Drive the Kia Ceed from the factory back to the UK? Sure. Where’s it built? Slovakia…
Think of a standard family hatchback. Which one? There’s Golf, Astra, Focus, Megane, 308, Leon, Auris, Tipo, 3, Pulsar, i30 and Civic, to name just a few, which shows how important the humble medium-sized car is to manufacturers. Get a car wrong in this segment and it’ll disappear from the sales charts quicker than a novelty Christmas record.
Which is why Kia has spent a lot of time, effort and money on making sure the new Ceed is up there with the best. The bodyshell is lighter yet stiffer, and the car retains the fully independent suspension it had previously, but adds a faster steering rack and revised springs to make it a particularly agile car. There are just three engine options at launch from an excellent 1.0-litre turbo petrol producing 118bhp to a 1.4 engine developing 138bhp, while a diesel option in the form of a 1.6-litre unit delivering either 114bhp is available for those making longer journeys.
I picked up the 114bhp diesel, as I’d got a long journey to cover when testing the new Ceed. Very long. I’d flown to Slovakia to collect a car from the factory and return it to the UK, which means I get to try the car on twisty mountain roads, busy city centres, speed-limit free autobahns, country roads and then, finally, the UK’s motorway network.
Leaving the High Tatras via a series of aggressive switchbacks, the more agile nature of the car came to the fore. You’ll not be cancelling your order for a Mazda MX-5, but the Ceed remains tidy and composed when hurtling around the mountain roads. Painfully busy country roads eventually cleared as I turned north from Zalina and headed towards the Czech Republic, where the torquey nature of the engine made keeping up with the ebb and flow of traffic easy. An automatic gearbox might have made things easier still, but the five-speed manual gearbox is smooth and precise, although the throw of the lever is a tad long.
Getting lost meant I entered Poland through some country lane rather than on a motorway. The ‘2’ spec car I was driving has a large touchscreen infotainment unit, but there’s no satellite navigation built-in. There is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which meant I could use Google Maps to navigate my way while listening to my own music or podcasts, or at least I could until my ham-fisted flailing while trying to open a bottle of water pulled the USB cable out.
Once stopped safely and plugged back in, I headed all the way to Berlin city centre. The diesel engine felt a little lost in the urban sprawl as there was always a delay before the turbo kicked in, making pulling out of junctions a fraught affair; until that turbo kicks in, almost nothing happens. Still, light steering and good visibility made manoeuvring around some of the tighter streets easy enough.
A long autobahn slog west revealed two important things. Firstly, the diesel engine doesn’t lend itself to high-speed runs. After miles and miles of motorway, foot flat to the floor all the way, the speedometer showed 122mph but couldn’t be coaxed any higher. Secondly, having the accelerator pressed firmly down impacts the fuel economy. Leaving Slovakia, the on-board computer was showing a pleasing 70mpg, but that had dropped to under 60mpg by the time I hit Germany. When I left Germany it was down at about 48mpg…
Even under those loads, the engine was surprisingly quiet. It’s barely audible anywhere, apart from when revving hard, although the stop/start system doesn’t bring the engine back to life particularly smoothly. That aside, it’s a refined car that’s well soundproofed, which makes long drives far more relaxing. Monitors check your behaviour constantly to make sure you don’t get too relaxed, alerting you when the car thinks it’s time for you to take a break.
Endless motorways, now with speed limits, led me to dinner with a friend in Tilburg, Holland. That gave me time to be underwhelmed by the interior design, which plays it very safe in order to not alienate any buyers. There are silver highlights dotted around the cabin, but they’re clearly not real metal and reflect against the side windows just where you’ll be looking at the wing mirror. There’s plenty of space all around though, and the 395-litre boot obviously swallowed my travel case without a problem.
A final slog to the Channel Tunnel before tackling the M25 and M11 saw the total mileage click over to 1,287 miles, covered at an average speed of almost exactly 50mph. Economy of 56 miles per gallon meant I required just two fuel stops along the way, but it was the fact that I had barely noticed the 25 hours behind the wheel that stood out.
The new Ceed is refined, practical and thoroughly sensible, It might not be exciting, but it’s right up there with the Golf and Focus as the best car in its class.
|Model Tested: Kia Ceed ‘2’ 1.6 CRDi|
Range: £18,295 – £26,850
Top speed: 118 mph
0-62 mph: 10.6 seconds
Power: 116 PS (114 bhp)
Torque: 280 Nm (207 lb ft)
|Monthly PCP*: £267|
Official fuel economy: 74.3 mpg
Road test economy: 55.8 mpg
CO2 Emissions: 99 g/km
Car Tax: £140
Insurance group: 15D
|* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.|