Facelifted family saloon aims to blend racier looks and an agile chassis with everyday practicality, frugal running and a comfortable ride

What is it?

A shooting brake estate in the Kia range would have been quite the eyebrow raiser a few years ago. Yet now such a model, in this instance the Kia Proceed, that may well have grabbed the headlines for the brand in the desirability stakes takes perhaps even fourth or fifth billing in the company's range behind the likes of the Kia Stinger GT, Kia EV6, and - yes - even the new Kia Sorento.

The Proceed has now had a mid-life refresh that focuses mainly on cosmetic changes and it arrives in our hands as the base petrol model, one of two options in the petrol-only range.

This 1.5-litre turbocharged unit comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as tested here or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The range is topped by a headline-grabbing 201bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged unit shared with the Hyundai i20 N and is available only with an automatic gearbox.

2 Kia proceed gdi 2021 uk first drive review side pan

What's it like?

Temper any ideas of sportiness when driving this version of the Proceed, however racy it might look in profile. This is heartland family car transport, designed to be as easy to drive and live with as it is on the eye.

A pleasant enough car it is to drive, too. A comfortable driving position is easy to find, and visibility and a general sense of airiness aren’t compromised as much as you might think by such a slim glasshouse and tapered rear. All the major controls are nicely weighted and laid out logically and sensibly.

All that is hardly set-your-trousers-on-fire stuff, but it matters in making a car foible free so you can simply get on with driving it. And there is pleasure to be derived from driving it, most notably from its agile handling.

It feels fleet of foot, and the willingness to change direction and respond positively to a driver’s inputs is not at the expense of an overly firm ride. Indeed, the Proceed manages to mix a comfortable, refined ride with alert handling in a way that's near spot on for a family car. It feels Volkswagen Golf-like in that respect.

The praise is less effusive for the engine, though. I had to double-check the specs after driving it, because 157bhp and 187lb ft of torque should feel like plenty in a car of this size and weight and with a manual gearbox. However, it just feels quite gutless, and a bit flat in its power delivery.

Perhaps it’s because this particular test car had just a handful of miles on the odometer and hadn't yet been properly run in. More likely, though, it's just how cars have to be tuned for efficiency these days, and geared and set up more for lowering CO2 emissions than maximising drivability.

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9 Kia proceed gdi 2021 uk first drive review dashboard

Should I buy one?

The Proceed is a much more interesting take on a typical family hatchback and has one of the more dynamic chassis in the class. So it’s a shame the engine can’t quite match up to the promise and turn a car that is good to drive into something you’d call fun.

Still, real-world economy is pleasing (expect 45mpg on a run) and practicality is not totally wiped out with that racier roofline. This is a car that ticks a lot of boxes for the head, and even a couple for the heart, too.

3 Kia proceed gdi 2021 uk first drive review tracking rear

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Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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sbagnall 14 December 2021
Slightly odd review. Tells us it's not at all sporty, then later goes onto commend its handling and shows pictures of a different model. The comment on the performance is something that appears to affect the manual version, I noticed it after test driving both the manual and auto, the auto feels very different, it's like it has an extra 20bhp.

It's essentially a quick, spacious, practical hatchback that in 1.5 petrol auto spec returns a genuine 43+ mpg, and just for xxxx, they also do a conventional estate.

Alex2021 13 December 2021
Love both comments as they clearly have no idea what thier on about. The car in the pic happens to be the 1.6 gt version and not the Gt -line . The new 2022 gt model is absolutely brilliant and having owned the previous prefacelift gt -line and now the Facelift Gt ,both are absolutely brilliant models and I'd highly recommend the Proceed .
xxxx 13 December 2021

Stupid shape, why have a estate with a big foot print and such a slooping boot lid, you just know you'll slam it shut and your luggage will pop the rear window out