As a bellwether for the capabilities of a brand only just waking up to its creative potential, the 2017 Kia Proceed concept was quite the head-turner.
It had everything an archetypal concept car needs, in fact: voluptuous body panels, tyres seemingly moulded to the wheel-arch liners and the crucial, exciting sense that it may well make it into dealerships largely unaltered.
Which, as you can see, it duly has. But if the production Proceed’s striking appearance is a world away from the dull-looking cars Kia was turning out only a decade ago, then the thinking behind that aesthetic is plain cunning. The Proceed of the previous generation was a more conventionally shaped hatchback, but a particularly rakish one. Its attractiveness couldn’t compensate for the fact that sales of three-door hatchbacks have driven off a cliff in recent years, and so the nameplate has been repurposed for a bodystyle that has risen like a phoenix from the days of the Reliant Scimitar and Volvo 1800ES: the high-design ‘shooting brake’ estate car.
Indeed, Kia expects this new shooting brake to eventually account for a quarter of all Kia Ceeds sold (the others being the hatchback, estate and an XCeed crossover due later in 2019). If that comes to pass, the brand’s product planners will have earned their keep.
However, with curves like these comes the expectation of an elevated driving experience. Owners might reasonably expect the Proceed to steer, ride and handle if not with hot-hatch levels of poise and accuracy, then at least with a feeling of premium-worthy integrity and involvement. In this respect, the basic Ceed provides a sound basis, though one in need of the sort of dynamic fine-tuning that traditionally premium manufacturers of modern shooting brakes (notably Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Ferrari) are more accustomed to making.