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With 'only' 201bhp, Kia's hottest hatch to date merely counts as warm, but could it hit a sweet spot of usability, driver reward and value?
  • First Drive

    Kia Ceed GT 2019 review

    With 'only' 201bhp, Kia's hottest hatch to date merely counts as warm, but could it hit a sweet spot of usability, driver reward and value?
22 January 2019

What is it?

When Kia signed off the third-generation Ceed, we’re told it spent a further six months fettling the suspension of the range-topping GT specifically for European roads.

For a car designed in Frankfurt, manufactured in Slovakia and tested at a little-known circuit called the Nürburgring, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. And yet because the project was overseen by Albert Biermann – formerly head of BMW M, now chief engineer at Kia’s parent company Hyundai and therefore the man behind the excellent i30 N – neither can one so easily dismiss such a claim as marketing hot air.

The Ceed GT predates the i30 N, of course, and so has some history. Good history. Introduced in the 2015 as the Procee'd GT, Kia’s first go at a driver’s hatch wasn’t what you’d call quick, and yet with a 7.7sec 0-62mph time, neither was it slow. Similarly, while the front-driven chassis never felt as sharp as that of even a Golf GTI, it was a very long way from feeling blunt. Kia stuck to the line that, rather than being a sabre-toothed road-racer, this was a hatchback with more easy-going ‘grand touring’ pretensions, and only a faintly brittle ride undermined that. It felt honest, handled pleasingly, was comfortable even over long distances, and we liked it.  

For 2019 the philosophy hasn’t changed, to the extent that this second attempt at a GT-grade Ceed might at first seem to move the game on not at all. You still get a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine making an identical 201bhp at 6000rpm and 195lb ft of torque, which now, in fairness, arrives a smidge earlier at 1500rpm.

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It continues to drive the front wheels through an open differential (though there is still brake-based torque vectoring) and, just like the regular Ceed, you get fully independent rear suspension for improved steering precision. Renault’s Mégane GT, a key rival, might have four-wheel steering but does with a mere torsion beam. 

What's it like?

The important development is that it’s all put together atop Kia’s brand-new steel-monocoque K2 platform. (As an aside, given the additional safety equipment, the palpably sturdier interior and the fact this new hot Ceed is now five-door only compared with its predecessor's three-door shell, a mere 19kg weight increase, to 1386kg, is mighty impressive.)

This is an excellent platform, wider and lower than before but with an unaltered wheelbase. Upon it, the GT sits 5mm closer still to the road than lesser Ceed variants and benefits from firmer state of tune for its passive suspension, though not to the extent that the chassis oscillates at the first sight of an uneven surface, as does its i30 N sibling. On Catalan roads and sensibly sized 18in alloys, the ride is firm but unobtrusive, and if the mandate of a ‘warm’ hatch is to tidily dispatch motorway and B-road alike, then mission accomplished.     

But the GT is better than tidy on B-roads, in fact. The combination of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, beloved by Kia’s chassis engineers, and softer anti-roll bars have dramatically curbed the old car’s taste for understeer. Moreover, the quickened steering ratio (up 17%) and a convincingly weighted action allow you to really indulge in the front axle.

Up the ante and tighter bends highlight an ultimate preference for handling stability rather than agility – nicely balanced, it’s nothing like as expressive as the similarly powerful Fiesta ST – but the GT carries eye-widening speed through third-gear sweepers. Gung-ho adjustability is in short supply but when loaded up the suspension geometry will respond subtly to the throttle, while torque vectoring helps stick the nose on line. 

High-speed suspension compressions can briefly expose a lack of pliancy, and adaptive dampers might subdue the chassis’ faint fidget at a cruise, but even so the Ceed GT goes about its business with a maturity beyond Kia’s experience level. Call it the Biermann Effect.   

Less mature is this T-GDi engine. Like almost all downsized turbo units, it is massively tractable relative to its modest displacement, but turbo-lag and a pronounced flywheel effect mean it doesn't match the precision of the chassis. Even specific valving can't remedy the exhaust note, either. The crank might happily spin up to 6000rpm, but the nasal monotone could do more to inspire – as could the six-speed manual gearbox, whose throw is accurate but a bit insipid (it’s possible, but not necessarily advisable, to get the slant-roofed Proceed GT with a dual-clutch ’box). Those are jobs for the facelift.

Should I buy one?

Along with the inherently good ergonomics of the third-generation Ceed, as everyday transport the GT is not only a convincing car but also a promising one.

It's clear this chassis has more to give: in fact, it feels only 30bhp and a tauter rear axle away from being genuinely entertaining. As it is, only an underwhelming combined economy figure of 38.2mpg – the engine is a weak link in general – and this new model’s indistinct styling give genuine pause for thought.         

Kia Ceed GT specification

Where Barcelona, Spain Price £25,535 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls in line, 1591cc, turbocharged Power 201bhp at 6000rpm Torque 195lb ft at 1500-4500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1386kg Top speed 143mph 0-62mph 7.2sec Fuel economy 38.2mpg (WLTP) CO2 155g/km (NEDC 2.0) Rivals Renault Mégane GT, Vauxhall Astra 1.6i Turbo 200PS

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Comments
15

22 January 2019

If you want a Ceed, i am sure this is the nicest version. If you arent determined to have a Ceed, i cant see this drawing anyone in to the showroom.

FM8

22 January 2019
artill wrote:

If you want a Ceed, i am sure this is the nicest version. If you arent determined to have a Ceed, i cant see this drawing anyone in to the showroom.

Well, KIA/Hyundia have managed to decimate sales for the established brands in Europe over the past 10 years or so.  Plenty of customers have found what they were looking for in their showrooms without models like this being available for that long.  This will only continue adding to their decline.

22 January 2019

  Such a shame really, nothing  radical ,not even that quick....

Peter Cavellini.

FM8

22 January 2019
Peter Cavellini wrote:

nothing radical 

But that's Kia/Hyundia's USP.  More of the same, just better value.

22 January 2019

It looks better than a Mercedes A Class and could even be mistaken for a Golf from a distance. As volume hatchbacks go, in styling terms, this is up there. Good effort from the Kia design team.

22 January 2019

Not sure I can see it being mistaken for a golf, focus maybe? Seems ridiculous that 201 bhp and sub 8 seconds 0-62 isn't enough for the term hot hatch, how much power do you need or can you use on the road? I am sure this is plenty fast enough. Whilst it doesnt seem to be the ultimate in driver involvement the review reads like it fulfills its gt brief rather successfully.

22 January 2019

I like the look of this inside and out. The interior appeals to me, with not too much obsession with touchscreens, and if you have to have one it should be mounted high like this one, for driver safety. Its not as good as a Golf interior, of course, but then what is?

22 January 2019
catnip wrote:

ts not as good as a Golf interior, of course, but then what is?

Pretty much any interior is better than the boring Golf's. I agree with your comment about the high up touch screen, the Golf's is lower down, so surely youd prefer the Kia's interior to the Golf's ?

XXXX just went POP.

23 January 2019
typos1 wrote:

catnip wrote:

ts not as good as a Golf interior, of course, but then what is?

Pretty much any interior is better than the boring Golf's. I agree with your comment about the high up touch screen, the Golf's is lower down, so surely youd prefer the Kia's interior to the Golf's ?

Sorry, I was actually being a bit sarcastic. I much prefer the Kia's interior, and I really don't know why the motoring press continue to hold VW's interiors in such high esteem.

22 January 2019

Nearly 20 years ago I was buzzing around in a Volvo V40 T4 with 200bhp, a 0-60 of about 7 and a bit seconds, not much changes really.Although back then the T4 was considered a properly quick car. These days it would be just 'warm'

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