Damien O'Carroll pronounces Kia's pro-cee'd GT odd but good
Are you a fan of small European designed and manufactured three-door hot hatches with manual transmissions from Korean companies?
How about excessive, unnecessary punctuation and lower-case lettering?
If so, you're part of a very small, optimistic, and arguably quite odd group. On the flipside, Kia has released your perfect car - the pro-cee'd GT.
If I were to hazard a guess, my money would be on the weird name coming about due to a catastrophic mistake in the badging department. Or someone at Kia harbours a deep hatred of sub-editors and proofreaders.
Either way it is a silly name and its existence on a page simply makes your brain hurt.
For that reason alone I shall simply refer to the newest Kia on the block as the Proceed GT from this point on.
While the Proceed GT may have a very silly name, the car itself is most definitely not silly.
In fact, it is possibly the most serious thing to come out of Kia's stable.
The company's first crack at making a proper "performance hatch" is jumping right into the home territory of the big European manufacturers and while Kia is careful to not place the words "hot"and "hatch" next to each other when referring to the GT, you are left in no doubt that is exactly what it has gone for.
The Proceed GT lands in New Zealand in one guise, a three-door hatch with a 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder engine hooked up to a six-speed manual transmission.
To the enthusiast, that sounds like a great collection of specs. To the general public, however, it sounds like a list of reasons not to buy the GT. But it is the enthusiasts who Kia is after for this car, not the big sales numbers.
Kia sees the Proceed GT as a hero car in New Zealand - a car that mightn't sell in big numbers, but brings a boot-load of sexy, exciting image to the brand. And the GT certainly has the looks to do that.
The sexy, swooping body is distinctly European (it was designed and engineered in Germany, built in Slovakia) with only Kia's signature grille giving any real hint that it is related to anything else in the local Kia range.
The MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension set-up has had a "local" tweak, done by Kia in Australia, while the 18-inch alloy wheels are fitted with some seriously good Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres.
On the outside the GT comes standard with adaptive xenon headlights with automatic levelling, smart cornering lights and "ice cube" quad LED daytime running lights, a rear spoiler with an LED brake light, LED tail lights and electric heated door mirrors.
On the inside it gets leather and suede Recaro sports seats, a leather multifunction steering wheel, keyless start, a backing camera and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control with a speed limiter function, a six-speaker audio unit with USB and auxiliary inputs, a chilled glovebox, red mood lighting, auto defog and rain-sensing wipers.
With only the single engine/transmission combination available, your exterior colour choices are also limited, with black, silver, red or white being your options.
The Proceed GT lands in New Zealand at a very reasonable $43,990.
While Kia NZ has strenuously avoided the term "hot hatch", you are left with little doubt that is exactly what the parent company has gone for, so has it worked?
Though on paper it doesn't have the grunt expected from the current batch of Euro hot hatches, it has the right stuff in all the other areas.
Out on the road the GT is a delightful blend of feedback, balance and agility.
The chassis is wonderfully well-balanced, with the local suspension tune working well to keep things sharp and responsive, without descending into harshness - although it can be a bit fussy over broken surfaces.
The steering is easily the best I have experienced in a Korean car, with fantastic weighting (no silly "flex steer" modes here) and wonderful feedback, while the 1.6-litre engine is transformed by the brilliant short-throw manual transmission.
Hooked up to an automatic transmission in the Cerato Koup, the little turbo mill feels slightly dull and underpowered, but with the manual shifter in the GT it feels eager and happy to rev.
It still falls short of the "proper" Euro hot hatches (such as the Ford Focus ST and VW Golf GTi) in terms of power, but easily takes it to the Asian competition (Hyundai Veloster, Nissan Pulsar SSS), while obliterating them in terms of ability and fun, which is up there with the Euros.
Deeply impressive, especially for a first go, the Proceed GT is a massively fun car at a very reasonable price.