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First Kia hot hatch emerges

Hatch match: Following on from the three-door Pro_Cee'd GT, Kia will produce a five-door version that will take on hot hatches like the Volkwagen Golf GTI.

Kia confirms GT turbo treatment for European Cee’d five-door hatch from mid-2013

4 Dec 2012

KIA will launch its first hot hatch in Europe by the middle of next year, having confirmed it will soon commence production of a 150kW/265Nm turbocharged version of the five-door Cee’d.

Dubbed the Cee’d GT, the potent new rival to the iconic Golf GTI will be produced at the same Slovakian factory as the equally hot Pro_Cee’d GT three-door coupe that was last week confirmed for a 2013 release.

While precious few mechanical details of the three-door were announced last week, the fast-growing South Korean car-maker was more effusive about the five-door this week.

Both the Cee’d and its Pro_Cee’d coupe cousin will be powered by the same 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbocharged direct-injection engine already used in parent company Hyundai’s Veloster SR Turbo, matched exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Performance targets include a zero-to-100km/h time of 7.9 seconds, which seems conservative given that the mechanically identical Veloster Turbo does the sprint in 7.0s.

The company also claims to have made “significant developments” to the chassis and suspension, presumably including extra stiffening and firmer dampers, as well as more “emotionally charged” styling to differentiate GT models from their more humble normally aspirated siblings.

17 center imageFrom top: Kia Pro_Ceed GT sketch Pro_Ceed Ceed hatch.

These additions include new grilles and light clusters, unique 18-inch alloy wheels and body paint finishes, red brake callipers (on 300mm front ventilated and 262mm solid rear discs) and “jewel-like” four-point LED daytime running lights.

Inside the cabin are Recaro sports bucket seats, alloy pedals and “bespoke” surface materials.

Regular versions of the Cee’d and Pro_Cee’d – the latter of which premiered at the Paris motor show in September – already feature upmarket cabins modelled on high-end European cars such as the Golf.

Underneath the edgier body designs will sit front MacPherson struts with a thicker anti-roll stabiliser bar than the regular models, and fully independent rear suspension.

Carrying over the from the regular models will be the motor-driven electric power steering system with 2.85 turns lock-to-lock.

GT production will commence in May, shortly after an expected full global reveal at the Geneva motor show in March and in time for the first vehicles to hit European showrooms in July.

Potential for Australian release for either GT (or their regular Cee’d and Pro_Cee’d siblings, for that matter) is a different story, with any potential local launch still a fair way off, even though Australia sells a disproportionately high number of hot hatches compared with other countries.

Kia Australia, which has sought to change buyer perceptions of its product in recent years with sharper vehicle designs and Australian-specific suspension tuning, has previously made no secret of its desire to enter the performance car market.

But, following last week’s announcement of the Pro_Cee’d GT, Kia Australia public relations manager Kevin Hepworth told GoAuto the company still faced numerous hurdles to bringing cars of this sort here, even though they were at the top of its “wish list”.

Factors listed include severe supply constraints out of the Slovakian plant, as well as the high cost of sourcing the car from Europe.

“There’s a whole grab-bag of things that need to be looked at, but it is certainly an exciting car that would find a welcome home here,” he said.

Mr Hepworth confirmed the GT will be sold in the UK and would therefore be available in right-hand drive.

GoAuto spoke with Mr Hepworth at last week’s Los Angeles motor show, where Kia was hosting the US debut of its new Forte sedan.

This model, which will go on sale here in April next year as the Cerato sedan, will again be offered in two-door Koup and five-door hatch guise, and is expected to eventually be made available with the same punchy turbocharged engine.

Since the Cerato turbo would be built in Korea, it seems a more logical bet than the European-built Cee’d to emerge Down Under, though not before 2014.

Nevertheless, Kia Australia has not totally ruled out the Cee’d hatch and wagon and its Pro_Cee’d three-door derivation further down the track, led by GT flagship models.

Counting in favour of this possible scenario is the expected impact of Europe’s recession on early sales projections, potentially freeing up factory supply.

Even though Kia sales were up 23 per cent in Europe to the end of September – making it the fastest-growing mainstream car-maker – the company is understood to be looking at alternate markets as a fall-back.

Australia, with its strong exchange rate and lust for performance cars, would be a natural fit for a car like the GT.

GoAuto also understands it would be cheaper for Kia to find new export markets – and even subsidise shipping costs – than reduce production levels.

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