interval for this car. The Kia Care3 package is popular and offers your first three services for £399, or your first three services and first MoT for £429. Alternatively, you can have your first five services for £749.
As long as you can live with the inherent inefficiency of its engine, there's a lot to like about the Kia cee'd GT. It's a lovely-looking thing and it's absolutely rammed to the gunwales with standard equipment. The pricing is keen, the fit and finish is good, the seven-year warranty is a major attraction and the thought of a 204PS turbocharged engine in a Kia always raises a smile. Kia has priced and positioned this car carefully and with some skill. As a consequence, identifying direct rivals isn't easy. You either settle for something less powerful and less overtly sporting or you pay a lot more for a rival that's less well-equipped but which is quicker. That sweet spot of value, pace and specification is one that Kia could well make its own. No, this car isn't perfect. It ought to be a bit quicker and it should be a lot more economical, but there's so much that's right about this package that it's possible to overlook those shortcomings. Kia's star has been on the rise for some time now. The cee'd GT isn't about to change that.