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Kia Cee’d hatchback (2012 – ) expert review

By Daljinder Nagra, 23rd May 2012

The verdict

Kia’s march on the stomping grounds of European car manufacturers continues unabated. The all new Cee’d is a likeable contender in the family hatchback market, though prices are now more in line with its very able competitors, such as the Ford Focus.

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Expert rating:

3.7

Pros

  • Seven year warranty
  • Generous standard equipment levels
  • Distinctive front-end styling

Cons

  • Not as exciting to drive as rivals
  • Lacklustre petrol engine
  • Lack of rear headroom

Full Review

1. Exterior

This second generation Kia Cee’d distances itself from the agreeable but unremarkable aesthetic of its forbear. The sharply profiled bonnet and flared headlights that wrap around Kia’s trademark ‘tiger-nose’ grille lend the car an aggressive air, and a window line that rises steeply before blending into the high-set rear end, gives a purposeful, wedge-like profile. It’s a confident, attention grabbing shape, which continues Kia’s bold new design direction.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

In Kias of old the cabin was an obvious victim of the car’s low sticker price, but the Cee’d has an interior quality much more in line with what European car buyers expect. The dashboard is moulded from high quality plastics, and even the materials used in the lower parts of the cabin are of a decent quality, with little evidence of shiny or scratchy finishes. Gloss black inserts and tasteful chrome detailing further emphasise the improvements in perceived quality. The switchgear too is a tactile delight and the dashboard has a logical layout, though the sheer number of buttons on the steering wheel can get confusing, and the red graphical display used on the heater controls and dash-top mounted display look somewhat dated, particularly in contrast with the sharp dials with their integrated trip computer.

Our rating: 3

3. Practicality

While it doesn’t feel quite as roomy as a Vauxhall Astra or Volkswagen Golf, the Cee’d has room for four adults, with space for a fifth on short journeys. Rear legroom is adequate, though taller passengers will wish for slightly more headroom. Boot space is a useful 380 litres, which rises to a commodious 1,318 litres with the rear seats folded. Certainly, the Cee’d competes healthily with its European competition in terms of family friendliness and usability.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

The Cee’d’s behaviour in the corners is best described as competent rather than entertaining. There is a linear response from the steering, which gives confidence when placing the car on the road, though it can’t match the lithe responses of the Ford Focus and feels somewhat inert in comparison. That’s not to say it’s a dull drive – it’s grippy, stable and composed, it just lacks the playfulness and bidability of the class-leading Ford. Ride comfort, however, is perfectly reasonable and comparable to European rivals such as the Renault Megane and Vauxhall Astra. On motorways it is particularly composed, even when traversing larger imperfections in the tarmac. At lower speeds the car feels slightly firmer, but never gets uncomfortable or crashy.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

Two petrol and two diesel engines are offered in the new Cee’d, with a choice of either 1.4 or 1.6 litres for both. Unless you’re after an entry level version, you’ll have to go for the larger units, which make up the bulk of the model range.  We’d recommend the 1.6 diesel, as it’s greater pulling power (192 lb/ft playing 121) gives it a more muscular, effortless edge, which eradicates the slightly frustrating, breathless nature of the petrol motor, and belies its slower (by 1.7 seconds) 0-60mph sprint time of 11.5 seconds. Kia’s new twin-clutch automatic gearbox is only available on the 1.6-litre petrol, and lacks the immediacy and crispness of the best examples from Volkswagen. A standard auto ‘box is available as an option with the diesel motor.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

Again, it is the diesel models which are to be recommended in the running cost stakes. Opt for the manual 1.6-litre version and you will pay no road tax, thanks to CO2 emissions of 100g/km (97g/km on the smaller 15-inch wheels), and you’ll enjoy official combined fuel returns of 74.3mpg. Choosing the automatic gearbox harms these figures significantly, with fuel consumption rising to 51.4mpg and emissions rising five tax bands to 145g/km. The 1.6-litre petrol is predictably less clean and efficient, though is comparable to rival offerings. Mated to the standard manual transmission, it will return 52.3mpg and emit 124g/km.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

With few major faults being reported across the Kia range, the brand is earning itself a well founded reputation for reliability. The Cee’d is also backed up by a seven-year/100,000 mile warranty, meaning it will have the same manufacturer cover after four years as a brand new Ford Focus.

Our rating: 5

8. Safety

The Cee’d was awarded the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests and, as you would expect, it comes with a plethora of electronic safety systems. Hill-start Assist control is also fitted as standard, to ensure the car doesn’t move backwards while moving off uphill, and its passive safety measures include six airbags and anti-whiplash front headrests.

Our rating: 3

9. Equipment

The new Kia Cee’d comes in four trim levels, handily numbered 1-4. All models come with a USB port, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, air-con, steering wheel controls, projection  headlights, front electric windows, cooled glovebox, daytime running lights, remote central locking, CD stereo with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, Hill Start Assist, and a brace of electronic safety aids. Move up to Cee’d 2 and you’ll get 16-inch alloys, cornering lights, electrically folding door mirrors, cruise control, rear parking sensors, leather trim on the major controls and extended chrome detailing. Level 3 trim adds rain sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera and European sat-nav with a seven-inch touchscreen display. Top of the range Cee’d 4 is fully kitted out with 17-inch alloys, full leather interior, heated front seats, smarty entry, rear ventilation system, external door-handle illumination and an LCD full colour multi-function display. A ‘Tech’ version of the Cee’d 4 is also available and comes with a panoramic glass roof, 10-way adjustable electric seats, Xenon headlights and Parallel Parking Assist.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

With the new Kia Cee’d you needn’t sacrifice style and refinement in the pursuit of reliability and worry-free motoring.  Its European rivals may have the ultimate edge in driving dynamics, but in every other respect, the Cee’d is a real contender.

Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.7stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior3
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability5
  • Safety3
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

Cee’d ‘1’ 1.4 99bhp

Bottom rung model doesn’t feel it thanks to good equipment levels.

Best-seller:

Cee’d ‘2’ 1.6 CRDi 126bhp manual

All the necessary gadgets and the best engine of the range will make this a popular choice

Blow the budget:

Cee’d ‘4 Tech’ 1.6 CRDi 126bhp manual

Enough kit to tempt executive saloon drivers and a full leather interior for a premium feel.

It’s a confident, attention grabbing shape, which continues Kia’s bold new design direction