A fine wine

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DAMION SMY

Proceeding to better days ahead

SOMEWHERE in used cardom sits my former white stallion, ready to start her new life.

I never tired of looking at the Proceed GT as I approached in a car park. Its styling is genuinely distinctive, remaining fresh long after youíre first taken by it. I never thought Iíd say this about something from the company that delivered the Pregio. I wouldnít call it beautiful, but itís a smart design thoroughly executed. Youíd have to look at a CitroŽn DS3 for more funk.

The fact that the Slovakian-built Kia runs the same drivetrain as the Veloster Turbo has me wondering why Hyundai-Kia HQ in Korea has given the Ďlesserí brand the smarter, more complete car. Keep your whacko third door, Hyundai.

The Kiaís cabin nails the important things, too: those Recaro seats are well-bolstered, supportive and not gaudy Ė as they are in the Ford Fiesta ST for instance Ė and the steering wheel feels good but would benefit from more upmarket leather surrounding the rim. The rest is simple and not so far removed from the base Ceed, but has more sparkle in Oz because we miss out on the European-market donor car. That gives the Proceed GT an air of exclusivity.

The touchscreen also works pretty well (better than in some cars, including current Jags) and, despite its hammering as a COTY contender, the GT didnít develop any unwelcome rattles or squeaks during its tenure. Its air-con worked well in the Aussie summer, something that canít always be said of Euro hatches, thereís decent boot space and Ė get this Ė adults fit in the back seat.

Whatís a rose without thorns, though?

Close inspection of the bumpers reveals a few rough edges (literally), and itís firmly a warm hatch Ė as Kia presented it Ė rather than a Golf GTI stalker. Push that 1.6

turbo hard and the GT melts like butter, performing well but not with the athleticism of bona-fide hotties. Yet itís more affordable and sublimely liveable, with a comfy ride and a distinctive identity.

Thanks to a general lack of awareness of what this car can do, itís a surprise packet off the lights, quickly filling gaps in traffic, accompanied by a burble that deepens as it clocks more mileage.

While the Proceed GT isnít a stand-out car, itís a standout Kia. It shows that Kia has the world-class design and engineering skills to match rival A-games. Donít think of it as a weak hot hatch, but as a regular hatch that has an added layer of talent.

KIA PROCEED GT TECH

Date acquired: September 2014 Price as tested: $33,490 This month: 841km @ 8.2L/100km Overall: 6544km @ 7.9L/100km

Better with age

WHAT a bargain a used Proceed GT will make. Consider the $30,000 ask for the entry-level model and the fact that the Kia brand is only just graduating to full respectability, and a two- or three-year-old GT should be an outstanding buy.

Boosting it is the seven-year warranty introduced in 2014, which is transferrable between owners. So, if youíre looking at a GT in the coming years, check it has the seven-year clause, not the five that it was given at the carís launch.

LOCATION, LOCATION

Keyless entry was ace, with welcoming puddle lights, auto-fold mirrors and push-button start.

Some $100K+ brands take note!