With SUVs flying off forecourts, it's little surprise that we're seeing more and more models reaching into this appealing space. Kia already has a healthy selection of SUVs - the Niro, Sportage, Stonic - but with the XCeed it has given the SUV treatment to its Ceed hatchback.
It's convenient when it comes to naming. Sticking an "X" in front of Ceed not only neatly indicates that it's a crossover, but also forms a real word (phonetically, anyway), which the original Cee'd name never did. Nomenclature aside, is this a recipe that also makes for a great car?
A sportier design
With a number of models to choose from in the SUV space, the XCeed gives Kia the opportunity to focus on creating something a little different. The crossover space is great for that. The advantage on the road is better visibility and a slightly greater ground clearance, not that any of these models ever have any ambition of driving over anything rougher than a typical potholed suburban street.
While the underpinnings of the XCeed are the same as the Ceed hatchback, this model is slightly longer, with that tigershark grille looking sporty and meaningful. There's appreciable chunk to the looks of the XCeed, too, largely thanks to the cladding on the wheel arches.
It's designed to give the impression of athleticism and some of the cunning lines pull that off nicely, resulting in a car that looks better than the Ceed from which it has evolved. It might divide opinion, it might also be seen as too much of a halfway house - why not go the whole hog like the Nissan Juke and make something more unique?
It's a little longer than the regular Ceed, sitting on 16- or 18-inch wheels, and available in 12 different colours. As is often the case for Kia, the trim level is kept simple: there's the 2 (pictured here in silver), the 3 or the First Edition. Either choice makes little difference to the exterior appearance, the former two getting the smaller wheels, the First Edition getting larger wheels and a range of interior upgrades.
It's a Ceed interior
Slip inside and the big difference that the trim levels bring is in terms of the technology. The 2 gets an 8-inch display, while the 3 and First Edition get a 10.25-inch centre display. The First Edition also gets a 12.3-inch digital driver display, which Kia is calling Supervision. Tee-hee - yes, we laughed as well.
The First Edition also gets some colour highlights on the interior - which is essentially the same as the normal Ceed - matching the exterior colour on the yellow model pictured here, along with some yellow stitching to set things off nicely. Kia's First Editions often pile in the options for a compelling price, basically giving you everything while these limited editions are available.
There's some harder plastics inside as you'll often find at this sort of positioning, which means it doesn't always have the quality of the premium sector, it does mean affordability. But even back down at the 2 trim, you get some sporty and nicely supportive seats, with plenty of side support to stop you rolling around should you hit those corners faster than you intended. The adjustment of said seats is manual until you get to First Edition levels, where it's electronic, but that's a luxury we're not so bothered about.
From the driver's seat the layout is pretty good, too, with most of the interior controls curved around you. However, some - in classic Kia style - are a little out of reach, hidden behind the steering wheel. Out of sight and out of mind, it's here you'll find the button to turn off the lane keep assistant, which is pretty much essential when driving on urban roads when you're frequently straddling lanes, or it will buzz and complain that you're exiting your lane.
The boot offers up space that's typical for a hatchback - opting for a fastback design means there's a mite less room (at 426 litres) than if it was more of a hatched tailgate. If you want more space, you might want the ProCeed instead.
What's interesting about the boot is that Kia has put the space saver spare wheel in the floor - great! - but then lifted the boot floor pretty high to accommodate it. We suspect the reason is to accommodate the full-sized wheel, but it does mean that it seems to cut into the boot capacity.
The second row of seats is comfortable enough and in our quick tests we determined that it was spacious enough for adults or kids - and we suspect that for this type of car the backrow occupants will be the 2.4 kids.
Let's talk about the tech
We mentioned that there are two display sizes available. Both are touchscreen and the user interface is pretty much the same, although you get more functions as you step-up through the models. The 3 and the First Edition both get satnav, while the 2 doesn't; but everything supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, meaning that streaming media and mapping can easily be provided by your phone.
The interface that Kia offers on the XCeed is similar to other models and we have the same criticism here that we do elsewhere - it's a little basic, visually, and while it covers most of the important areas and doesn't take too long to figure out what to do, it does feel a little dated. It's the sort of system you want to connect your phone to so it's nicer to use.
The larger screen looks like it's better quality, but once you connect a phone you might end up with some dead space at one end, which we found with Android. So from a connectivity and tech perspective, again, we're not sure you need to move up to the higher trim levels unless there's something you specifically want at that level - like the push-to-start button.
The First Edition has another tech element: that 12.3-inch Supervision display (pictured below). This ditches the dials for an entirely digital result. It's nice enough, but the information it displays is essentially the same as the analogue dials (only reversed, bizarrely), with the only freeform area in the centre. In some ways, although it's a tech upgrade, it doesn't feel like Kia has really done anything special with it.
Once again, the base level of spec is great - Bluetooth, that smartphone connectivity we mentioned, reversing camera, cruise control, DAB radio and a whole load of safety tech too - meaning that even the lower-spec trims have increased appeal.
On the road
The Kia XCeed actually drives rather nicely. Suited to its sporty aims, it feels nicely planted, firm enough on the road not to wallow, and brings the advantage of not riding as high as some SUVs. It also manages to soak up some road bumps pretty well, as we found on the A and B roads we tested it on, making for a comfortable ride.
It's a little noisy, however, and you can hear the engine revving away, especially the smallest 1-litre turbocharged petrol. This you do have to rev a little higher to get it to pull satisfactorily, but there's enough power to keep things moving on the flat. There is actually a nice little purr to it, but the 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds isn't going to win any races. The sporty side of this car doesn't really extend to the performance in that sense.
Paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox it's an easy and smooth ride, but you will be shifting gears regularly when meeting more demanding routes - otherwise this little engine will run out of steam.
Through mixed driving we were averaging over 40mpg without really trying. But it will struggle when the hills arrive and when loaded, meaning you'll lose some of that economy in such ongoing scenarios. Emissions are clocked at 124g/km.
We suspect the more popular option will be the 1.6-litre diesel which, while not offering increased pace, gives you greater torque and power which you can really feel up the hills. If you're going to load up your car and head over the hills, this will be the model that you want. It also offers greater efficiency and we hit 50mpg easily enough, with Kia saying it will return 60mpg, along with 116g/km.
There is a fairy smooth 7-speed automatic too, which we tested with the 1.4-litre petrol on the First Edition. This engine has a little more poke, a faster 0-60mph speed of 9.2 seconds, but it's not quite as efficient and emissions sit at 134g/km.
While those are the options available right now, the Kia XCeed will also be offered as a plug-in hybrid. This will pair a 1.6-litre petrol with a 44.5kW motor for a combined output of 139bhp - although it's a little slower than the 1.4 petrol, probably due to the increased weight. The 8.4kWh battery aims for 60km of electric range (37 miles), which sounds a little ambitious to us - but we were impressed by the e-Niro's efficiency, so perhaps Kia will pull it off.
For our money, we'd probably choose the 1.4 petrol manual on trim 2, which comes in at £20,795. Unfortunately the only zero cost paint colour for that model is brown (well, Copper Stone, but it's definitely brown), so add on £570 so you don't want a brown car. And Kia's advantages all remain - loads of tech, lots for your money and a huge warranty.
Where the Kia XCeed might succeed is in offering some of those SUV feels and features without the bulk - it's certainly compact for this category. At the same time there's so much, ahem, crossover in Kia's models, where you could buy a Sportage or a high-level Stonic for the same sort of price - so the XCeed basically slots into the middle.
Overall, there's plenty of appeal in the Kia XCeed, a car where you don't have to spend a lot to get essential tech extras. It gives you that higher ride height without too much sacrifice in the drive, and will attract those who want to join the SUV revolution without feeling like they are driving an overpriced off-roader.
Nissan claims that the Juke invented this segment of crossover car. While the original had distinctive looks, the slightly subtler 2019 version has wider appeal. It's higher than the XCeed and a little smaller, but it does start at a cheaper starting point. It only has the one engine choice, however, and you don't get as much kit as standard.
VW has a blistering array of SUVs, but the T-Cross slips into a compact space. It rides high, but it's a softroader at heart. What you get is a great blend of VW quality with practicality and what emerges is a really appealing little crossover.