Renault Clio 2014 review
Renault’s Clio is a heavy-hitter in the light hot-hatch stakes. The junior hot hatch market is fertile ground for enthusiastic drivers on a budget.
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Never mind the bizarre badging, Kia’s initial warm hatch is a match for Euro rivals. A warmed-up hatch embodies the next phase of Kia’s evolution into a major carmaker.
The Korean brand has shed its cheap and cheerful image to be on par with its Japanese rivals in terms of build quality and refinement.
They call it the Pro-cee’d GT.(We’re calling it Proceed. A car that moves Kia into the enthusiast market needs no wacky embellishment. And we can’t be bothered typing it.) As hatches go, the Proceed is more warm than hot but it highlights the quality of the maker’s chassis and suspension development.
Buy the base model. The $29,990 entry variant has dual-zone airconditioning, cruise control, reversing camera, Recaro seats with leather/suede upholstery, Bluetooth with audio streaming and heated and folding side mirrors.
The top-spec GT Tech costs $34,490 and adds a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights with active cornering, tinted rear glass and a luggage net in the cargo area. That puts it up against the likes of the Renault Clio Sport Trophy at $34,290 and the Renault is fitted with a dual-clutch automatic. There are four exterior colours in the Proceed GT palette and three (white, silver and black) are classed as premium paint and add $595.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The bad news is the Proceed GT was developed for European markets so the 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder has been paired with a six-speed manual transmission. The good news is also that it was developed for Euro markets so it ditches the torsion beam rear end common on most cars in this class - including sister company Hyundai’s Veloster SR Turbo - in favour of a multi-link setup.
A TFT display in the instrument binnacle switches from a conventional speedo dial to a digital display flanked by bars displaying torque and turbo levels. It’s a bit gimmicky but there’s no arguing with the quality of the display. Sadly, the centre console isn’t as advanced with red-numbered monochrome displays for the audio, aircon and date/time. Satnav will be available from September-October.
The front end of the Proceed is a highlight. A four-pack of daytime running lights nestle above the fog lamps red strip across the front bumper that - not altogether coincidentally - pays homage to Volkswagen’s Golf GTI.
Two-tone 18-inch alloys fill the wheel arches, emphasising the Kia’s wedge-shaped profile, and a pair of vertical reversing lights low on the bumper make it easy to identify from the rear. The interior is an all-black affair broken up by red stitching and a few chrome highlights. Soft-touch plastics are used on the contact points but could do with more padding underneath to be deemed truly plush.
The Recaro front seats are super grippy and supportive and there’s room for two big adults in the back. Cargo space is a solid 380 litres, extending to 1225 litres if the 60:40 split-fold rear seats are down.
Euro NCAP bestows a five-star rating on the Proceed. It fared worst in the side pole impact test, with a “weak” result for the driver’s chest and “marginal” protection for the abdomen. Six airbags are standard along with seat belt reminders throughout.
Winning the straight-line shootout isn’t the objective for the Proceed. It is meant to be a sportier version of the Kia Cerato Koup. Tick that box. For the record the Kia hits 100km/h 7.7 seconds after take-off. To put it into perspective, the Renault Clio RS is about a second quicker. The Kia can’t match the likes of the Clio off the line but it is just as entertaining through the bends.
The Australian-tuned suspension endows the hatch with impressive composure over degraded roads and the rebound damping is superb with the car settling back down on its Michelin rubber the moment it has traversed the obstacle. It feels firm around town without constantly banging and bucking over bumps and the steering heft is spot on.
The manual gearbox won’t suit everyone - a seven-speed dual-clutch auto is rumoured to be in the works - but will reward those who are happy to shift cogs by hand with a slick, short action that helps keep the engine percolating in the 2000rpm-5000rpm range where it does its best work.
Find a back road and the Kia is a giant-killer. It grips the road like a limpet and turn-in understeer is absent at all but insane speeds. The short wheelbase means there is some lift-off oversteer if drivers are foolish enough to jump off the throttle mid-corner. Braking too hard with any steering lock on also will encourage the back end to wriggle.
Neither are faults given they (a) encourage drivers to set the car up before a turn and (b) are both caught by the electronic nannies before things get messy. Keep the car balanced and it flows through corners.
Rear vision isn’t great but it is equipped with a camera and sensors to help prevent carpark collisions. The front seats are supportive without being overly firm and there’s enough padding in the rear pews to commend them for extended trips. Accessing those back seats isn’t confined to contortionists, with the front pews sliding far enough forward to let even hefty folk get in with a modicum of decorum.
As a first effort the Proceed is first rate. It handles right up there with the hottest of hatches without being so narrow-focused it can’t be used as the weekday family runabout.
Kia Pro_cee’d GT
Price: from $29,990
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder
Power: 150kW and 265Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
L/W/H/WB (mm): 4310/1780/1430/2650
Servicing: 15,000km or 12 months, capped pricing
Warranty: Five years unlimited kilometres
Spare tyre: Space saver
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