I’ve clocked up several hundred miles in the Optima already and have concluded that 1.7-litre diesel engine is quite capable enough of moving such a big car sufficiently well.
There is, of course, only one engine choice – no 2.0 diesel, or even a petrol. And while the Optima feels okay around town, it runs out of steam overtaking at speed. You will have to work the six-speed gearbox to achieve anything useful.
Noise levels are acceptable but once the turbo has kicked in, the Optima starts to scream when you push it along.
The answer? Do what drivers have been doing for decades in this situation, turn up the stereo. The Kia strangely boasts a heavyweight, bass-booming hi-fi that wouldn’t disgrace a supercar. Bizarre.
Remember that annoying little jingle that used to come with the Intel Pentium? Every time we had a computer advert on TV, it blurted out and became stuck in our minds.
The Kia Optima has a pointless jingle – except it’s not part of a television ad but every bloody time you put the key in the ignition. That’s right, this is a car that plays a ditty when you climb inside.
Now, perhaps if the owner could add his or her own piece of music that would be cool. I would go for Fanfare for the Common Man, by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Except my Kia in Korea has opted for a four second slice of Europop instead that is annoying the hell out of me after just two days of our test.
I have a friend who is selling Hyundai because he simple can’t cope with the electronic handbrake. I would be slapping my Optima on Autotrader tomorrow just to avoid listening to the music in my Kia saloon….
So I spent last night looking at cars to buy. Not that I need one but a friend wants to spend £10,000 on ‘a little something for the weekend’. An occasional car which had to be fun, reliable and preferably open-top.
After several hours of automotive porn, I narrowed it down to either 2011 Mazda MX-5, or a 2008 BMW Z4. Later versions of both come with a folding hard-top but these were top spec softies.
In the end, I opted for the Mazda – perhaps the most iconic two-seater ever made. But the exercise also made me think about whether I might ever choose the Proceed if I was doing the same research in five years time, searching for a cheap coupe.
If I had to rule out the Audi TT (too expensive) and the VW Scirocco then the answer might be yes. Why? Because like all Kias, the Proceed comes with a seven year warranty and that puts it streets ahead of the rest…
Technology is a wonderful thing but sometimes I think we go too far. I’ve never really believed in the merits of ‘bendy’ headlights that turn with the car, or lane departure warning systems that just distract the driver by vibrating the steering wheel.
There seems to be a lack of understanding between what manufacturers think we need – often in the cause of safety – and what we actually do need. Take the Kia’s ignition system welcome tune.
That’s right, every time you slot the key in the steering column, the car plays a little ditty, something that over the course of several years will become as annoying as the beep of a checkout scanner in a supermarket.
I don’t know how checkout people survive that beep day after day after day… But I do know that I’d probably last two weeks owning a Pro_cee’d before attacking the speaker system with a chisel and hammer. It will drive you nuts and I imagine there;s something in the glovebox that tells you how to switch it off but it does beg the question…
WHY do we need it Kia!!!
I’m wondering why it took the Koreans quite so long to build their first hot hatchback. OK, there was once the well-received Hyundai Coupe but the Proceed is really the only car to rival anything with a GTI badge on the boot.
As I’ve already explained, the Proceed GT (I’m fed up with writing Pro_cee’d) isn’t exactly barnstorming fast with a 0-60mph time of 7.4 seconds. The gearbox is hardly slick and the 1.6 petrol engine has to be worked to achieve maximum ‘fun’ potential.
Be that as it is, the three-door with the eye-catching profile still provides enough performance to put a smile on my face. Well, for the first 50 miles anyway.
Then my happiness turns to a grimace as I struggle to get comfortable in the rock hard sports seats. It’s quite bizarre that Kia build a lukewarm hatchback then sticks a pair of F1 seats in the front!
Yep, if you like comfort or suffer from haemorrhoids get the standard Proceed and give the GT’s chairs a miss…
As much as I like the sportier looks of the GT, I can’t say the Kia coupe feels that entertaining on the road. The daytime light clusters up front and the stylish design suggest it will be more fun than it is.
Much of this is to do with the steering. Far from feeling sharp and precise (a la Golf GTI and Focus), the GT offers little feedback to the driver, even though this model gets stiffer springs and dampers.
That’s not to say the handling isn’t good – it’s just that rival hot hatchbacks offer a more engaged driver experience.
Back on the road to London today. I’m clocking up good miles in the Kia. However, the fuel tank only holds 51 litres and with consumption around 34mpg, I know I’ll be making more petrol stops than usual this week…
I can’t deny the Soul doesn’t have kerbside appeal. It’s eye-catching – whether you like the box-shaped image or not. It’s a talking point and that has to be good, doesn’t it?
It’s superbly finished inside, offers loads of space, even more equipment and is quite capable of around 44mpg in real-world driving conditions.
So what’s wrong with it? Well, buyers looking for a compact SUV will also consider the equally unorthodox Nissan Juke and quirky Skoda Yeti. And I don’t think the Kia has that same X factor to make it a big seller.
Moreover, the fact is the Soul drives more like a van than a car. It’s going to struggle in the fastest growing sector of car sales in the UK. And remember, if you are tempted, please don’t buy a Mint Green one…
Hell, the interior of the Soul is real quality! I mean it’s up there with BMW and Audi. The binnacle cover over the instrument panel is made of leather with slick stitching that matches that on the seats and steering wheel; the front speakers sit like flat toadstools on top of the dashboard.
Sitting in the Kia right now and I honestly think you would be hard pushed to find a better cabin for this sort of money. The funky exterior styling may not be everybody’s cup of char but inside, it’s very, very good.
The seats are especially smart. They are made of that same quality material you find in the Fiat 500. It’s the only stuff I prefer over leather and feels like it will last a life time.
Centre stage is the 7-inch, touchscreen sat nav. I promise you, it’s better than VW, Ford or Peugeot. Even for technophobes, it’s mighty simple to use…
I don’t know if the check-girl at Tesco just wanted to make conversation about the Soul but it was a good opening line regardless.
Spotting my punnet of raspberries on the conveyor belt, she whispered that Tesco was charging £2 for 170kg of the soft fruit when last week it was the same price for 200kg.
Cheeky – especially as the container was just the same size!
The Kia? Well, she hated the mint green colour (of course) but didn’t find the punnet-shaped styling offensive. Was it any good, she asked. Y
es, it was, I replied. And unlike Tesco raspberries, there’s a lot more to this new Soul that the old version…
I’m surprised the original Soul didn’t prove more popular than it did. I’m not sure the majority of the British public was ready for a funky-looking SUV – they was normal stuff, built by Ford and Vauxhall. Eek.
With the latest version, the box-shaped look is pretty much the same but Kia has made big improvements to the ride quality, interior trim and styling.
It’s still not the most interesting of SUVs to drive, nowhere near as entertaining as the Renault Captur or Nissan Juke.
But first impressions suggestion this is a hugely practical car, that feels well-built and spacious…