As the Kia CEED GT was delivered to me, I was taken aback for a moment: I realised this was the first time I’d ever seen one in the flesh, and I’m not entirely sure why that is.
This isn’t some ultra-rare special edition, homologation car or prototype; Nor is it a wildly expensive, limited or unusual. So why on earth had I never seen one on the roads before?
There’s no doubting that this is a fantastic looking hatchback. While sticking within the typical design language of current-generation hatches, the CEED GT still strikes a unique silhouette, with well-proportioned angles and an aggressive-looking front end, complete with trademark Kia grille and ‘ice-cube’ lights. The wheels are simple yet classy, with red centres and the requisite red brake callipers behind, which as any teenager will tell you, adds at least 5bhp per corner.
The CEED GT ticks the ‘looks’ box quite happily. So that can’t be the issue here, perhaps it’s inside that the package falls apart?
Well, that’s not the case either. Inside is typically Kia, in that the quality and materials are far better than many would expect. Soft-touch materials abound, while the supportive sport-style seats, D- cut steering wheel, alcantara seat centres and central virtual boost gauge confirm that this is indeed a ‘hot’ offering.
Sure, the back seats can be a little tight if you carry 3 across the back, but rear-seat room for 2 is more than adequate. The seats are supportive and give plenty of room, while the alcantara finishes break up an otherwise dark cabin, with only red contrast stitching ‘lifting’ the atmosphere.
Infotainment is very good indeed, with a crisp and clear central touchscreen with the typical Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. The instrument panel is a welcome analogue affair, with a central colour info screen. A plethora of information is available, but I always opted for the boost/ torque gauge, because deep down I’m still a 19-year old boy racer at heart.
That deep-down boy racer spirit is also the reason that whenever I drove the CEED GT – which was very often, having covered over 550 miles in it – it absolutely HAD to be in ‘sport’ mode.
While sport mode did the usual thing of sharpening up the throttle response and making the steering a little heavier, it also revealed the CEED GT’s party trick – it’s valved exhaust. Making the most of its peppy 1.6l, 205bhp Turbo engine, the exhaust is surprisingly raspy – especially for a Kia.
Even in quiet ‘normal’ mode, it had a surprising bark at full chat, but in sport mode, it’s shockingly loud compared to what you’d expect, much to the amusement of both my dad (who owns a Focus ST with its valved exhaust) and my friends, all of whom drive highly modified, very loud cars. So, if Kia wanted to appeal to the inner child in all of us, they certainly succeeded.
In terms of on-road performance, a 0-60 time of 7.2 isn’t exactly record-breaking but is quick enough to allow for plenty of enjoyment in day-to-day driving. It also feels significantly quicker than this, so Kia may have underestimated the time. The steering is direct and has a satisfying weight about it, though the 6-speed manual transmission isn’t the most engaging to go through, and has an annoying ‘hang’ on upshifting, which almost feels like a slipping clutch. This ‘hang’ was the only real issue that I had while driving the CEED GT and given its price of £10k+ less than a Focus ST, I’d say that’s still cracking value for money based on the driving experience alone.
Economy and practicality aren’t too shabby either. I was hitting mid-30s all week long, though this may not be the best representation of the Ceed GT’s economy as, like I said, I drove everywhere in ‘sport’ mode.
The boot is spacious and offers 395 litres of space, more than enough for daily duties, and more than you’d get in the Ford Focus ST.
And, at £26,005 the CEED GT is good value too. So, why on earth don’t we see more around?
It could simply be an image problem – Kia isn’t traditionally thought of as a ‘fun’ or ‘performance’ brand (with the exception of the Stinger), or perhaps it’s just lack of awareness – most people I spoke to didn’t even realise they produced a ‘hot’ version of the CEED.
While I think the CEED GT certainly deserves more recognition than it currently gets, I also quite enjoyed flying ‘under the radar’ during my time with it. Maybe it being a secret isn’t such a bad thing after all…
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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