Kia are pretty pleased with themselves at the moment and they have every right to be smiling from ear to ear, having launched the very popular cee'd hatchback followed by the equally popular cee'd SW (estate) in the past year and I've been waiting for the news to come through announcing a hot hatch version. What I didn't expect was Kia to call me up and take me to Istanbul for 3 days to non-stop test all versions of its all-new 'warm' 3 door hatch.
Kia has been battling hard to get rid of the image of the 'cheap budget brand' its been tagged with for so long. Well driving the new pro-cee'd will leave you in no doubt that they have accomplished that along with something very special in the new model. The styling for one, it's a really fantastic looking car, especially in white and in the range-topping 2.0 turbo diesel 'Sport' form. All trim levels look sporty with rooftop rear spoilers and alloys wheels. Inside its much the same story, put a blindfold on me I'd have though I was in a far more expensive motor than a sub 16k hatchback. The list of standard spec on all models is outstanding with the even the entry level '2' getting electric windows, power steering, iPod connectivity, USB port, MP3 stereo, steering wheel controls for the audio, air conditioning with chilled glove box, tinted glass. Move up to the '3' model and you get 17" alloys, sportier headlights and half leather. Up another level to the 'Sport' and its full leather, ESP and electric folding wing mirrors as well to name but some of the kit you get thrown in for the £15,495 on-the-road price, in fact the standard spec means that nothing else in the marketplace even comes close for the money, couple that with the 7yr 100,000 mile warranty and the new pro_cee'd is unbeatable for toys and value for money.
So what's it like to drive, honestly, I thought the 1.6L petrol I drove struggled a little up the Turkish mountain hills, but it felt great around town and on the motorway, the 1.6L slightly 'tuned up' 113bhp Diesel is a great little power plant and is fun to drive, my favourite though has to be the superb 2.0L turbo diesel, which just powers through anything you throw at it and fly's down the motorway and down the cobbled back streets quietly and with no fuss at all. Pretty much all the engines are quiet and smooth, the 6sp gearbox in the 2L diesel is great and very precise. The ride quality on all models was comfortable over the less than perfect roads and handles well coping equally as well with the sharp bends and unless your driving like a complete muppet really nothing phases it.
Without doubt I really like the new Kia, I have a certain amount of respect for any manufacturer that actually produces quality well built and tested motors for a reasonable price. For its outstanding standard spec, price, great drive and just general all round fun factor, the new pro_cee'd is currently my new favourite 3dr hatch, well worth a drive, I guarantee you'll be amazed.