The key question should really be: can the Koreans can succeed at the black art of hot hatch building in the same effective way that they have mastered other aspects of the European car industry?
Based on looks alone, Kia is on to a winner with the sleek Procee’d GT, which has received an exterior makeover that emphasises muscularity without ruining the clean lines of the base car.
Then, as you open the driver’s door and clamber aboard, comes the first big surprise – supportive Recaro sports seats… in a Kia. That alone would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
Besides the seats, the cabin features the kind of styling cues that have become bywords for a sporting hatch – suede, stainless steel pedals, red stitching on the leather steering wheel – but it feels a little like a facsimile of other hot hatches.
Turn the key – at least, you do in the lower-spec GT variant we drove; GT Tech cars get a starter button – and there’s a touch of flair in the form of a TFT display that allows the driver to flip, via a ‘GT’ button on the steering wheel, between a good old-fashioned analogue speedo or a screen that shows your speed numerically along with engine torque, turbo boost pressure and engine coolant temperature.
On the road, the Kia Procee’d GT’s performance places it towards the ‘korma’ end of the performance hatch spectrum, rather than ‘vindaloo’. At 7.4sec, it is one second slower than the Volkswagen Golf GTI from 0-62mph, for example.
The turbocharged engine is quite pleasant and provides a steady surge of power from fairly low revs. Note: that’s steady, rather than rocket-ship rapid; you never feel like you’re being pinned back into that Recaro seat. It’s just a smidgen too polite. Similarly, the cabin is well insulated from the sporty engine note; perhaps too much so for a car that should be instilling drama to all the senses. From the outside the car sounds more thrilling.
The Procee’d GT never feels time-warp quick, always controllable, but the overall package feels well sorted and the amount of power on tap is very well suited to its ride and handling. The suspension has been retuned from the standard Procee’d, with increased damper rebound and compression rates, stiffer springs and bushes and a larger rear anti-roll bar. Such tweaks often come with an attendant reduction in ride quality, especially when large alloys are bolted on for good measure.
Not so with the Procee’d GT, which runs on 18in wheels, but rides smoothly and comfortably and is never crashy. Our test through southern France took place on roads that are perhaps slightly smoother than those found in the UK, but on this evidence Kia has got the balance between sporting prowess and comfort spot on.
It also feels well composed during cornering, displaying very good body control and changing direction with a sense of purpose that’s fun without being fidgety. It’s an easy car to place on the road with confidence. The brakes don't feel as effective as those fitted to cars at the top of this class, although only intense driving shows up their limitations.
The steering is a little on the light side, especially at higher speeds, but the Procee’d GT is sufficiently communicative to make driving it extremely pleasurable.