“I drive a Kia.”
Over the past three years I’ve come to painfully accept that few things, if any, decimate one’s attempt to maintain any credibility of being a car enthusiast than those four words. And that’s even before we get to the poorly punctuated model name.
From the awkward silence followed by the polite excuse to move on or away, to the outright pained expression of disgust at the notion of anyone who would vaguely lay claim to being considered a petrolhead driving a Kia, and everything in between, yes, I’ve experienced them all. But for the rare few who have braved the initial bewilderment or steeled themselves possibly out of sheer pity for this misguided delusional 'car nut', s urprise has often been the end result.
“It can’t be fun to drive surely?”
With the exception of the tyres, which I inexplicably wore out around 30,000km (I’m a gentle driver, I promise) and replaced with Michelin Pilot Sport 4s, my ride is as stock as it gets. But that has not once detracted from the thrill I get every time I’m flinging it on the backroads around the green belt or Yarra Valley. If anything, the new tyres have been a bonus, with lower road noise and possibly better grip.
If there was anything in the drive that would have lived up to the 'Power to Surprise' tagline, it would have been the balance and poise felt in the twisties. Yes, it’s no edgy Focus ST or fluent Mk7 Golf GTI, but at the risk of appearing as wanting to trigger some close mates, those familiar with older iterations of the latter might actually find more than passing similarities in handling, feedback and feel.
“You could have gotten a Fiesta ST or Polo GTI for around the same coin, mate.”
Yes, I could have, but lovely as these drive, I already have a Fiesta in my household and my multiple attempts to test a Polo GTI in manual guise were painfully futile. Sadly. And yes, the Pro_cee’d was available in manual-only guise, which coupled to the lack of public awareness of the car is what I believe contributed to its tremendously underwhelming sales figures and subsequent removal from the Kia AU offerings list. And, oh, what resale value?
“Family car underpinnings? Bet it’s pretty frugal then.”
Fuel has admittedly been a bit of a struggle to the extent I have all but given up trying. With a 40/40/20 guesstimate mix of CBD slog, freeway cruising and backroad flings, I have never clocked better than 8.0L/100km on 98-octane. My best consumption figures have been logged on long drives with cruise control where high sixes were achieved. I am still trying to figure how some fellow owners achieve those amazing consumption figures reported or those published in the brochure.
“Had any rattles (or interior bits) fall out yet?”
Apart from occasional powdery flakes of cushion material fall out from my driver's seat, the interior still feels solid and is squeak-free. From the get-go I was pleasantly impressed how solid the interior felt, and still feels today, especially given the expectation one would have from the cheap-and-cheery image set by its Cerato sibling. And speaking of the interior, while it does sit four adults rather comfortably, the three-door configuration does put a damper on rear passenger egress and the far side blind-spot check took me a while to attune myself to.
“Where’s the touchscreen, mate?”
Having opted for the non-tech spec, the dash is somewhat dour, with a single-slot CD player/radio fronted by an orange LED-lit screen in place of a cool LCD screen that some fellow Pro_cee’d owners enjoy. The only minimalist-inspired embellishments I get are the occasional smattering of gloss black accents around the air vents and door handles.
On the flip side, the partial leather-clad Recaros are comfy enough for a non-stop north-east Melbourne to Port Campbell blast along the Great Ocean Road, but still sufficiently grippy when I am in the mood to toss the car around. Which, of course, I rarely do. Noise levels are also sufficiently controlled to maintain decent conversation with passengers while at speed along said road, which has further improved with my current tyres.
“Ooooh... It’s Korean, mate. Can’t be that reliable, surely?”
Apart from my routine service stops, I’ve not had reason to visit the service department for anything else to date. Capped-price servicing and a long warranty do impart quite a bit of peace of mind, but many have found the six-month service intervals unacceptable by contemporary standards. Admittedly, I was quite apprehensive at first, but have since gotten used to it and just work the service visits into my routine.
And despite the twice-a-year service, the costs involved weren’t much different from similar warm hatches available. Also worth mentioning here is while I am happy with my current service location, the experience with after-sales service from various dealers has been mixed and not always pleasant, so I’m truly thankful there are choices available.
“Nobody in their right mind will bother with a car like that...”
Going beyond the tangible, one bright spark I have been really grateful for in the experience of owning this car is that little pseudo-outcast community of Pro_cee’d owners with whom I share a common thread by virtue of owning one. While this is not the platform to elaborate, it definitely has made the experience of owning a black Pro_cee’d a whole lot more colourful.
“So you’re actually happy with going Korean?”
Having come from a primarily Eurocentric car background, going Korean was admittedly somewhat of a nail-biting leap for me. And, while it has nowhere been perfect, the experience has been nothing short of delightful, and three years on I still very much enjoy every time I get behind the wheel.
Adding to that delight since getting my ride is the appearance of the likes of the Stinger and upcoming i30N, shoring up the case of going Korean not being a bad thing after all. Perhaps, someday, Kia and stablemate Hyundai will move away from being merely viewed as a side joke in the car enthusiast community. But for now, I suppose I will have to comfort myself with the thought the makers of the ultimate driving machines once made bubble-shaped cars.