Rarely does a car so exceed your expectations that you find yourself chatting merrily away about it for days afterwards to anyone who’ll listen.
The first Cee’d, released nearly seven years ago as Kia’s cornerstone model, was one of them. And this, the Pro_cee’d GT, might just be another.
Remember Jeremy Clarkson clattering on in 2005 about the fifth generation Volkswagen Golf GTi, which was a brilliant all-rounder and cost less than £20,000? The Kia has more power than the 2005 Golf, much more equipment and a unique seven-year warranty, and while the Golf is now knocking on the door of £26,000 (before options) the Pro_cee’d slots in below the magic £20,000 mark.
But this is not a GTi, Kia is quick to say. It’s not an out-and-out performance-focused hot hatch, being instead more about usability and practicality.
While the likes of Renault and Vauxhall compete for the more extreme hot hatch crown, the new Kia, the Korean firm’s first performance-oriented car, is under-cutting the other mainstream competition with a product that, for the price, is nigh-on untouchable.
It’s definitely quick enough. It pulls harder the closer you are to 6,000rpm, but with a meaty midrange that, given the Pro_cee’d’s near-1,400kg kerb weight, does a brilliant job of hustling the sleek three-door shape along.
If you’re lucky enough to have a road like the famous Col de Vence on your doorstep, as we were, you quickly learn that the Pro_cee’d GT is no half-hearted, amateurish boat pretending to mix it with the old guard. It attacks corners with poise and stability, but underneath is a deep-seated feeling of unity throughout the chassis, linking front to back and side to side with a fantastic sense of togetherness that perfectly allows the car to maximise its own potential.
The steering transmits a degree of textural feel from the road for even more reassurance and control. Although at times turn-in feels just a little slower than you’d like, the steering’s overall ability to cope with your demands is impressive.
The Pro_cee’d is great fun to drive, and it doesn’t matter that it’s not as sharp at the front end as a Focus ST or as raucous as an Astra VXR. What counts is that its every facet works to make the driving experience better than the sum of its parts.
And yet after a very memorable drive across Provence, the GT settles down to a quiet 70mph motorway cruise, with its firm but well controlled suspension adapting to this new, less strenuous task just as well as it passed the Col de Vence test.
You take in the slightly over-large perforated leather steering wheel, the stylish red GT details and the brilliant central digital speedometer that can pose as either an analogue speedo or a mix of speed, torque usage, turbo boost pressure and trip info. You poke around and feel the high-quality materials, and your overall impression improves still further.
At £19,995 this car is not just a stylish and accomplished all-rounder. It’s a car that you can love for its sheer value as well as its abundant talent.