Engine capacity: 1.6-litre 4 cylinder turbo
Power output (BHP@rpm): 201 @ 6,000
Top speed (mph): 143
Fuel economy (mpg): 38.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 171
Kia isn’t a company you’d traditionally go to if you wanted to buy a fun, fast hatchback. Instead you’d probably pick VW for the class-leading Golf GTI or maybe Ford for the excellent Focus ST. But that could all be about to change with the new Kia Cee’d GT.
In its base form the Kia Cee’d is most famous for the jokes made at its expense when it featured as the “reasonably priced car” on Top Gear. However, the addition of the GT moniker, a 201bhp engine and some fancy interior trim makes this car a very different and far superior beast.
It has a delightfully sharp throttle response, which combined with a smooth gearbox and snappy handling means you can zip along nicely with a smile on your face. It’s a nice-looking car too, leading to one car nut friend to briefly mistake its South Korean lines for the more sophisticated outline of an Alfa Romeo. I wouldn’t go as far as that, but with some smartly squared off LED running lights, the Cee’d GT looks far better than your average Kia.
I shouldn’t get too carried away – this car isn’t objectively as good (or as rapid) as its VW and Ford rivals. Nonetheless it’s a game-changer for Kia, who desperately needed some excitement to break away from a dull but dependable image.
Interestingly, a week or two before getting in the Cee’d GT I spent some time in the new VW Golf R, which with 276bhp and four-wheel-drive is about the most extreme hot hatch on sale today. My test model cost close to £35,000 with extras, making it the flip side to the coin in terms of price and performance. It’s certainly a better car by all objective measures, but despite its vast speed, it felt far too planted and far too serious for UK driving. And I didn’t have the same smile on my face as I had at the wheel of the Cee’d GT.
This will probably count as sacrilege to dedicated petrol-heads who will sniff that Kia’s warm hatch is actually rather dull, but for my money when it comes to performance less is actually far more on most British roads. This is made all the more sweet when you consider that with some gentle haggling you’ll be able to get one for far nearer £18,000 than £35,000.