Remember the old Kia pro_cee'd? There was more punctuation than doors for the three-door hottish hatch that Kia used to make. But that was Kia then, and this is Kia now: the Kia that makes the Stinger and has a sister company in Hyundai that makes the i30N. It's a new, more dynamic Kia.
So, naturally, it has dropped the old Proceed body style and replaced it with an estate.
Actually there's quite a lot of sense to that. Only five per cent of people who bought VW Golf-sized hatchbacks were buying three-door versions, and Kia is eyeing a time - probably long into the future, but a time nonetheless - when perhaps not every 'not a five-door hatch' version of a family car will be a crossover or SUV. Please. (Although there will be a Ceed crossover, a subject for a different website to this one.)
Anyhoo, the bods at Kia's European HQ in Frankfurt looked around at what a Proceed could become if they gave it less unnecessary punctuation and a three-door wasn't viable, and this is the answer. They call it a Shooting Brake and it's a description I'm inclined to go along with. There's nothing in the history of Shooting Brakes to insist that they have to have only three doors and, besides, in the technical presentation, Kia showed a picture of a Reliant Scimitar, which is perhaps the first time in history that a Korean estate car has been inspired by one of those. So I'm cool with it.
The pictures you see here are most likely of a disguised Proceed - the car is still a few months from launch. But it's a Proceed in the highest available trim and mechanical specification. As a GT (there's a five-door Ceed GT hatch, too) it has a 1.6-litre engine making 204hp and which will drive through a six-speed manual or seven-speed twin-clutch auto. This is the latter.
Kia reckons that Mercedes-Benz, its only competitor (and then not quite a competitor) selling a similarly-sized car, the CLA Shooting Brake, manages to sell them for more money than any other CLA because these sleek estates are somehow a premium alternative. So the Proceed will be more expensive than a Ceed estate too. Likely, then, edging towards £30k in this GT form.
I think, given the existence of the Stinger, and that Hyundai seems to have dibs on the hot hatch within this motoring empire, that 204hp is as potent as the Ceed will get. But I also reckon that's about warm enough - it wasn't so long ago that 200hp was considered a proper hot hatchback in this territory.
Performance is good, albeit with tweaks still to come. The 1.6 engine has a broad spread of torque, with 195lb ft from not many revs at all, and the gearbox is fast-shifting. It's slightly coarse at higher revs, and the exhaust was a bit boomy at times, and of the two 1.6s I tried one had some marked flat spots in the range. The coarseness might not get totally sorted, but the flat spots and boom ought to be. A 'sport' mode brings with it so much response that it was tricky to drive it on a steady throttle; again calibration is likely to fix that by the March 2019 on-sale date.
The chassis is much closer to sign-off. Kia puts quite a lot of effort into that these days. All Ceeds get multi-link rear suspension and, as an option, it offers Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, a fact I imagine the average Ceed buyer pays precious little attention to.
Still, fitted with those the Proceed is a car of fine ride, handling and steering. Kia's engineers have benchmarked the best and gone after them. So the ride's firm but composed, with excess noise or thump intrusion only on really coarse surfaces. And in corners roll is nicely contained, the steering is accurate and its medium starting-weight and what passes for feel builds very naturally. What would we reckon the best cars are in this class? Ford Focus? VW Golf? I think the Kia has most of the engagement of the Ford and most of the natural stability and reassurance of the Volkswagen, with a blend of qualities that's endearing and gives it a driving character very much of its own.
And the rest of it? Well, the interior wasn't grained everywhere but it'll be largely the same as other Ceeds, which means it's finished well enough and logically laid out. The sloping rear roofline doesn't seem to rob much headroom and there's decent knee room, and while the number plate position (on the bumper rather than the bootlid) means the load lip is higher than on a Ceed estate, there's a boot almost the size of a Golf estate's, 40/20/40 split rear seats and the option of rails in the floor and versatile retaining straps.
Then of course there are the purely subjective bits, which is actually the primary reason an awful lot of people cite for choosing a car: do you think it looks good? I think it does. And if it's a choice between one of these or another flipping crossover, where do I sign?
SPECIFICATION - KIA PROCEED GT
Engine: 1,591cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive (7-speed dual clutch auto optional)
Power (hp): 204@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 195@2,350-5,200rpm
0-62mph: 7.5sec (est.)
Top speed: 140mph (est.)
Weight: 1,350kg (est.)
MPG: 40 (est.)
CO2: 170g/km (est.)
Price: £28,000 (est.)