Rarely does a car so exceed your expectations that you find yourself chatting merrily away about it for days afterwards to anyone who’ll listen.
The first Cee’d, released nearly seven years ago as Kia’s cornerstone model, was one of them.
And this, the Pro_cee’d GT, might just be another. Remember Jeremy Clarkson clattering on in 2005 about the fifth generation Volkswagen Golf GTi, which was a brilliant all-rounder and cost less than £20,000?
The Kia has more power than the 2005 Golf, much more equipment and a unique seven-year warranty, and while the Golf is now knocking on the door of £26,000 (before options) the Pro_cee’d slots in below the magic £20,000 mark.
But this is not a GTi, Kia is quick to say. It’s not an out-and-out performance-focused hot hatch, being instead more about usability and practicality.
The new Kia, their first performance-oriented car, is under-cutting the other mainstream competition with a product that, for the price, is nigh-on untouchable.
It’s definitely quick enough. It pulls harder the closer you are to 6,000rpm, but with a meaty midrange that, given the Pro_cee’d’s near-1,400kg kerb weight, does a brilliant job of hustling the sleek three-door shape along. The steering, a new variable-assistance setup, gives a greater sense of weight and transmits a degree of textural feel from the road for even more reassurance and control.
And thanks to excellent new Michelin tyres, grip levels are superb.
The Pro_cee’d is genuinely great fun to drive, and it doesn’t matter that it’s not as sharp at the front end as a Focus ST or as raucous as an Astra VXR. What counts is that its every facet works to make the driving experience better than the sum of its parts.