Kia succeed with estate car
Ted Welford gets practical with the new 'shooting brake' family wagon
Estate cars are known for their practicality and withstanding what even the most disgruntled children can throw at them. What they often lack, though, is style.
Step forward Kia, which is about to change that ethos with its striking new Proceed - dubbed a 'shooting brake' for its curved rear.
Shooting brakes were popular with coachbuilders in the 1950s but are now almost a non-existent sector, other than with Mercedes. They are essentially sleeker-looking estate cars. Proceed used to be the name given to Kia's three-door Ceed, but with buyers turning their backs on these models, Kia has managed to retain the nameplate and use it on an entirely different breed of car.
While based on the Ceed hatchback and Sportswagon (estate), the Proceed is longer and lower than the other two body styles, with the clear difference being the swept-back design and long overhang at the rear. Only two exterior design aspects are carried over from the five-door Ceed hatchback - the bonnet and front wings.
Unlike the other two versions, Proceed is only offered in high-spec trims. You don't get it in Kia's trademark '2' and '3' trims but rather GT-Line, GT-Line S and the sporty GT, each commanding a £2,000-plus price hike over the standard Ceed hatchback.
What's under the bonnet?
Kia offers the Proceed with a choice of three engines. Lovers of diesel will be happy to find the firm's new 134bhp 1.6-litre unit under the bonnet, but buyers also have the choice of a 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine - tested here - and a powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit delivering 201bhp.
The aforementioned 1.4-litre T-GDi engine is commonplace in many of Kia's and Hyundai's models - and for good reason. It's a smooth engine delivering a relaxed driving experience and bucketloads of refinement, with a 0-60mph time of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. You can choose it with a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox.
Buyers wishing for a bit more power should opt for the 201bhp GT variant, which is far more zingy, not much more expensive than the 1.4-litre engine and hardly any less efficient.
What's it like to drive?
For all its sporty styling, the Proceed (not including the GT) is at its best when cruising. The refined petrol engine gave a supple and comfortable ride in Spain, although we'll wait to review it on the UK's pothole-laden roads before classing it as comfortable. The steering is direct, but easy to place into corners confident that you won't end up in a hedge at the other side, as well as having a decent throttle response.
What about the GT? Well, there's a bit more to it than just a beefed-up engine. The GT features stiffer front and rear springs that enable it to corner more quickly yet remain composed and easy to handle. It's no hot hatch but nicely bridges the gap between standard Proceeds and cars such as the Hyundai i30 N.
How does it look?
Looks are always controversial but we're fans of how the Proceed is styled. It's refreshingly different to the swathes of boxy hatchback and crossovers on sale, which is what Kia aimed for, even if it looks like a bit like the Porsche Panamera from the rear, which is no downside.
As the Proceed is only offered in sportier-looking GT versions, it means that all models come with gloss black styling as well as large alloy wheels, while the Proceed's full-length rear LED lights gives the model a cool signature on the road.
What's it like inside?
The interior has hardly changed from the standard Ceed. All models feature an 8in 'floating' touchscreen, which is fantastic to operate. The rest of the cabin is modern, simple to use and feels built to last.
Fundamentally, the Proceed must also be practical, as it's an estate car at the end of the day. Despite its raking roofline, the boot is impressively sized, offering 594 litres, which is more than you'd find in some models in the class above - such as the Volvo V90 - and very nearly matches that of the Ceed Sportswagon.
What's the spec like?
All cars are impressively well kitted out because Kia's taken the decision to only offer the Proceed in top-spec trims and avoid the lesser trims other markets will get, as we Brits tend to favour high-spec vehicles.
Prices start from £23,835 for the GT-Line. Standard kit includes 17in alloys, LED rear lights, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and reversing camera. Oddly, the most powerful version in the range - the GT - is priced less than the GT-Line S. The GT starts from £28,135 and alongside its punchier engine it features larger alloys, LED headlights and half-leather half-suede seats.
Opting for the GT-Line S can be an expensive move, with this version costing from £28,685, although it comes with a fantastic list of equipment, including a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, an electric boot and a self-parking function.
In a world of manufacturers happy to follow the crowd, it's pleasing to see Kia taking the bold move to launch the reinvented Proceed, which really sits in a class of its own. There's a lot to love about its rakish rear end and sporty-looking stance, as well as its refined engines and ergonomic interior.
It's a model that's set to be exceptionally niche, and it's not helped by automatic transmission or poor rear visibility, but as a quirky alternative to your average mainstream hatchback or crossover, it's a thoroughly recommendable choice.
Facts at a glance
Model as tested: Kia Proceed 1.4 T-GDi DCT
Price as tested: £28,685
Engine: 1.4-litre petrol engine
Power (bhp): 138
Torque (Nm): 242
Max speed (mph): 127
0-60mph: 9.1 seconds
MPG (combined): 42.8
Emissions (g/km): 133
Emissions (g/km): 161