All the right ingredients but not enough flavour
For some time I have been evangelical on the subject of progress made by Korean brands in recent years. The only reason hardly any of my outpourings on the subject have appeared between these pages is that while Hyundai and Kia have made some very impressive shopping cars of late, properly sporting offerings placing more than 200bhp under your foot have been notable only for their absence.
Until now. The Proceed GT (I have spelled its name the correct but ludicrous way at the top of this page and decline to do so again) is a fresh direction for Kia. As it has so far proven adept at all disciplines to which it has turned its hand, it seemed to me more probable than possible it could turn out to be a really capable fast hatchback.
But it’s not. All the right components are there, from the aforementioned 201bhp, 1.6-litre turbo motor at one end to proper multi-link suspension at the other. Between the two you’ll find all manner of go-faster addenda from lowered suspension and a body kit outside to alloy pedals, suede seat covers and red stitching for the leather steering wheel inside. But as anyone who has tried to make a soufflé for the first time will tell you, merely having the right ingredients is no guarantee of success.
You notice its shortcomings immediately, not helped in my case by almost literally stepping out of a brand new Golf GTI and into the Proceed. The Kia is a far slower car than the VW, but I don’t quibble with this: despite being in the same class size, the Proceed is cheaper to the tune of more than £5000 and for that allowances can be made.
Less easy to forgive is the fact that the 1.6-litre engine is neither smooth nor that willing to rev. You can buy a Suzuki Swift Sport for £5000 less than this Kia and its similarly sized but normally aspirated engine is never happier than when pinging off its rev limiter. Nor does the Proceed handle as I’d like. There’s plenty of grip from its fat tyres if the roads are smooth and dry, but its ride is notably upset by everyday imperfections while the whole car feels both oversprung and underdamped. The result is a chassis that provides only mediocre comfort and only superficially capable handling. Push it as you might such a car and you’ll find merely adequate body control, insufficient steering feel and a balance that’s only sluggishly receptive to changes in throttle setting.
You could of course turn this viewpoint on its head. You could say the Proceed provides better looks and equipment levels than a Golf and a large chunk of its performance for a somewhat smaller chunk of its price. And you’d not be wrong. For me, though, if a car like the Proceed GT fails to offer a rich driving experience, however cheap, well equipped and attractive it is, it has failed at the very job it was brought into this world to do.
Engine 1.6 litres, four cylinders
Power 201bhp @ 6000rpm Torque 195lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission six-speed manual, front-wheel drive 0-62mph 7.4sec
Top speed 143mph
Economy 38.2mpg CO2 171g/km