Kia Australia’s very good Pro_cee’d GT sports hatch is now among the very dearly departed, with the company’s local arm today confirming its exit.
The decision will surprise few, with the Pro_cee’d long known to have struggled in a market where manual-only, three-door sports hatches are responsible for only a small fraction of sales in a segment dominated by automatic five-door models.
In June, Kia Australia communications manager Kevin Hepworth told CarAdvice that the recently revealed 2016 update to the Pro_cee’d GT had not yet been signed off for Australia. Today brings confirmation that it didn’t make the cut.
“I think you could say that the Pro_cee’d GT was a brave and worthy experiment, but unfortunately it was just ‘right car, wrong time’.”
Asked if the decision came down to the absence of a long hoped-for automatic transmission, Hepworth said: “Absolutely”.
“[As a manual] it simply didn’t fit the Australian buyer profile.”
So far in 2015, Kia has moved 365 of its three-door, manual-only Pro_cee’d GT hatches. But, Hepworth says, the company’s targets were set “somewhat higher than that”.
Even on 365 year-to-date sales, though, the little warm Kia hatch has outsold another well-regarded three-door and manual-only sports car: the Renault Megane RS, which has so far recorded 312 sales in 2015.
That’s a respectable figure in its own right, and the Megane RS isn’t about to be scratched from the local market. But, then, Renault has things a little easier: the Megane RS is just one of many models the company brings in from Europe each year.
For Kia Australia, the cost of bringing in the low-volume Slovakian-built Pro_Cee’d GT has been offset to some extent by having it hitch a ride with the Sportage SUV, produced in the same plant.
That opportunity is now gone, however, with the recently revealed next-generation Sportage to be sourced from Korea instead.
Shipping the pro_cee’d GT in on its lonesome is unlikely. “The supply line to Europe is long, it’s expensive, and it probably doesn’t make sense for a very small-volume vehicle,” Hepworth said.
“It’s a real shame, because it’s such a nice little car. I’d be hunting around for one now to put in the garage, they’re a classic little car.”
The hunt may be restricted to used examples, though. “There’s very few [new examples around], only because dealers didn’t want to take them up, because they couldn’t move them on.”
The company will continue to look at future sports-car opportunities for Australia, however.
“It’s not the end of that type of car [for Kia], we’ll certainly be looking at other opportunities in that same vein.”
Hepworth would not be moved to reveal what those opportunities might be, but with a facelifted Cerato range on the horizon, a powered-up version of that model – in five-door form, with that crucial automatic transmission option – could be among them.
A turbocharged GT version of the five-door cee’d hatch also exists in Europe, with a dual-clutch auto. If that car could be secured for Australia, it might even see the three-door Pro_cee’d GT return with it.
“I don’t think it’d be as low volume [the five-door cee’d GT]”, Hepworth said. “The two criticisms of this car [the Pro_cee’d] were that it had two doors, and it had no automatic. So a five-door turbo cee’d with the DCT gearbox… it’s a different beast entirely.”
But, as is often the case, supply limitations and import costs might again keep that option from our shores.
For now, though, Kia Australia still has the Cerato Koup, which can be had in turbocharged form. But, as Hepworth concedes, that’s “a very different car”.
“The big advantage with the Pro_cee’d is it’s a much more tunable car, it has the independent rear end, which has been properly tuned. You can tune an IRS better,” he said.
Even away from the Koup, Kia is not short on ‘halo’ cars, Hepworth said – depending on how one defines the word.
“We have lots of halo cars. You don’t have to be sporty to be halo, but we’ve got a turbo mid-sized sedan [the new Optima GT], we’ve got Australia’s safest SUV, we’ve got Australia’s highest-selling people-mover…”
“But as I say, there’s a possibility of other cars like this [the Pro_cee’d GT] in the future. The door’s shut now, but it’s not locked. So… be patient, see what’s coming down the track.”