Car Review: 2014 Kia Pro_cee’d SE would be perfect for Canada

Overview A hot hatch with incredible fuel efficiency
Pros 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel engine, great looks, nimble handling
Cons No automatic with diesel engine, manual rear windows, no power seats
Value for money Good
What would I change? Bring the diesel engine to Canada for the Rio, Forte and Sportage!

LONDON, England — The Europeans have long embraced the hatchback form. Not only for its practical pluses, but for its stylistic flare as well. It is a package that works from so many different perspectives. The other big bonus is most have a sporty derivative — the Volkswagen Golf GTI being the epitome of the breed. In Canada, Kia sells the subcompact Rio5 and compact Forte5 — the Europeans have a third choice, the Cee’d range. Of the lot, the three-door Pro_cee’d is the sportiest.

Yes, it has one of the strangest names affixed to any car — the Cee’d part stands for Community of Europe, European Design. Dumb, but that does not detract from its allure and driving pleasure. When compared to the five-door Cee’d, the Pro_cee’d is 40-millimetres lower and has a bolder visage thanks to its body kit. In the end, the LED lights front and rear along with the oversized tailpipe and sleek greenhouse makes for a sharp-looking car that enjoys a ton of road presence, even in Britain where hatches rule.

The Pro_cee'd SE can be had with a 1.6-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, rated at 126 horsepower and 192 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Pro_cee’d SE can be had with a 1.6-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, rated at 126 horsepower and 192 lb.-ft. of torque.
Graeme Fletcher, Driving

The better news is the Pro_cee’d’s underpinnings have the wherewithal to back up the look. To begin with, the body’s strength is up 51% over the outgoing car, which gives the suspension a solid base. Second, it’s one of the few hatchbacks with a fully independent multi-link rear suspension (the GTI uses a rear twist beam). The fact the suspension has been firmed without sacrificing the ride quality means it tracked its way through a twisty section of country lane with surprising aplomb. There was minimal body roll and the SE’s larger P225/45R17 tires limited understeer very effectively. In the end, it all gave the Pro_cee’d a planted, confidence-inspiring drive.

Kia’s Flex Steer electrically-assisted steering is also part of the package. It has three modes — comfort, normal and sport. The first is just too darned light, normal is OK, but sport was my preferred setting. It brought more heft as well as better feel and feedback. It also tracked a truer line at highway speeds.

Also read: Proof automakers forgot about Canada — 5 cars we can’t buy

What really impressed me was the Pro_cee’d’s perky engine. While the base car comes with a 1.6-litre gas engine with 133 horsepower and 121 lb.-ft. of torque, the better choice is the 1.6L turbocharged, common-rail diesel (CRDi). It produces slightly less horsepower at 126, but it has plenty of torque — the 192 lb.-ft. shows up for work at 1,900 rpm. This brings peppy performance and a run to 100 km/h of 10.5 seconds. Not exactly soul stirring as it appears on paper, but in practice this engine felt alive and it responded to a deep stab at the gas with a rewarding turn of speed. That, however, was not its forte. It boiled down to fuel efficiency.

A rapid 800-kilometre run consisting of motorways and impossibly tight country lanes produced an average economy of 5.01 litres per 100 kilometres. That by any standard is very good. The plus is the engine didn’t clatter like so many diesels. The use of advanced injection techniques (up to five injections per cycle) and the right insulation/isolation delivered an engine that only betrayed its diesel origins at idle and then only during the warm-up phase. Otherwise, it was quiet and refined. It also featured stop-start technology — when the shifter was in neutral and the clutch released the engine came to a stop, and restarted the instant the clutch was depressed.

The combination is such the base Pro_cee’d SE CRDi delivers better economy than the Toyota Prius Hybrid — 3.8 L/100 km verses 3.9 L/100 km based on the combined European cycle. There’s also less complexity and no battery to worry about as time ticks on. As an aside, it also lowers the cost of the tax disc (the equivalent of the plate sticker in Canada). The test car’s had no cost — a Rolls-Royce, by contrast, will set you back £1,094, or, roughly, $2,000 a year!

The engine was married to a slick six-speed manual gearbox. It had a light progressive clutch and a gate that allowed me to pick off the shifts quickly — England’s twisty country roads, complete with blind bends and crests, call for a lot of shifting to keep the drive at an exciting level. The Pro_cee’d handled it all in stride.

Much like Kias in North America, the Pro_cee'd SE is loaded to the brim with upscale features.

Much like Kias in North America, the Pro_cee’d SE is loaded to the brim with upscale features.
Graeme Fletcher, Driving

As for content, the Pro_cee’d SE tested arrived with a ton — everything from comfortable sport buckets, power locks, windows and mirrors, cruise control and full-on navigation system with a seven-inch touch screen. The anomaly, and this seems to be a common Euro trait, was the fact the rear windows were manual. That would not fly on our side of the Pond. The materials and fit and finish were also top notch as was the comfort. Even the rear seat held two adults with ample head- and legroom. It also had the required cargo space — 380-litres seats up and 1,318L with the 60/40-split seats folded flat.

The Kia Pro_cee’d proved to be a very likeable hot hatch. It’s accomplished and it handles as well as anything in the segment, including the VW Golf GTI. Sadly, it’s not likely to land in Canada anytime soon — there is not enough space in the portfolio to support it considering the presence of the Forte5 SX. That said, the diesel engine is a no-brainer. It is peppy, incredibly fuel-efficient and a blast to drive so it’s a perfect fit for Canada!

The Specs

Type of vehicle Three-door compact hatchback
Engine 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Power 126 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm; 192 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1,900 rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires P225/45R17
Price (base/as tested) $21,075/$30,670
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 5.0 city, 3.8 highway
Standard features Dual-zone automatic climate control with filtration, power locks, front windows and heated mirrors, cruise control, height-adjustable front cloth seats, tilt/telescopic steering, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers, USB/AUX inputs and steering wheel-mounted controls, navigation system with 7-inch touch screen and back-up camera, Bluetooth with voice recognition, forward and reverse parking sensors, smart key with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, cornering lights, trip computer, hill-start assist, anti-theft system and more

About Graeme Fletcher