PROCEED: (verb) – move forward; begin a course of action. pro_cee’d: Pretty much the same thing.

Kia’s very strangely named hatchback, the pro_cee’d, fits the dictionary definition well enough. In fact, it moves things forward very nicely indeed. And in so doing, it moves the fast-improving Korean brand a couple of big steps in the right direction, as well.

The pro_cee’d (yes, the lower-case P, the underscore and the apostrophe are part of the silly name) is unquestionably the most impressive model we’ve seen from this ambitious car company — in terms of looks, driving dynamics and technology.

In fact, its appeal puts most of its Japanese rivals — and even some of those from Europe — in the shade.

It looks smart, has plenty of punch from its turbocharged engine and boasts a cockpit that looks as it were designed by Apple.

The pro_cee’d (let’s just call it a Kia, shall we?) was sculpted at the company’s European Design Centre in Frankfurt, and made its debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

It’s clearly aimed at the European market; in fact, Australia is the only market outside Europe to get this model.

It will be offered in two trim levels, the pro_cee’d GT and the GT-Tech, which adds extra goodies such as a sunroof and smart key for an extra $3500.

I’d be more than happy with the entry-level model – which costs less than $30 grand before on-road costs – despite a list of standard equipment that stretches to Recaro sports seats with leather and suede trim, 18-inch alloys, LED running lights, dual-zone climate control air, cruise control with speed limiter, auto headlights and wipers, reversing camera plus parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity.

It’s only the second Kia model in Australia to get this 1.6-litre, turbocharged GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine. The recently tested Cerrato Koup Turbo is the other.

The non-boosted version of this engine is used widely through the Kia range, although the turbocharger increases its output by more than 50 per cent to 150kW and 265Nm. Kia claims a top speed of 230km/h.

Funny names aside, we could scarcely have been more impressed by this fetching little hatchback.

It compares very favourably with some of the better-regarded “hot hatches” from Europe – and the likes of Peugeot, Renault, Opel and even VW should watch out.

By Kia’s value-packed standards, the $30 grand you’ll pay to get into this machine is not cheap. But compared with other similarly equipped and similarly performed cars, it’s an absolute bargain.

The Kia’s multi-function steering wheel is a work of art, with buttons for every imaginable function, including one to customise the brilliant LCD-TFT instrument display. That instrument panel is the equal of anything we’ve seen from those Euro marques – it’s attractive, informative and hugely functional.

The main dial shows an analog speedo in normal mode, but press the GT button on the wheel and it reconfigures into a series of high-tech gauges displaying turbo boost, torque output and engine temperature.

OK, maybe it’s just a gimmick, but a clever one. Just as gimmicky — but equally endearing — is the little welcome song the car plays when you insert the ignition key. It sounds like a cross between the Microsoft start-up tune and an iPhone.

The centre stack is a little dull in presentation, with a surfeit of black soft-touch finishes, but it nonetheless exudes an upmarket feel.

Kia says it not only concentrated on ergonomics when designing the interior but also “haptics”, the science of how things feel and move. Maybe that helps explain the name.

Unlike most of its Kia siblings, the pro_cee’d, with its Euro pedigree, has the indicator stalk on the left of the wheel instead of the usual right.

That can make it a little awkward when turning left and changing gears in the manual version, but no more than any number of other Euro models we’ve tested.

That six-speed manual, by the way, is pretty good — short throws and a nice, slick action — although more than once we selected third gear when searching for first, so it’s short of perfect. It would need to be – there’s no automatic option in this car.

The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is hard to find fault with — quiet and smooth in operation, it willingly spins up to the redline when driven hard.

It will reach the speed limit in 7.7 seconds — while not blinding, is adequate for an engaging drive. Happily, that doesn’t intrude too much on its thirst, which averages 7.4L/100km.

On the road, we were again hard-pressed to find too many things not to like about the Kia.

Its handling is solid and entirely predictable: the steering is benign and impressively direct and it brakes and changes direction without any drama. Rear-seat space is acceptable for a car of this size, although not easily accessed.

There’s a decent 380 litres of cargo space in the rear, which can be tripled by folding down the rear seats. It’s also impressively safe, thanks to a full suite of electronic driver and stability aids and six airbags.

And, of course, it looks a million dollars. Which for $30 grand makes it pretty impressive buying. I just with they’d find another name for it.

DETAILS: Three-door, five-seat sports hatchback with four-cylinder turbo-charged engine and six-speed manual transmission.

TECH STUFF: 1.6-litre, GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine with twin-scroll turbo-charger, double overhead camshafts and variable valve timing produces 150kW@6000rpm; 265Nm@1750-4500rpm; six-speed manual; front-wheel-drive.

FEATURES: Six airbags; electronic stability control, vehicle stability management, hill-start assist control; brake assist; dual-zone climate control airconditioning; leather Recaro sports seats, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights with LED running lights; cruise control with speed limiter; reversing camera, parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity.