The all-new Kia Ceed has lost its puzzling apostrophe, but it’s gained a whole lot more. We drive the third generation of Kia’s popular family hatchback…
Competitively priced from £18,295, the new Ceed was conceived, designed and developed at Kia’s European design centre in Frankfurt and tested extensively on roads in Europe, including the UK.
Longer, wider and sportier than its predecessor, the Ceed’s formidable rivals include the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Seat Leon, Honda Civic and Vauxhall Astra.
Built alongside the Sportage and Venga at Kia’s giant European plant near Zilina in SlovaKIA (see what I did there?), it’s new from the ground up.
The outgoing Cee’d was always an attractive option, but the new car (only available as a five-door) is even better, boasting a sleeker profile, sharper lines and a real quality feel.
Sporting Kia’s signature ‘tiger nose’ (most noticeable elsewhere on Ceed’s big brother, the Stinger GT), the ‘ice cube’ running lights are now integrated into the spoiler and are standard across the range. Overall, the athletic stance and distinctive front end give it real road presence.
The Ceed’s neat, well laid out interior echoes other Kia models with plenty of soft-touch plastic and a traditional feel to the dashboard and centre console with dials and buttons, though the latter is topped by a ‘floating’ infotainment touchscreen.
There’s space for adults to travel in comfort front and rear and visibility is generally good, except for the rear hatch window which is on the small side. It’s worth noting that lovely though the panoramic sunroof is, it does eat into headroom for taller passengers in the back.
There’s a useful 395 litres of luggage capacity (1,291 litres with the back seats folded) with a lower boot lip for easier access. If you need even more space, then the estate version (known as the Sportswagon) could be right up your street. It has an impressive 625 litres of space, expanding to 1,694 litres.
There are four trim levels, starting with grade ‘2’, moving onto the ‘Blue Edition’ (a launch version finished in Blue Flame with extra kit), followed by ‘3’ and the high spec ‘First Edition’
The Ceed is generously equipped with cruise control, automatic headlights and 16-inch alloys as standard, along with lane-keep assist, driver attention warning and, most importantly, Kia’s version of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), known as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist – City (FCA).
Move up the grades and other tempting goodies are available – everything from cooling front seats to an eight-speaker JBL premium sound system with wireless mobile phone charger and smart cruise control.
We reckon the ‘Blue Edition’ or grade ‘3’ are the sweet spots in the range, partly because entry-level ‘2’ only comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, which is adequate, but without sat nav. Go for the higher grades and you get an 8.0-inch screen and built-in sat nav.
You can choose between two turbocharged petrol engines and one diesel, and there’s a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed automatic (DCT).
Petrol options include the eager 1.0-litre T-GDi (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct injection) engine, producing 118bhp, plus the all-new 138bhp 1.4-litre T-GDi, which is fastest, talking 8.6 seconds to reach 60mph from standstill and going on to a top speed of 130mph. Fuel economy is fractionally better in the automatic version with 50.4mpg, while CO2 emissions are between 127-132g/km.
If you spend your time cruising motorways, then the 1.6 CRDi might make more sense. It’s capable of up to 74.3mpg, reaches 60mph just over 10 seconds and emits a low 99g/km of CO2.
How does it drive?
I tested the 1.6 CRDi in grade ‘2’ spec and the First Edition 1.4-litre T-GDi, both with six-speed manual.
I’m familiar with the three-cylinder 1.0-litre T-GDi from elsewhere in the Kia range and it’s an lively little engine, but the new four-cylinder 1.4 turbo is seriously impressive and is expected to be the most popular option, offering the best blend of performance and economy.
It’s clear from the first turn of the key that the new Ceed is very refined, whichever the engine.
The diesel fires up surprisingly smoothly, and hardly makes itself known unless you floor the pedal. It’s a torquey unit at lower speeds, but it’s not especially fast and seemed to run out of puff at times during our hilly test route, requiring more gear changes than you would normally expect in a diesel.
By contrast, the 1.4-litre T-GDi seemed more responsive and felt significantly faster. What’s more, with a little restraint, fuel economy close to 50mpg may well be achievable.
With a sharpened up chassis and light steering, driving the Kia is easy and entertaining. The ride is more comfortable than sporty, though you can choose from Normal and Sport modes (depending on trim levels).
It handles well. There’s less body lean than the outgoing model and grip is good. However, the rear suspension especially isn’t the last word in sophistication when it comes to cushioning larger bumps in the road.
Generally, driving the new Ceed is a much more engaging experience and we look forward to testing the hotter version when it appears.
Verdict: The Kia Ceed was always a good car, but this new model is a real step up in terms of design, driveability and build quality. Smart looks, more space and a good range of engines, combined with improved driving dynamics, put it among the leaders in its class. The addition of Kia’s reputation for reliability and unbeatable seven-year warranty could swing it for many mid-size hatchback buyers.
Review by Gareth Herincx