June Neary is surprised by Kia's impressive family hatchback offering, the cee'd
Will It Suit Me?
It wasn't long ago that a Kia was something you bought on price. You'd really rather have had something else but Kia did it for less. Not quite as smartly and effectively perhaps but you bought a Kia and you got the job done. When the second generation cee'd was launched in 2012, the market realised that it was time to start looking at this Korean brand in a different way. Here was a car that was at least as good as the Family Hatchback class favourites - Astras, Focus's and Meganes - but costed less to buy and to own. That's a proposition further improved by the revised version on test here and it's certainly one that works for me.
For someone like me who in the past has had some experience of some frankly rather poor South Korean products, the reality of climbing aboard this Kia comes as something of a shock. From the moment the doors thunk shut to the dawning that some of the interior finishes are class-leading, the c'eed has the capacity to surprise. Even the base-spec 1.0-litre T-GDI petrol variant I tried carries the right stuff in its DNA. It's not flashy. It won't be the darling of the style set but it's a whole lot more car than you could imagine at this price point. There's plenty of space in the rear and I had no problem lumping child seats in and out - or with the weekly Tesco shop. The plastics seem pretty hard-wearing and the design seems as child-proof as it's possible to get at this price point.
Behind the Wheel
The original version of the MK2 cee'd model was rather let down by its feeble, somewhat inefficient 1.4-litre petrol engine but buyers of this revised version now get the option of a much more impressive 1.0-ltre T-GDI three cylinder powerplant developing either 98 or 118bhp, depending on your model preference. This revvy little unit is a big improvement and for me, seems economical enough to make opting for diesel power somewhat pointless unless you regularly cover a lot of miles. Despite that, the majority of cee'd buyers will probably still want to fuel from the black pump. There's an old-tech 89bhp 1.4-litre CRDi variant still available, but most customers will want the more efficient, higher-tech 1.6-litre CRDi unit, offered with 134bhp. This powerplant gives buyers the option of a 7-speed dual-clutch DCT automatic transmission, one of those clever gearboxes able to seamlessly select the next gear before you've even left the last one. For this diesel variant, improvements in refinement have been prioritised, so additional sound-absorbing materials have been adopted for the carpet and ventilation system, while twice as much anti-vibration foam has been added to the dashboard panel to cut engine vibrations intruding on the calm of the cabin.
Value For Money
No need for a crash course in Kia trim level nomenclature. The manufacturer has thoughtfully kept things simple by presenting buyers with a choice of cee'd 1, cee'd 2, cee'd 3, cee'd 4 and cee'd 4 Tech models and this design comes as a five-door hatchback, a three-door coupe (the 'pro_cee'd') or an SW estate. Prices start at around £15,000. Crucially, and as any Kia dealer will be at pains to remind you, all cee'ds come with Kia's excellent 7-year/100,000-mile warranty. As standard, cee'd buyers get remote central locking, an MP3 compatable CD stereo with AUX/USB port, air-conditioning, a trip computer and airbags of the front, side and curtain varieties. Whichever trim level you choose, the interior of the cee'd is an impressive piece of design. It's a touch bigger in most of the key measurement criteria than a Focus without looking like an MPV in the process. Where the car really succeeds is in resisting the temptation to once more lapse into wackiness, the controls being beautifully finished and resolutely straightforward to use without losing the focus on design elegance. The best designs are those which function best and in this regard, the cee'd scores a bullseye.
Could I Live With One?
Rather to my surprise, the answer is yes. Some of the other cars in the sector still feel slightly more sophisticated but the price saving and that achingly long warranty of this improved cee'd would more than make up for that. Here is a Kia that needs no apologies - a car that sells on quality as well as price. If you're buying a family hatch in this sector, it's an alternative you can't afford to ignore.