First drive: The Kia Proceed GT is a niche-filling, stylish shooting brake
What is it?
When the Proceed GT first came on the scene back in 2013 – known as the grammatical aneurism that was the Pro_Cee’d GT – it caused quite a stir. This was a surprisingly lovable warm hatch that popped up from South Korea without warning and won hearts with its handsome looks and just-about-fast-enough performance.
However, these days it’s a slightly different proposition. It’s ditched its humble hatchback origins and it’s now a handsome small estate with a pretty rear end that’s not all that dissimilar to the Porsche Panamera – high praise indeed.
It’s a great range-topping model, for those who want a bit more style from their estate but don’t want a proper performance model – but when it’s hot hatch money, it has to be good to turn heads…
The major change here is the bodywork. Kia says the only panels carried over from the Ceed hatchback are the bonnet and front wings, with that shooting brake-inspired silhouette a totally new look for the model. The sloping, stylised roof line means boot space is a bit lower than the Ceed Sportswagon (estate) at 594 litres with the seats up compared with 625, but the Proceed is a bit more focused towards style than practicality.
While the engine is the same as that found in the range-topping Ceed GT, the Proceed GT gets a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) for the first time. All models in the Proceed range that have this gearbox also get selectable drive modes.
What’s under the bonnet?
The engine is the now-familiar 1.6-litre T-GDi engine, which makes 201bhp and 265Nm. This is distinctly ‘warm hatch’ territory, so if you’re looking for something with more punch you might want to scratch the Proceed GT off your shopping list now.
That being said, the engine offers just about enough get up and go to earn its faux performance car badges, feeling boosty from the middle of the rev range. Switch the drive mode to a sportier setting and you get sharper throttle response, a bit more steering weight and a bit more noise from the exhaust. It will never light your hair on fire, but it’s quick enough to make the most of a deserted, winding back road.
What’s it like to drive?
So, we know it doesn’t have true hot hatch pace, but how does the bigger estate version compare to the smaller Ceed GT? Unfortunately, the extra 50kg does show in a car like this, and while the engine is fine in isolation, we distinctly remember the hatchback version feeling like it has a bit more oomph.
It’s also somewhat let down by the DCT gearbox, which seems to hold the engine back a bit as you push towards the red line.
We’re nitpicking, though. On its own, the Proceed GT is a fun car to find a rhythm in, turning in keenly enough. And when you’re doing the boring stuff it’s brilliant, too – because it’s not a ‘proper’ hot hatch, it has normal suspension and normal-sized wheels and tyres, so it’s comfortable over potholes and speed bumps.
How does it look?
Looks are the Proceed GT’s trump card. Put it side-by-side with a Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference from the back. That sloping roofline towards the rear gives a desirable shooting brake silhouette, and the slim rear light bar adds an upmarket, futuristic feel.
From the front, the Ceed models have always looked great, with a soft-yet-muscular fence-sitting appearance that works perfectly for a warm hatch. In GT trim, there are red and chrome bits that just about add enough to mark this out as a premium model without being unnecessarily shouty.
What’s it like inside?
In recent years Kia has massively upped its game, giving Mazda, the leader of the faux-premium interior, a run for its money. It’s far from the kind of tech-fests we’ve come to expect in 2019, but it’s got everything you need in the easy-to-use touchscreen infotainment system, and having a few physical buttons dotted about is actually quite a welcome change from the new touch-sensitive industry norm.
There’s a bit of a compromise on rear passenger headroom for that stylish exterior, but it’s not too bad – those over six-feet tall might want to call shotgun, but everyone else should be fine. This car is targeted more at people who have active lifestyles and want to carry bicycles and surfboards rather than people, and with over 1,500 litres of boot space with the rear seats down, it should be more than up to these tasks.
What’s the spec like?
Perhaps the only stumbling block when it comes to the Proceed GT is the price. At about £28,000 it’s pretty pricey for the segment, so to make up for that it does come well-equipped.
On-board equipment levels are largely the same as the GT-Line trim, so you get a six-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with in-built sat nav, and a reversing camera. Safety equipment includes lane keeping assist, high beam assist, driver attention warning and forward collision avoidance.
Extras unique to the GT include larger 18-inch alloy wheels, high gloss black and red trim pieces and a redesigned rear bumper with an integrated diffuser. Inside, there’s black leather and faux suede upholstery, red stitching and front and rear parking sensors.
If you’re looking for a stylish and practical wagon that’s got some decent performance without bank-breaking running costs, the Kia Proceed GT might just fit the bill. That might seem like quite the niche, but manufacturers have proved that niche filling is a great way to expand the appeal of their models.
At circa £28,000, the i30 N from Kia’s sister brand Hyundai is a rival with ballistic performance, but it’ll be more expensive to run and far less practical. You could also spend a bit more for similar practicality, more badge appeal but much less style and equipment in a base-spec Audi A4. The Proceed GT really has carved itself a niche as a style-conscious, practical alternative.