Kia Ceed GT, a hot hatch to warm to

In Car Reviews, Kia by Kieran Bicknell

The Kia Ceed GT has always been somewhat of a hidden gem.

Not hidden in the sense that there’s some kind of secret buying process or that you have to undertake a grand quest to purchase one, but in the sense that they seem to be somewhat ‘slept on’ among the car enthusiast community.

Note that I say enthusiast – for 90% of people, a standard Kia Ceed will do absolutely everything you want it to do and more, with the backing of Kia’s seven-year warranty and robust Korean engineering. But, for those of a more performance-oriented nature, there was only ever one car worth considering in the Ceed family; The GT.

Offering what many would refer to as ‘warm hatch’ performance, I feel that’s somewhat of a disservice, though arguably the 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds would back up the ‘warm’ label. Nonetheless, with its raspy exhaust note and aggressive styling, the Ceed GT deserves far more credit than it often gets. Just think, when was the last time you saw one?

I may get some criticism for saying this, but I’d certainly argue the Ceed GT is better-looking than its competitors. While they’re not necessarily equal on performance terms, the Ceed is far less fussy than the A45, more aggressive than the now-blunted Focus ST, and arguably more exciting to look at than the Golf GTI.

Interestingly, this is true of all angles, with the rear 3/4 shot still providing enough aggression to show that this is no ordinary Ceed without being too shouty or attention-grabbing. Restrained design at its best.

What is shouty, however, is the valved exhaust. When I had the manual version of the Ceed GT last year, the genuine valved exhaust took me by surprise, and I have to say I was almost caught off-guard once again with this DCT version. In normal mode it’ll glide by without a fuss, but in sport mode the valve opens up and an impressively sonorous soundtrack is unveiled, something that I didn’t expect from a Kia, but is a very welcome addition indeed.

There isn’t too much to shout about on the inside – the sports seats, GT steering wheel and alcantara details are lovely but typically understated. You get the feeling that Kia doesn’t want to make too much of a fuss about the GT, but that’s fine with me – I’ve always been somewhat of an ‘if you know you know’ sort of person, so that suits me just fine.

That’s not to say you’re strapped for comforts, oh no. Heated seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone connectivity and a multifunction instrument computer ensure you’re kept comfortable and informed throughout, whilst in the rear there is ample luggage space with all of the seats up. Despite the extra performance with the GT, there’s certainly no sacrifice of practicality!

The Ceed GT behaves like any other Ceed in everyday driving situations, albeit with a bit more ‘poke’ from lower down the rev range. Perfectly laid-back and easy-going, this is a car that would be ideal for local grocery runs, the school run and ordinary day-to-day use.

However, find yourself on an open piece of road (or, if you’re like me, you find yourself wanting to hear the car as much as drive it), then simply press ‘sport’ and the Ceed GT’s party trick makes itself known – the genuine valved exhaust. Genuinely surprising and even throwing in the occasional pop and burble on downshifts, I found the exhaust note on this otherwise-unassuming warm hatch wonderfully entertaining.

Along with the exhaust opening up to sound impressively sonorous and throaty for a 1.6-litre inline-four, the DCT transmission changes its mapping, holding on to gears for longer, and the throttle response becomes sharper.

The result is that the Ceed GT comes alive and becomes an incredibly underrated ‘warm’ hatch, which is fantastically fun to drive, with an impressive soundtrack to boot. So good is the soundtrack that I’d argue it’s better than the piped-in, artificial noise of Kia’s flagship car, the Stinger.

Truthfully, there is very little that I disliked about the Ceed GT. There are a couple of minor aesthetic choices which I’d address, such as the shifter now looking a little outdated and the fact the wheels are only available in black, but that’s about it.

Sure, you could argue the DCT transmission holds its gears a little too long in 2nd and 3rd (in both normal and sport mode under any sort of decent acceleration), but I’m really splitting hairs here.

Probably the biggest issue with the Ceed GT is that it’s so… hidden in the Kia range. Ok, the current Ceed family is due an update/facelift, but even so, I can’t remember the Ceed GT ever being pushed as a product. Consequently, they’re somewhat of a modern-day Q car, almost as if Kia are ashamed that they produce such a fantastic ‘warm’ hatch – extraordinary indeed.

Of course, there’s also the issue of badge snobbery. Still, if you want to spend more for a car with equivalent performance (and likely a lesser specification) from a well-known German rival for the sake of the badge, then that’s your problem – you’re the one missing out.

I loved it in manual form, and – oddly enough – I loved it even more with a DCT ‘box. Therefore, the Kia Ceed GT joins the small crowd of cars that is, in fact, better with two pedals.

All I can say is that I hope the GT model remains part of the new Ceed line-up when the range is facelifted or renewed, and I hope that this time around, Kia promote it accordingly, as it is a cracking thing indeed.

Author Rating 4.5/5

Car reviewed: 2021 Kia CEED GT DCT

on the road price £27,965 with options as tested £27,995

  • 0-62mph 7.2secs
  • Top speed 143mph
  • Mechanical 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine
  • Fuel Economy WLTP Combined 38.2mpg
  • Power 201bhp@6000rpm
  • Torque 265Nm@1500-4500rpm
  • Dimensions MM 4325 L / 1800 W / 1442 H
  • CO2 emissions WLTP 169g/km
  • Transmission 7-speed DCT front-wheel-drive
  • Bootspace 395 / 1291 litres seats down

Kieran Bicknell

Motoring writer

Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.

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