Kia sows seeds of

performance

Kia pro-cee'd GT, rear action
Kia pro-cee'd GT, side
Kia pro-cee'd GT, static
Kia pro-cee'd GT, profile
Kia pro-cee'd GT, nose
Kia pro-cee'd GT, cabin
Kia pro-cee'd GT, front
Kia pro-cee'd GT,action

KIA is describing its new three-door sports hatchback as the most eagerly awaited model in the Korean brand's history.

Low slung, sleek and blessed with some eye-catching features, the pro_cee'd GT is Kia's first foray onto the performance car scene.

And while it could prove the forerunner to a full-blown and more hardcore Ford Focus ST-rivalling model, for now it's more a case of dipping a toe in to test the water.

The past five years has seen a design-led revolution from Kia, one which has transformed the marque's image, public perception and sales - now performance has been added to the mix.

The result is the GT which, along with its five-door stablemate due early next year, is powered by a turbocharged version of the company's 1.6-litre direct injection petrol engine developing 201bhp and 265Nm of torque.

The engine drives through a six-speed manual transmission with revised gear ratios and a lower final drive to make the most of its pulling power.

What you get is an enthusiastic driving experience that becomes more rewarding the harder you push the car.

Kia revisited the spectacular Alpes-Maritimes and Provence regions of France where both the original cee'd model and the brand's seven-year warranty were launched back in 2006.

The combination of motorways, sweeping country roads and mountain passes tested the GT's dynamics to full, demonstrating what's a top notch chassis and sports tuned steering.

In fact the only missing ingredient was a sufficiently rasping engine note, which would have given the car a bit more drama.

As for performance, the serious numbers are 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 143mph while the brakes, with signature red callipers, are the largest of any fitted to the cee'd range.

Don't expect any sexy fuel figures though, because even the official average consumption is only 38.2mpg and CO2 emissions are on the high side at 171g/km.

Two trim levels are available and prices start from £19,995 for the GT grade with an extra £2,500 for the better equipped GT Tech.

There's also a pro_cee'd GT 1st Edition variant featuring unique styling enhancements with a production run of just 500 cars across Europe, only a handful of which will grace the UK at £23,995.

Styled in Europe under the direction of design chief Peter Schreyer, the new car certainly looks dressed to thrill.

A broader bumper and aggressive lower air intake at the front, flanked by ice cube four-point LED daytime running lights and new fog lamps, are underscored by a red trim line - to give the GT more road presence.

Dual exhaust pipes, larger 18-inch alloy wheels and gloss black inserts complete the look, while the cabin boasts Recaro sports seats, alloy pedals, bespoke materials and a seven-inch racing car-inspired TFT instrument cluster.

Standard kit includes the likes of air-con, cruise control and speed limiter, automatic lights, cornering lights, reversing sensors, Bluetooth with music streaming and voice recognition, a six speaker radio/CD player with iPod connector, a unique LCD dash binnacle display, electric windows and privacy glass.

Move up to GT Tech and there's plenty more, like a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, heated front seats and a reversing camera.

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