Kia cee'd 1.6CRDi LS

First things first, let’s get rid of the perky, pesky apostrophe from Kia’s latest entry into the hatchback market, the Kia cee’d. The grammatical abuse serves no purpose other than to annoy, so it's coming out. The Kia ceed; there, that’s better.

The ceed rides the wave of a pivotal moment for Kia, as it represents the Korean company’s feet-first plunge into the European market, with a car specifically designed for us Euro drivers.

The design certainly reflects this – the ceed wouldn’t look out of place whipping through the scooter-riddled streets of Milan or around London lanes. There are design cues from all the family hatchback rivals – the Golf, the Focus, the Peugeot 307 and such like – which may detract from its individuality, but doesn’t diminish its appeal.

Traditionally Kia’s cars have been lower priced than their rivals at the expense of build quality and finish, but the ceed represents a huge leap in the right direction. Internally and out it looks and feels like a solid, well designed and well put together piece of kit. The strong lines and angles of the chassis give it a squat, muscular look, which makes it far more imposing than its size would suggest.

Inside, all the dials, knobs and switches are sturdy with rubberised finishes and sporty detailing. Layout and design is well thought-out too, with the exception of the Asian-throwback right-hand mounted indicator stalk and left-mounted windscreen wipers. The number of times I went to turn left, turned the wipers on instead of indicating and then had to avoid some irate motorist was annoying to the point of distraction.

There are plenty of gadgets to soothe the rage though. The FM stereo and CD player is punchy and powerful, with aux input for MP3 player hook up and USB port for playing portably stored tunes. Remote control from the steering wheel is a nice touch. Air con comes as standard and also cools the glove compartment to stop your choccy bars melting.

One of my main problems with hatchbacks is room – at 6ft 4in, driving usually involves getting my seat as far back as it will go and then cramming myself in any which way I can. This was true of the five-door ceed, but there was still just enough room to fit a passenger behind, and enough room for me to stretch my legs to the pedals. Headroom was equally good – i didn’t once hit my head navigating the maze of speed bumps that makes up Ealing’s suburbs.

The sportier nature of this model of ceed over the standard has led to a firmer, stiffer suspension, with mixed results. I personally enjoyed the ultra-firm ride as it meant little body roll through corners and good grip, making it great for city driving, but several passengers thought it was too harsh, bumpy even (my driving notwithstanding).

Matching the sportier suspension is the new 1.6 twin-cam 16-valve turbodiesel engine, which races the ceed from standing to 62mph in 11.4 seconds despite a flat spot in the low revs. Once it hits 3000rpm, the turbo kicks in and powers through the mid-range, it’s a smooth, swift run up to the 117mph top speed.

Verdict

The ceed is a great sporty interpretation of the revolutionary ceed model, cementing the ideals of great value for money and good quality with an amazingly slick, sporty driving experience.

It may not quite match the standards of the class leading models from VW and Ford, but thanks to its significantly lower price coupled with a great package – 7-year warranty, low insurance group – the ceed has announced Kia as a serious contender in the performance hatchback arena.

TECH SPECS: Kia cee’d
Engine: 1.6litre turbo diesel
Max power: 113bhp @ 4000rpm
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 11.4secs
Economy: 62.8mpg
Emissions: 119g/km