The new Cee’d GT is Kia’s very first attempt at producing a hot hatch, which was enough reason for me to travel nearly 260km to Zurich to get a hold of a test car. But apart from being keen to know what it’s like as a first attempt, I also wanted to know how it compares to the already established big names of the hot hatch world. In other words, will it give Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI owners nightmares? Or will they laugh at the poor fools who ended up buying one? I had two weeks to find out.
On first impressions, the Kia Cee’d GT is off to a very good start. By this I mean it looks rather good, with the big 18-inch alloys, different bumpers, and four square LED lamps on either side of the front bumper giving it a muscular-yet-elegant look. To my eyes, at least, it looks better than a Golf GTI but subtler than a Ford Focus ST. And if you get it as a three-door Pro Cee’d GT, it’s one of the best-looking cars you can get for the money. Step inside the cabin and it doesn’t feel like Kia have cut corners financially to give you the extra performance. You get nice body-hugging Recaro seats, a sporty-looking steering wheel, and GT logos all over the interior – a permanent reminder of the car’s intent to performance.
On paper, the new Cee’d GT definitely seems to have the tools necessary to be called a modern hot hatch – namely a turbocharged, 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine with direct injection, sending drive to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. The engine is rated at 204hp and 265Nm of torque, which allows the Cee’d GT to get from 0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 230km/h.
While 204hp is a good amount of power for a hot hatch, it doesn’t feel that energetic in the Cee’d GT. This is not to say that it feels underpowered, but the way the throttle responds to your inputs and the power delivery, make it feel like it’s geared more towards fuel efficiency rather than performance. The first few centimetres of gas pedal travel don’t amount in much response from the engine – I actually stalled a few times because of it. However, once you step on it a bit more, the turbo really helps bring out the acceleration you expect from a modern hot hatch. But, going back to what I said about it not feeling that energetic, most of the power is delivered at lower revs and kind of starts to run out of steam when it goes past 5000rpm. As a result, a less-powerful Ford Fiesta ST feels faster because of it.
So, while the engine might not feel as sporty as I would’ve liked, there’s no denying that it is an effective powerplant when it comes to everyday driving. Thanks to peak torque being available between 1750rpm and 4500rpm, you can pretty much just leave it in fourth gear when driving at 30km/h and it will pick up pace with ease from there on. Also, when you’re on the highway, you never have to drive at any gear other than sixth gear. In this gear, you can perform quick overtakes from 70km/h and over.
The suspension is firm, but at no point during my two weeks with Cee’d GT did I wish it was more comfortable. In fact, the balance between firmness and comfort is very good. But as expected with low profile tyres, you do notice rough surfaces more than you would in a car with a bit more rubber. Body roll through the corners is minimal, with decent grip levels to be had if you’re a seven- or eight-tenths kind of driver like me. The electric power steering is very light at low manoeuvring speeds, but then weights up when you gather pace, and is adequately accurate to your inputs. However, there is a minute level of lifelessness when the steering is on centre, but, to be honest, it will probably go unnoticed to anyone who doesn’t scrutinize steering as much automotive journalists do.
There’s no noticeable torque steer, and the brakes (with 16-inch discs) have a moderately firm pedal feel and do a good job in slowing the car down quickly. The shifter quality is good too –providing somewhat short throws and a pleasant mechanical feel between gearchanges. However, occasional notchiness in engaging reverse can cause you to swear.
The interior of this car is a great place to be, thanks to a lot of legroom for average-sized adults, but also thanks to well laid out and good quality switches and instruments. You get two types of LCD speedometers; one displays a traditional gauge turning clockwise, but press the GT button on the steering wheel and you get a digital speedometer, together with turbo boost pressure and a torque meter.
The base price for a Cee’d GT is CHF 35,777, while this test car – with options like metallic paint, satellite navigation, a reverse camera and lane-departure warning – costs CHF 39,257. The Cee’d GT’s base price means that it costs CHF 3,473 less than a Ford Focus ST, and CHF 2,723 less than a VW Golf GTI.
With my two weeks with the Cee’d GT having come to an end, the three-hour drive back to Zurich (including a fuel stop and coffee break) was perfect to find out how much fuel the Cee’d GT uses on a long-ish trip. Kia’s official fuel consumption figures are 7.4l/100km on the combined cycle, 9.7l/100km in the city, and 6.1l/100km on the highway. CO2 figures are quoted at 171g/km. I used the “brim-the-tank-on-departure, brim-the-tank-on-arrival” technique, and having covered 254km from Geneva to Zurich, the Cee’d GT used 17.23 litres of fuel. This roughly equates to 6.78l/100km, which is not too far off Kia’s highway claims, and definitely not bad considering I wasn’t hypermiling by any means.
So the original question was whether Golf GTI and Focus ST owners will point and laugh at Cee’d GT drivers. The answer is they shouldn’t. While it doesn’t match the two for excitement, and is left back a bit in terms of outright performance, the Cee’d GT is a good car for those wanting the looks of a hot hatch, but not necessarily the hardcore character of some of the offerings out there. Something that’s a great everyday car – which the Cee’d GT is – but occasionally gives you some decent level of thrills when you feel like it. Did I mention it looks great too? It’s a very good first attempt at a hot hatch, but the car could be a bit more exciting – Kia definitely played it a bit safe with this one. Maybe 30hp more and a more aggressive exhaust note might do the trick.
Written by Alex Kisiri