The latest Ceed is the best yet. But is it now good enough to be a real contender?
Why we’re running it: To see if the new, Europe-designed Ceed is a true Volkswagen Golf rival or still a bit of a family hatchback also-ran
Life with a Kia Ceed: Month 1
Welcoming the Ceed to the fleet – 17th October 2018
Crossovers might be increasingly dominant in the family car sales charts, but hatchbacks remain the bread and butter of many car makers’ ranges. Cars such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf are of vital importance to the industry and buyers alike, as reflected in the billions of pounds spent on the development and marketing of them.
New entrants to the market often have a difficult time establishing themselves and the previous two generations of the Kia Ceed – despite being perfectly competent – took time to make the necessary dent in the more established competition.
But Kia’s determination to crack the European hatch market has resulted in a C-segment car that is now designed in Europe, built in Europe and will be sold exclusively in Europe. So we’re running one for a few months to see, first, if it feels like a true European hatchback and, second, if such a car should still have a place in buyers’ minds alongside the ever-growing menagerie of crossovers and SUVs.
Well, our esteemed road testers think that the new Ceed has “fulfilled its potential” in this generation, making it “more worthy of recommendation than all but the very best cars in one of the toughest market segments in the world”. Who am I to disagree?
Exterior impressions, however, don’t seem to paint our Ceed as a particularly revolutionary car. With design head Peter Schreyer’s influence from his time at the Volkswagen Group, the Ceed appears to just about toe the line between the understated class of a Golf and complete anonymity. Despite this, it does seem to attract looks from passers-by – although that could be largely down to our car’s lovely Blue Flame paint. The subtle bodykit and 17in alloy wheels add a touch of visual appeal too.
We’ve opted for the top-spec First Edition model, which looks steep at a smidgen under £27,000 but is loaded to the gills with toys. The kit tally includes LED headlights, a large electric sunroof, a JBL sound system, smart park assist with front and rear sensors, an 8.0in touchscreen sat-nav and smart cruise control. There’s also an impressive array of other driver assist aids, which I’ll report on in detail once I’ve used them more.
What does mark the Ceed out are its fronts seats, which are not only electric and heated (the rears are heated too) but also ventilated – something usually found in only high-end models. A heated steering wheel should also ensure gloves won’t be needed when the weather turns bitter.
The interior overall stands out not just because of the kit but also the quality. This is as close to a Golf as Kia has ever been, with glossy or soft-touch plastic that’s pleasing to the eyes and touch, an attractive design and neat extras, such as the wireless phone charger under the centre stack.
Little touch points also show the effort Kia has made to improve perceived fit and finish, including the sliding cover for the USB and 12V points in the dashboard, which is so nicely damped that it wouldn’t be out of place in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The only thing that’s taking the shine off so far is the passenger’s grab handle, which has started to rattle over bumps. I’ve yet to trouble the Ceed’s rear-seat room or boot space, but both appear generous enough for family life or a light weekend away.
Our Ceed isn’t just fully loaded in terms of trim: it also has the most powerful engine available at launch (before the Ceed GT arrives). The 1.4-litre turbo petrol four-pot pumps out a modest 138bhp but a healthy 178lb ft of torque, and is mated to Kia’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
With less than 1000 miles on the clock, it’s barely run in, but performance is little more than adequate. The 0-62mph dash takes 8.9sec, which is unremarkable for a top-flight engine, and that’s how it seems on the road. It feels punchy and smooth after an initial throttle deadness, which eggs you on to start extending it, but above 4000rpm, all you get is a rather coarse engine note without much additional oomph. At least it’s impressively refined when taking it easy, where the dual-clutch ‘box is better at timing and dampening its gearshifts.
It’s a pity the engine is merely average because the Ceed is a surprisingly agile and composed steer, based on first impressions. The taut chassis set-up means body control is tight and the steering perfectly balances directness and high-speed stability. One trade-off for this is that the ride is a little firmer around town than it should be, although it’s still an improvement on the outgoing Ceed in that respect.
Minor gripes aside, the initial outlook is positive for our EuroKorean hatch. Even fuel economy is better than expected, as I’m averaging 43mpg on mixed town and motorway work without really trying. We’ll see over the next few months if the Ceed can offer the ownership proposition of the class’s big hitters.
There’s no doubt that the new Ceed is one of the more inspiring hatchbacks to drive, but I still think Kia hasn’t got the ride quite right. There’s a nervous fidget that never really settles – and our car’s 17in alloy wheels aren’t exactly oversized.
Kia Ceed 1.4 T- GDI First Edition DCT specification
Specs: Price New £26,850 Price as tested £26,850 Options none
Test Data: Engine 4cyls, 1353cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 138bhp at 6000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3200rpm Kerb weight 1315kg Top speed 130mph 0-62mph 8.6sec Claimed fuel economy 48.7mpg Test …read more