I quite like it when cars are a surprise.

At first glance, the new Kia ProCeed looks like it might be some style-over-substance coupe-esque niche wagon.  An estate car in disguise, only less practical and a bit wobbly.

But then you drive it.

It’s at this point that you realise that, in GT guise at least, the new ProCeed is a far more tightly focused beast, with a character all of its own.

That’s because Kia has expended some serious effort to achieve this.  For instance, the ProCeed shares only the bonnet and front wings with the Ceed hatchback; everything else is new.

With a unique front bumper, the ProCeed ends up being slightly longer than the Ceed Sportswagon, but with a far more rakish silhouette.  With its 5 mm reduction in ride height, overall its roofline is 43 mm lower than the more conventional wagon.

Inevitably the shooting brake format does make it incredibly practical: the 594 litre boot is a good shape with a low lip, and with the rear seats folded that increases to 1,465 litres, complete with useful load hooks and underfloor storage areas.

Despite the sloping roof-line headroom in the back is surprisingly generous, even for my 6ft4 frame, although legroom is a little tight if sat behind another six-footer.

As we’ve grown used to with Kia, everything in the cabin feels well made with efficiently designed and well-weighted switchgear, while the chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel, hooded dials and subtly angled dashboard all contribute to the feeling of an environment focused on the driver.

That driver focus becomes even more evident on the road.

Kia’s engineers say they’ve concentrated on enhancing agility and responsiveness, with stiffer front and rear springs, revised dampers, and softer anti-roll bars to keep the wheels in contact with the road during hard cornering.

A faster steering ratio yields just 2.44 turns lock-to-lock, while a torque vectoring system helps to reduce understeer in tight corners.

It’s worked, too, because the new ProCeed is a seriously agile thing.

…the new Kia ProCeed is a seriously agile thing…

It turns into corners keenly and flatly, with steering that feels both consistent and nicely weighted.  It doesn’t take much of this to develop a deep sense of trust in the Kia’s abilities, and before long you’ll find yourself piling into roundabouts with conviction, safe in the knowledge the ProCeed has the abilities to back you up.

Of course to achieve this the ride is definitely on the sporty side of firm, but it never strays beyond this, striking a delicate balance between composure and precision.

There’s the power to deliver on this promise, too.

The GT is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo petrol unit with 201 bhp and 265 Nm of torque, most of which is delivered across an incredibly wide band from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm.  The on-paper figures say it’ll sprint to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds, but what the figures don’t say is that this is an engine that always feels ready to deliver its best.

The only fly in this otherwise very eager ointment is that the ProCeed GT is only available with Kia’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

In normal driving the DCT works well, but downshifting using the wheel-mounted paddles exposes something of a reluctance to deviate from whatever it had planned for itself.  Upshifting while ‘on it’ reveals what feels like clutch slip, while a curious lethargy to get moving makes pulling away at blind junctions a little fraught at times.

A manual transmission is available, but only with the 138 bhp 1.4-litre petrol or 134 bhp 1.6-litre diesel.

Economy is respectable on all, with the ProCeed GT recording 39.3 mpg under the new WLTP regime, while we averaged a figure of 36.6 mpg during a week’s testing.

Equipment levels are generous, too, with LED headlights, automatic wipers, heated seats, heated steering wheel, cruise control, satnav with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, reversing camera, and a whole slew of safety gadgets: Lane Keeping Assist, High-Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Forward Collision Avoidance.

Prices for the new ProCeed start at £23,835 for the 1.4 GT-Line, while our 1.6 GT came in at £28,135, complete with a seven-year transferable warranty.

All of which just goes to prove you don’t need to sacrifice style or performance in the quest for practicality.

Tester’s Notes

  • Surprisingly agile handling: flat turn-in, responsive, consistent and confidence-inspiring.
  • Practical cargo space.
  • Good rear headroom, legroom a little tight for some.
  • Sloping roof-line does obscure vision through rear-view mirror.
  • Dual-clutch DCT lethargic to pull away, seems to slip between gears when pressing on. Functions best if left to its own devices.
  • Engine noise sounds a little fake at first, but Sport-mode intake roar is quite addictive.
  • 36.6 mpg on test.
Entry-level Price£23,835Price as tested£28,135
Engine1591cc 4-cyl turbo petrolTransmission7-speed DCT
Power201bhp @ 6,000rpmTorque265Nm @ 1,500-4,500rpm
0-627.2 secsTop speed140 mph
Economy39.3 mpgCO2142 g/km
Dimensions4605 x 1800 x 1422 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1438 kg