Kia Cee'd (2012)

Building on what made the original model a success, the 2012 Kia Cee’d is an all-new motor with enough clout to keep it in check with the other big-boy car markers.

The Korean manufacturer might have a reputation for practical, sensible vehicles, but the latest European-designed Cee’d is a battering ram of design to the brain. It looks elegant, stylish, desirable – all those things you probably never thought you’d say about a Kia. And all those things that could notch it up your purchase list, most likely sandwiched neatly between the VW Golf and Ford Focus.

Not only that but it’s also a competitively priced motor and comes with the same seven-year warranty as its predecessor. Kia hasn’t entirely dropped its sensible front then, but this is sensible where it counts.

The tech

What you get for the cash will vary depending on the configuration you choose. Kia’s four-fold trim grade system ranges from 1 through to 4 – the 1.6-litre GDI 6-speed manual ISG petrol and diesel models we drove for this test were both "2" cars, anticipated to retail for £16,295 a piece. At the top of the stack there’s the dual-clutch transmission 1.6-litre "4 Tech" that will cost just a shade under £25,000.

In real terms the grade 2 cars mean (take a deep breath): 16-inch alloy wheels; LED daytime running lights; electronic mirrors and windows; leather trim on the wheel, gearshift and handbrake; cruise control and Flex Steer with comfort, normal and sport modes.

The audio system may have been upgraded compared to its predecessor, but the sound is pretty standard fare. The CD player as a whole is borderline on its deathbed, so the inclusion of a USB socket is much welcome for download fans. There’s even 600MB of memory within the radio.

All-new design

The 2012 model is also quite the looker. Almost coupe-like in style, this hatchback looks a little BMW in its headlights, has a body akin to a Ford Focus lovechild, and a rear rather like a Seat. Yet it’s no cut and shut job and pulls everything together with all swooping, smooth lines and curves. Very easy on the eye and far more European-looking than its boggle-eyed-headlights predecessor.

Sit in the driver’s seat and the dash lights up brightly with its speedometer and fuel gauge. The dash is a sturdy build, and while not desperately exciting it’s a decent finish for the price point.

Legroom in the back isn’t extensive, but this could easily be a car for a young family – not least because full front and side passenger and driver airbags make this a safe ride and the boot has a decent 380 litres capacity too.

How it drives

But fill that boot up at your peril. The 1.6-litre engine (both petrol and diesel options) that we drove were a little sluggish when it came to zipping away. Added weight doesn’t help.

The six-speed gearbox changes up smoothly enough, but the shift between second and third will leave much to be desired. It just needs some more welly. The Swiss mountains that we drove around were cause for plenty of downshifting to keep the car cruising uphill. Neither petrol nor diesel ever felt quite “comfortable” in the lower gears, though the smooth motorway routes were just that: smooth.

But it’s not just speed that we’re looking at. If a quiet ride is what you’re after in a comfortable car then the Cee’d 2012 delivers aplenty. Efficiency, too, is impressive: CO2 emissions of 97g/km make for lower running costs which, as anyone who’s had the misfortune to purchase petrol in the UK recently will know, is an important factor. The diesel’s CRDi engine is tuned for higher torque than its GDI petrol equivalent, while both models share the instant start-stop (ISG) system for further enhanced economy.

The aforementioned "flex steer" is controlled via a toggle on the steering wheel, though we found the "sport" mode to be a little heavy. Trying to crowbar in some "sporty" elements may sound attractive on paper, but the latest Cee’d feels far from a sporty motor.

Verdict

It’s a tad difficult to get super-excited about the 2012 Kia Cee’d, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of great things to find here.

It’s a little pricier than its predecessor, but it looks oh so much better – all stylish angles with a bit of held-back anger thanks to those elongated headlights. The interior is of a decent spec too, in particular when considering the price point.

But good looks are met with only an average performance. Mute is the word: while quiet and smooth on the road - and this is one efficient motor - there’s just not much kick when jumping between the gears. Not a huge problem for commuting or comfortable driving, but performance car this isn’t.

But the 2012 Cee’d’s big sell is still that seven-year warranty. That makes almost any new car worth buying, and here it’s a mega plus point that really pushes the score up a notch.

There’s plenty of competition out there worth looking at, but the Kia Cee'd 2012 is a model well worth a look-in. It’s a practical, nay sensible, car dressed up with good looks that will appeal to families, businesses, young drivers and more. It might not be all that exciting, but it's a versatile mid-sized hatchback if we ever saw one.