News emerged this week that the Kia Pro_cee’d GT has been axed from the Australian market, largely on account of dismal sales. Seldom has an automotive epitaph been more annoying to type, but more heartfelt.
And so we see the death of the most interesting car from the increasingly interesting Korean brand, a sad denouement to a script that never went anywhere beyond its first act.
The Kia Pro_cee’d GT — a boon to fans of the underscore, and underrated European-made sports coupes with under-appreciated badges. Ridiculous name aside, the Pro_cee’d GT is the most resolved and entertaining vehicle from a Korean brand to ever come to Australia.
In so doing, it helped change perceptions of its maker. Not en masse, but among a small clique of buyers that matter beyond their mass.
A truly outstanding, resolved and entertaining $30K (usually drive-away) hatchback that outpaced and in some ways outclassed many rivals is a massive achievement, especially since we live in the era of the iconic Toyota 86.
Small clique? 746 Pro_cee’d GT sales in two years, over a period where the Toyota managed almost 7000, and where price-equivalent hot hatches such as the Renault Clio RS, Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI boomed like never before.
As a Kia insider told us: "That's just not a business case".
But the Pro_cee’d GT, much like the Proton Satria GTi before it, put its maker on the map among buyers who’d never considered the brand before. It’ll go down as a future… well, classic isn’t the word. But something almost akin.
Why was the Pro_cee’d GT so excellent? The 150kW 1.6 turbo had balls, the European-tuned chassis resembled a razor, the interior packaging and value equation was top-notch, and the ownership was bulletproof.
Officially, the major impediment for the Pro_cee'd GT was that it remained steadfastly and inexplicably available with a six-speed manual gearbox only (much to Kia Australia's chagrin), unlike the DCT-toting and inferior Hyundai Veloster SR. And manuals don't sell well here.
Make no mistake, this GT was the Kia that Australia needed, but which our spurning of the classic manual rendered niche at best.
Still, for those wise enough to see beyond the unsexy badge and even revel in the outsider status it assured, and furthermore willing to shift their own gears like a real driver, it was one of Australia’s best-kept automotive secrets.
Of course, let's not be silly enough to blame the lack of an auto exclusively. The fact it was a three-door car in a five-door market hurt as well, and the supply line makes bringing the five-door Cee'd GT to Australia in its place a hard ask. It's now too expensive to source, and the wait times are longer than desirable.
That's because sourcing any car from Slovakia (where the Pro_cee'd and Cee'd are made) isn’t easy in today’s climate, especially given the new-generation Sportage will no longer be sourced from the same plant for our market.
With the outgoing Sportage coming en masse from the Eastern European source, a few Pro_cee’d GTs could always piggyback on the same boat. But logistics change. So does currency, and with our dollar at a low point, the business case clearly changed beyond redemption.
And that’s all despite the obvious halo effect a car such as the Pro_cee’d GT has, the pride it gives the brand and it dealers, the message it sends the public and the engineering nous it demonstrates.
And so, we now live in a market that’s a little more anodyne, and a little less colourful. Farewell, Kia Pro_cee’d GT, you’ll be missed, though your daft name won't be.