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The Kia Procee'd looks the part, but does the drive deliver?

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We’ll be brief about all but the history of Kia’s small family cars, because vehicles like the Shuma and Mentor — and the Cerato that replaced themcan’t hold a candle to the Cee’d.

It was when it launched the Cerato that Kia, a subsidiary of Hyundai, first started making noises about wanting the pair to be a top-five global car maker by 2010. A hopeful claim given the model range it had back then, less so now that it’s introducing cars as good as the Cee’d, of which this is its third body derivative (following the 5dr hatch and SW), and Hyundai’s i30, with which it shares a platform.

This is the first model in Kia's history to put functionality to one side and lead with allure

But the arrival of this Procee’d signifies another marked departure for Kia; it’s the first model in the firm’s history to put functionality to one side and lead with allure. For unlike the majority of C-segment hatch manufacturers, Kia has styled the three-door Cee’d to look significantly different from its five-door relative in an attempt to add a little excitement to the brand. 

But Kia hasn’t thrown all thoughts of practicality in the bin in the pursuit of desirability, for below its sleeker clothes the Procee’d is built on the same capable platform as the five-door model. In addition it’s just as competitively priced as its sister, and comes with Kia’s market-leading seven-year warranty. But does the Procee’d have enough sparkle to cut it as an emotive purchase and style statement and establish itself as a bargain Audi A3?

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Or will it just turn out to be nothing more than a car that erodes the Cee’d’s capabilities through the addition of a less practical body style?

DESIGN & STYLING

Kia Procee'd front grille

There are just two common body panels between the three and five-door Cee’d models: the bonnet and front wings. Everything else is new.

With a lower roofline and slimmer glasshouse, the Procee’d has a noticeably sleeker profile, which if nothing else gives a clear differentiation between it and the regular hatch. It’s a visual trick helped by redesigned bumpers units, both front and rear, adding 15mm to the overall length. To our eyes, the cleaner pre-facelift design had more appeal, but even post-style tweaks the Pro Cee’d is a good-looking car.

Although the exterior looks different, the Procee’d is much more familiar beneath

Like most of its competitors, the Cee’d has lost weight in its conversion to three doors, but the Kia sheds a meaningful 84kg, good for both economy and performance.

Although the exterior looks different, the Procee’d is much more familiar beneath, sharing its drivetrain and suspension geometry and, despite the extra length, wheelbase with other Cee’d variants.

The standout point worth recapping is the presence of independent rear suspension. Although the suspension architecture is the same, Kia has strived to give the Procee’d a keener drive, thickening the anti-roll bar and, on models fitted with 17-inch wheels, uprating the dampers. Similarly, the electric power-assisted steering has been reprogrammed to give more feel and quicker response.

INTERIOR

Kia Procee'd dashboard

Other than a slightly different finish to the faux metal painted plastic, the dash is identical to that of the five-door. Which is no bad thing.

The finish in some areas is as good as anything else in the class. Though the Procee’d may not quite match the interior ambience of the Volkswagen Golf or recently fettled Ford Focus, it is certainly good enough to warrant consideration, and especially given the generous equipment tally.

The finish in some areas is as good as anything else in the class

Despite the inherited dash structure, the Procee’d’s revised roofline does give the cabin a more focused and slightly sporting feel. With both reach and rake movement in the steering, and height adjustment for the driver’s seat, the helm should cater for most shapes.

Although the rear accommodation is adequately spacious, access is not. The problem is not the aperture, but the front seats. On the passenger’s side we could not get the shoulder-mounted lever to slide the front seat forward, and while this did work on the driver’s side, the memory function did not.

It’s some consolation, then, that Kia has revised the Procee’d’s rear seat squab so that it no longer needs to be tilted forward before the rear seat backs fold flat. Luggage space below the parcel shelf and with the rear seats up matches that of the five-door: a credible 340 litres. Maximum capacity dips to 1130 litres.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Kia Procee'd front quarter

Kia offers its 1.6-litre common-rail diesel engine in three power outputs, of which our test car was the 114bhp, developing its peak power at a very respectable 4000rpm, and 188 lb ft peak torque at 1900-2750rpm.

There’s a nice, broad spread of power, with little lag even at low revs and a willingness to spin towards 5000rpm. On MIRA’s test tracks the Procee’d managed the 0-60mph dash in 10.6sec and would have gone quicker were it not for the recalcitrant gearshift of our test example, which was reluctant to accept first and sometimes second gear.

For an auto you must opt for the 1.6 petrol

However, we’ve driven plenty of other Cee’ds with the same gearbox to know that usually it’s a sweet-shifting unit. The facelift brought a sixth ratio to the gearbox, which can only be had as a manual if you want a diesel unit. For an auto you must opt for the 1.6 petrol, and even then it is a four-speed single-clutch affair that would be best avoided. Go for the 114 or 126bhp diesel for the best models.

RIDE & HANDLING

Kia Procee'd cornering

We've been expecting good things of the ride quality, too, thanks to the high standard set by the regular five-door Cee’d. Like its five-door counterpart, the Pro_cee'd has a relatively long 2650mm wheelbase, MacPherson strut front and independent, multi-link rear suspension, while its body, is marginally stiffer.

It’s also lower and lighter than the Cee’d and Kia has therefore made few dynamic changes. On our test car, though, like all spec 3 and Sport Pro_cee’ds running on 17-inch alloy wheels, the dampers are eight percent stiffer than usual.

The 16-inch wheels should bring a more pliant ride

But by increasing the firmness (and it is firm now), some of the fluidity of the standard car has been lost. It’s not an uncomfortable car to drive, just not as supple as we’d like.

The electrically assisted power steering has been tuned on any Pro_cee’d with the 17-inch wheel package. Assistance is increased at low speeds, and decreased at higher speeds, for a ‘sporty’ feel. We can’t help thinking it might have been better left alone, as there’s now rather too much variation in its weight. 

Equally, the 16-inch wheels should bring a more pliant ride, and they are standard on all but the range-topping 126bhp diesel and ‘3’ trim cars.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Kia Procee'd

The Pro_cee’d’s spec 3 is priced almost identically to the equivalent five-door Cee’d, warranting only a £300 cheaper list price. Bravely, Kia thinks the three-door’s style means buyers will pay the same as they would for its more practical five-door sister, and there’s no denying that the Pro_cee’d is still a well priced and equipped car.

Similarly powered competitors from Ford and Vauxhall can cost an extra £2000 and still don't come so well equipped. Plus, there is considerable appeal to Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty, while other running costs should prove competitive, particularly the very decent economy you’ll get from any of the diesel engines.

There’s no denying the Pro_cee’d is a well priced and equipped car

Residuals are also decent, with the diesel models retaining around 55 percent of their value after three years and 30,000 miles.

VERDICT

3.5 star Kia Procee'd

Most of what’s we like about the five-door Cee’d applies here too. The Pro_cee’d is a spacious car that’s refined enough, comes with an excellent seven-year warranty and is just as well priced as its more practical sibling. Furthering its cause is that from some angles the Pro_cee’d is a conspicuously good-looking machine and at times is an agile device to drive.

It’s a shame, then, that these enhancements are marred by this trim level’s suspension settings and wheels; Kia has instilled its hatch with an unnecessary firmness in place of extra dynamism. The result is a car with arguably less finesse than its five-door sibling.

Kia has instilled its hatch with an unnecessary firmness in place of extra dynamism

Nevertheless, the Pro_cee’d is still two very important things: it is a good car, and an interesting one. Kia’s resurgence continues.

Kia Procee'd 2008-2012 First drives