Kia will make no more than 400 of its first built-to-order model available to British buyers over the next six months.
However, the South Korean manufacturer believes that its first entry in the hot hatch sector will boost fleet registrations.
“As recently as five years ago, the idea of a high performance Kia would have been out of the question,” said Ian Mathews, Kia UK head of product planning.
“But we think the time is now right for a car like the Proceed GT – and we think that a product that provides comfort, practicality and value in a package that delivers fun motoring will spark fresh interest in the brand.
“The actual business we gain may be modest, but this is a halo product that should be a hit with some user-chooser drivers because the styling of the car is significantly different from the rest of our line-up.”
Revised front and rear bumpers, firmed-up suspension, unique 18-inch alloy wheels and distinctive, ice-cube design LED daytime running lights set the GT apart from the Proceed coupé range launched earlier this year.
But the biggest difference lies under the bonnet with a turbocharged engine which offers 51% more output and 61% more torque over the normally-aspirated 1.6-litre unit on which it is based.
The changes make 80% of power available from little more than idling speed to give impressive pick-up and quicksilver response for rapid overtaking.
Despite offering less outright power than the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra hot hatches, the car’s on-road behaviour outclasses listed performance figures to make it surprisingly swift transport with supple suspension that manages to offer remarkable reserves of grip in press-on conditions, all served up with the calm, composed and relaxed demeanour that’s well suited to long-haul motoring.
A welcome move is the deletion of Flex Steer, the electronic gadgetry that allows a choice of three settings in other Ceed models.
With traditional, direct power-assist steering, the GT gives its driver better feedback.
Mathews acknowledges that the CO2 emissions figure of 171g/km is relatively high compared with rivals, but he believes keen pricing will help to offset any operating cost disadvantages.
“Stocks will be minimal and we think this will help the car maintain strong residual values,” he said.
Most models will be built to order and delivered up to six weeks later.
“Our entry car costs around £2,000 less than the Focus, which needs to be in ST2 trim to offer a similar level of equipment,” Matthews added.
“We think that difference will prove to be significant.”