Test driving the new Kia Cee'd shows just how much progress the hatchback sector has made in recent years. But, does the Cee'd succeed in luring customers away from its competitors?
The new Kia Cee’d, or ‘C-apostrophe-D’ as Jeremy Clarkson would say, is yet another good-looking car from the South Korean car giant. If you ignore the big ‘7-year warranty’ stickers from our test car, the overall design has been well executed – it has an aggressive yet elegant front-end, with nice-looking LED headlights that integrate with the front wings, and a slightly sloping roofline. The rear end looks a little bit like the Seat Leon though, Kia should have worked on trying to make it look as good as their Rio or Sportage at the back.
The base price for the 1.6-litre-engined Cee’d with the Style trim is CHF 29,777. Add all the options of the test car and you’re looking at CHF 38,617. It comes equipped with: dual-zone climate control, a touchscreen interface, satellite navigation, heated seats, parking assist, an LCD instrument cluster, Bluetooth connectivity, as well as USB/iPod connectivity and an auxiliary wiring slot. There’s a very nice optional panoramic sunroof too. Another nice touch in this car is leather seats with colour-contrasting inserts and stitching – the seats aren’t exactly Lexus soft but are comfortable nonetheless. The interior feels very high quality and well-designed, so much so that it’s hard to believe that you can get this much equipment in a hatchback – most of these goodies belonged exclusively to luxury sedans and SUVs not too long ago.
As with many modern cars, this Cee’d is equipped with push-button ignition, and it also has a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (a six-speed manual is standard). The 1.6-litre engine produces 135hp and 164 Nm (120lb ft) of torque, giving it a 0-100km/h time of 10.8sec and a maximum speed of 195km/h. Three modes are available for driving: ECO, normal, or S (sport). ECO mode changes gear early in an attempt to get better fuel economy, and delays downshifts as well. Normal was my preferred setting for getting around – it gave just the right amount of throttle response, and the gear-changes are smooth and well-timed. Sport mode is good if you want to change gear manually – which you can do via steering paddles or the gear-shifter – however, if left to change on its own, it hangs on to lower gears for a very long time, and can even make the engine seem harsh when it actually works fine most of the time.
There’s a good amount of legroom for back seat passengers, and they also get extra vents for the air conditioning – which works brilliantly, quickly cooling down the cabin when parked for a long time under a hot summer sun. The steering is electrically assisted – it isn’t as light as you would expect at low speeds – and it strikes a good balance between heft and lightness. The ride quality is very well resolved, rough city surfaces and bumps gives little trouble to its fully-independent suspension – dare I say, it feels like half a Mercedes Benz.
You can get very good fuel economy with this car. If you’re on the highway and you drive gently and with the AC turned off, you can definitely match Kia’s 4.8l/100km highway claim – that was diesel territory not too long ago. Over a distance of 54km, the trip computer showed that I managed to get 5.0l/100km, had I gone a bit further I’m sure I would have matched Kia’s figure. However, getting that number also meant hovering around 100km/h, coasting whenever possible, and being as gentle as possible with the gas pedal.
A neat feature this Cee’d has was the optional Smart Parking system – which detects big-enough parallel parking spots and automatically adjusts the steering angle as you modulate the brakes. It works well enough, and is definitely useful for those who have difficulty moving around in the car, or for those who just have no parking skills whatsoever. A few tests showed that it gets the car in the allocated spaces well most of the time – I even took a video of the system in action.
Not too long ago, saying that you own a Kia would immediately conjure up images of uninspiring budget cars with equally dreary interiors, and the only reason why you would buy one was because it was cheap. But having spent nearly two weeks with the Cee’d, it no longer feels like an uninspiring budget car, especially with the new design and upgraded interior. You could argue that close to CHF 39,000 is expensive for a Kia, but it’s worth noting that a similarly-powered and equipped Ford Focus costs around CHF 42,000. Take that into account, plus the seven-year warranty, and you shouldn’t feel too guilty about opting for the new Cee’d.
By Alex Kisiri