The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The Kia XCeed has its work cut out appealing to buyers in such an overcrowded and competitive section of the market, but we’d say it’s definitely worthy of your consideration. It has enough style and practicality to cut it on the school run, and it’s also quiet and comfortable to drive, very well equipped and reasonably affordable to buy. Just what a small family needs.

Reasons to buy

  • Comfortable and quiet to drive
  • Strong on quality
  • Lots of kit for the price
Best on a budget
1.0 T-GDi 120 2 manual
Affordable to buy, generously equipped and should have enough power
Most economical
1.6 CRDi 115 2 manual
Choosing the lower-powered diesel makes the car capable of a WLTP average of almost 70mpg
Blow the budget
1.4 T-GDi 140 First Edition Auto DCT
Automatic gearbox smooths out the jerky pullaway of the otherwise brilliant 1.4 engine

How good does it look? 3/5

Over the last few years, there’s been something of a trend for carmakers to take a conventional hatchback, give it some chunkier bumpers and a jacked-up suspension, and then try to pass it off to punters as an SUV. At first glance, it’d be easy to write the XCeed off as yet another example, but in actual fact, there’s much more to it than that. Look closely, and you’ll notice that the whole shape of the car is subtly-but-noticeably different to the Ceed hatchback (and for that matter, the SW Estate and Proceed coupe). In fact, the front doors are the only two exterior components that the two cars share. The bespoke headlamps, higher bonnet line and sloping roofline give the XCeed a character all of its own, yet all the usual SUV styling cues are present and correct, including front and rear scuff plates and roof rails (on top of the fatter fenders and raised ride height we mentioned earlier). All versions get alloy wheels, front fog lamps and LED lighting front and back, while upgrading to second-level ‘3’ trim earns you bigger wheels and privacy glass, while top-of-the-range ‘First Edition’ models get a panoramic glass roof and gloss black door mirrors.

What's the interior like? 4/5

This is an area in which the XCeed is pretty impressive. The quality on display is smart enough, sophisticated enough and solid enough to rival most small SUVs, thanks to lots of high-grade materials and some lustrous finishes. Two of the three trims also come with a huge 10.25-inch touchscreen system to replace the entry-level car’s 8.0-inch screen, and this adds a high-tech feel, too, not least because you can display up to three of the system’s wide variety of apps at any one time. There’s loads of functionality, and considering the complexity of the system, it’s also pretty easy to use. The rest of the dashboard layout is fairly intuitive and there’s loads of adjustment in the seating position. It’s only really the slightly hampered rear visibility you get from the small rear window and the thick pillars either side of it that really counts against it.

How practical is it? 3/5

Compared with other mid-size SUVs of varying types, the XCeed does a thoroughly decent job in this area. Set the front seats up for a couple of six-foot occupants, and there’s plenty of kneeroom behind, easily enough to satisfy passengers of the same size sitting in the back seats. If you’re much taller than that, you might struggle a wee bit more for headroom, and find that your hairdo brushes the headlining. That said, all the cars we tried were fitted with a panoramic sunroof, which might well have a negative effect on the height of the ceiling. The boot is a very decent size by class standards, and is big enough for a selection of bags and pushchairs, and the space can also be extended to carry bigger loads by folding down the rear seats. However, there’s a sizeable lip to haul items over, and only the range-topping car has rear chairs that fold 40/20/40.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

We won’t bore you with the nuts and bolts of the situation, but suffice it to say that the XCeed has a slightly more sophisticated suspension system than the regular Ceed hatchback; a couple of key components have been upgraded, while the settings of many others have been revised. The result is a marked improvement in how the XCeed behaves on the road compared with the regular car. Comfort is its main strength, because it deals with bad road surfaces with impressive calmness and tranquillity. It’s a quiet way to travel, too, because road- and wind noise are kept to a minimum, and that further contributes to the car’s civilised nature. Despite this impressive comfort, it’s not slouch in the bends, either. Body roll stays well contained, there’s plenty of grip and the steering feels reassuring and consistent in its weighting and responses. Such a blend of abilities makes this the best-driving version of the Ceed you can buy, and it also compares well with other midsize SUVs. Don’t go expecting any 4x4 capability for this SUV, though, because the XCeed is front-wheel-drive only.

How powerful is it? 4/5

We haven’t yet tried the entry-level petrol engine in the XCeed range – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with 120 horsepower – but we have had a go in the more powerful 140 horsepower 1.4-litre petrol. Ninety percent of the time, it’s fab; strong in its pull, quick in its responses and so smooth and quiet that you can work it to its absolute limits without struggling to hold a conversation. The one slight black mark against it is that, unless you remember to give it a fair few revs as you first pull away, it tends to stutter and splutter away from the mark. The manual gearshift is a bit notchy, too, but both these minor shortcomings can be remedied completely by choosing the optional seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. It also swaps gears smoothly, swiftly and cleanly, which all helps make the car feel even more civilised.

The two diesels available – both 1.6-litre units with either 115 horsepower or 136 horsepower – can only be had with a manual gearbox, but a least the shift is a fraction smoother than it is with the petrol. We’ve tried the more powerful version, and although it’s neither the most muscular nor the smoothest or quietest engine of its type, it’s still very good in both regards and really suits the car.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

The XCeed isn’t a cheap option in the compact SUV class by any means, but it is very competitive. It costs roughly the same to buy as the Skoda Karoq, and even a shade less than the Toyota C-HR. And it’s always worth weighing this price against the vast amount of standard equipment – not to mention the generous warranty – when judging value for money. The XCeed’s efficiency figures also look competitive in relation to those of rivals, so you shouldn’t be paying over the odds on fuel or tax, either. Resale values will be the big factor in how much the XCeed will cost you to run, then, and although these are still slightly unclear, Kia usually does pretty well on this score and we can’t see any reason why things should be different with this car.

How reliable is it? 5/5

The JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey should make for very comforting reading where Kia owners are concerned. The company has placed in the top three of the manufacturer rankings for two of the last three years, and even though it slipped to seventh in 2019, it’s still way ahead of the industry average. As standard, all Kia models come with an industry-leading factory-backed seven-year (or 100,000-mile) warranty, so even picking up a low-mileage used model should keep you covered.

How safe is it? 4/5

The XCeed is available with many of the latest clever gizmos that help prevent you from running into trouble – or for that matter, anyone else – but the precise amount of these your car gets rather depends on the version you pick. As well as all the airbags and electronic stability systems you’d expect, the XCeed also comes with lane-keeping assist and an automatic emergency braking system. As an optional extra, you can choose to upgrade the latter to include pedestrian detection, a feature that comes as standard if you upgrade to 3 trim. The First Edition gives you a good slice of extra safety stuff on top, including blind spot warning, intelligent speed limit warning and, on cars fitted with an automatic gearbox, smart cruise control.

How much equipment do I get? 5/5

The entry-level trim is called ‘2’, and comes with a generous roster of luxury kit as standard. This includes air-conditioning, leather trims for the steering wheel and gearstick, automatic lights, electric front and rear windows, keyless entry, cruise control and a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and a reversing camera. We reckon that’s plenty to be getting on with. Step up to ‘3’ trim, though, and you’ll add the bigger and better touchscreen, heated front seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, faux-leather panels on the seats and a push-button starter. First Edition models also add a panoramic sunroof, a powered driver’s seat, an upgraded stereo, a powered tailgate, a wireless phone charger and a set of cool digital instruments to replace the analogue ones found in other XCeeds.

Why buy? 4/5

You’ll buy the XCeed because you want a stylish family SUV that’s compact, affordable, high in quality and generously equipped. It nails the brief on every one of those scores, and although there are countless rivals to choose from in this booming section of the car market, the XCeed is certainly worthy of your consideration.