In 30 years it’s gone from a standing start selling cheap and cheerful fare to budget-conscious motorists to become a major mainstream brand with a reputation for quality and value.
Key to its success has been appealing to the family car market, tempting buyers away from established players such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra with cars like its solid straightforward Ceed.
The Ceed is one of those models that simply gets on with the job at hand in a largely unremarkable way. That’s not to dismiss it and its various variants. It’s a capable, dependable and well thought out car but it’s just a bit bland.
So, the Proceed I’m testing here does well to elevate itself above its humdrum origins.
Truth be told, under the skin the Proceed is largely the same as any other member of the Ceed family but on the surface, the Proceed stands out, not just from other models in the range but among its rivals in the family market.
While most mainstream brands are happy to offer a hatchback or estate version of their models, with the Proceed Kia has split the difference and created a shooting brake that’s more practical than the regular five-door but more stylish than the estate.
Virtually every panel is different from the other two models in the range and the Proceed has a more serious sporting appearance. It’s longer and lower than its stablemates and sits closer to the ground. The slippery shape of that not-an-estate tailgate echoes premium models like the Mercedes CLA and creates something appealingly different from the likes of the Focus, Astra or Golf.
Engine and performance
Like the rest of the Ceed range, the Proceed received an update in late 2021 which brought a minor facelift with new badges and a slightly more aggressive front end, plus a new engine. While lesser models of the hatch and sportwagon still make do with a 118bhp 1.0-litre three-pot, the Proceed comes with the new 158bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder as standard, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The new engine is quieter and smoother than the 1.4-litre unit it replaces but it’s still a bit gruff if you’re heavy with the right foot and while 8.8 seconds to 62mph isn’t too shabby, the Proceed doesn’t go quite as quickly as its looks suggest. For that, you’ll want the 201bhp GT version rather than the lesser GT-Line S tested here.
Straight line pace aside, the Proceed drives well. It can’t match the directness of a Focus but it doesn’t fall apart on more difficult roads, and that goes for the impressively composed ride as well as the handling.
Official economy for the new 1.5 is 46.3mpg and, as with other versions of the Ceed, it’s fairly easy to get close to that in the real world without resorting to driving like you’re in the middle of a fuel crisis.
Interior and practicality
If the outside of the Proceed is entirely different from the other two models, the interior is virtually identical. That means everything is sensibly laid out, easy to find and solid feeling. But there’s a lot of bland black plastic and even the GT-Line S’s sporty touches, such as metal pedals and contrast stitching can’t do much to elevate things.
Practically, the Proceed’s boot space is significantly larger than a regular Ceed and not much smaller than the estate. Its 594-litre capacity is easily accessible and well thought out, with an adjustable multi-level floor that hides an abundance of neat storage areas beneath it. What’s more, despite the sleeker looks, it’s got a bigger boot than an Astra or Focus estate and is within a few litres of the VW Golf, meaning you can have the looks and the practicality.
And that’s where the Proceed is at its best. It’s a practical, competent family car that looks more interesting and more high-end than many rivals. The driving experience isn’t quite as exciting as the looks, nor is the interior but it’s a leftfield choice well worthy of consideration.
Kia Proceed GT-Line S
Price: £30,240; Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 158bhp; Torque: 187lb ft; Transmission: Seven-speed DCT automatic; Top speed: 130mph; 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds; Economy: 46.3mpg; CO2 emissions: 139g/km