"WHEN did Kia start making such great looking cars?" That was the question I was asked on more than one occasion during my three months behind the wheel of the ultra-dynamic ProCeed.
And as I went through my usual ritual of explaining how far the South Korean car maker has come over recent years, along with a gentle hint towards the Stinger as a perfect example, it actually began to sink in that the five-door ProCeed really is something a little bit special.
For starters it looks beautifully styled when viewed from any angle with sleek lines and curves, complemented by a gloss black and chrome radiator grille, black door mirrors, privacy glass, body coloured bumpers, front and rear LED daytime running lights, projection headlights, a rear spoiler, plus 17-inch GT-Line specific alloy wheels. It's a car that literally turns heads as it passes.
Move inside and the interior is equally as impressive with a comprehensive mix of creature comforts and on-board technology to explore. The car features lots of bespoke GT Line badging, along with black cloth and light grey faux leather seats that can be heated, a heated steering wheel, six-speaker sound system, full smartphone link-up via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice control, an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation and European mapping, DAB radio, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and plenty more besides.
Powering our ProCeed was a punchy 1.6-litre diesel engine delivering 134bhp and 242Nm of torque. This was mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and the car could complete the 0-60mph dash in a respectable 10.0 seconds, topping out at 124mph. According to official figures, the ProCeed, which costs £24,690, can deliver combined fuel economy of 56.5mpg with carbon emissions of 114g/km.
One of the things I have always liked about Kia's models is how comfortable and easy to drive they are and the ProCeed is another perfect example. There is ample seat and steering wheel adjustment so it's a model to suit drivers of all shapes and sizes. And all the instrumentation, dials and controls are ideally positioned for ease of use.
The diesel engine delivered all the power needed for long motorway journeys where the ProCeed cruised effortlessly at the national speed limit, but it was also engaging out on the more challenging country lanes with sharp twists and turns. As the ProCeed sits quite low to the ground, it feels perfectly balanced as it fires through the B roads with no sign of body roll or loss of grip.
Minor bumps and dips are absorbed by the highly efficient suspension system and the cabin remains well insulated against engine, road surface or wind noise.
And even in congested town centres, the vehicle impressed with its agility and nice light steering. Although, be warned, you will need a long parking space as the ProCeed measures 4.6 metres in length.
Comfort levels for all occupants are good with ample space in the back for a couple of adults or three at a bit of a squeeze. And storage restrictions won't apply either as the ProCeed has a boot that can swallow 594 litres of kit - a limit that increases to 1,545 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
There are also lots of handy storage compartments scattered throughout the car, such as a central console with storage box and sliding armrest, front and rear door pockets, a glovebox, a drop-down sunglasses holder, rear coat hooks, cup holders front and back and a couple of trays. There is also some extra storage space beneath the boot floor.
Another area where the ProCeed scores highly is safety with a wealth of features to protect occupants, pedestrians, cyclists and also help to prevent accidents happening in the first place. On-board systems include high beam assist, lane keeping assist, driver attention warning, forward collision avoidance system, electronic stability control, hill start assist, intelligent stop and go, tyre pressure monitoring, a full suite of airbags and lots more besides.
All in all, the Kia ProCeed is a fabulous piece of kit that ticks so many boxes. It looks dynamic, is practical, delivers great driving dynamics, is packed with the latest technology and even boasts an attractive price-tag.
If I was really pressed to find fault with the car, then the poor rear visibility would be my only real criticism of the ProCeed and that's due to the raked roofline and sloping narrow rear window. It's the price you pay for such a beautifully styled car.