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2014 Kia Cee'd GT

Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:57:00 EST

Kia may be an automaker with a lot going for it these days, but it's not yet one that takes pains to appeal to performance enthusiasts. Aside from its Pirelli World Challenge team, it doesn't support any major racing programs to speak of. And despite having showcased such concepts as the GT4 Stinger and the Provo, it doesn't really offer much in the way of performance models.

That is, at least not in North America. But at the Geneva Motor Show last year, Kia got itself into the Euro hot hatch game with the launch of the Cee'd GT (and its three-door compatriot, the Pro_Cee'd GT). It's based on the Korean automaker's European-market Volkswagen Golf rival that's now in its second generation and which, in its previous base iteration, served as the Reasonably Priced Car that celebrity guests drove on Top Gear before it was replaced by a Vauxhall Astra. Now with a GT moniker attached, the Cee'd has warmed up to the point that it'd potentially be better suited towards a proper romp down twisting B-roads than serving as a celebrity punching bag.

Since Kia's first genuine performance model (like the model upon which it's based) isn't offered Stateside, we jumped at the opportunity to drive it while on a recent trip to the UK. Read on to see what we found.

Driving Notes
  • With a 1.6-liter turbo four cranking out 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, the Cee'd GT falls somewhere in between warm and piping hot. Far adrift of performance leaders like the VW Golf R and Ford Focus ST in terms of output, the Cee'd GT comes in just under the Volkswagen GTI and within spitting distance of the new Peugeot 308 GT. Driven to the front wheels through a proper six-speed manual, that's enough poke to send the Cee'd GT to 60 miles per hour in a quoted 7.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 143 mph. That's right on pace with the Peugeot, but a good second behind the incrementally more potent GTI. In short, Kia's hot hatch is no slouch, but it's hardly on the cutting edge.
  • The Cee'd GT certainly feels more oriented towards performance driving than the standard Cee'd we sampled a few weeks afterwards (which, incidentally, struck us as a solid econo hatch from the few days we spent with it) but would run short of steam trying to keep pace with the leaders of the hot-hatch class. It's worth noting, however, that the Kia offers a more attractive price: in the UK, our tester came in at £23,000 ($37,700 US at the never-directly-comparable current exchange rate) – a good £3,000 less ($4,900) than a base GTI – and that's in top-spec Tech trim, complete with seven-inch sat-nav touchscreen, heated seats, Xenon headlamps and such.
  • Kia's done a good job of differentiating the GT visually from the standard version (which is similarly offered in three- and five-door hatchback forms, but also as a wagon). The brand's signature tabbed grille shape is filled with glossy honeycomb, as is the larger air dam beneath it with its bright red lower lip – similar to VW's treatment on the GTI, but lower down. The "ice cube" daytime LEDs may be a matter of taste, but they are distinctive, and while the gloss-black trim stands out nicely on, say, a white model, it naturally got lost on our black tester. Things look plenty sporty around back, as well, with twin ovoid tailpipes and a rear roof spoiler, while graphite-finish 18-inch alloys fill the wheel wells. We particularly dig the slick GT badge Kia's cooked up for this model, too. In short, the Cee'd GT looks the part – whether it plays it all the way or not.
  • Inside, Kia has checked all the right boxes as well, with a thick-rimmed steering wheel, nice round shifter, gloss black trim, leather and faux-suede microfiber upholstery, red contrast stitching and aluminum pedals. The Recaro buckets up front are much more heavily bolstered than those you'd find in a standard Cee'd, of course, although we didn't find them quite as supportive as those in some of the French hot hatches we sampled on the same trip.
  • Underneath all that trim, the Cee'd GT packs a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts and coil springs up front and a multi-link and trailing arm setup at the back, with anti-roll bars at each end. Given that the softer base Cee'd already feels fairly well planted on the road, the GT version feels all the more so. It follows the usual hot hatch formula to further reduce body roll, shrug off speed, hug the road through the corners and effectively communicate what's going on beneath through the steering – albeit not quite as convincingly as some of the more experienced and established players it's going after. It all adds up to a good ride – particularly from an automaker delving into unfamiliar territory – but not a great one.
In the end, the Cee'd GT is the most overtly performance-oriented model in the Kia lineup... certainly more so than the base Cee'd, the Soul and the Sportage we drove in the weeks following, solid though they may be. That may not be enough to bring the fight to the established hot-hatch players the way Kia has in the mass market, and in the end, it left us somewhat uninspired and wanting for more. Call it a decent starting point, then, for what we hope will be more performance-oriented models to come – ones we could actually get in America.

Vital Stats

Turbo 1.6L I4
201 HP / 195 LB-FT
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
7.4 Seconds
Top Speed:
143 MPH
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,047 LBS
Base Price:
20,500 pounds
As-Tested Price:
23,000 pounds

By Noah Joseph

See also: Kia Soul getting turbo power, possible AWD, 2015 Kia Sedona, Kia confirms $1B factory in Mexico to be completed in 2016.