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Kia Cee’d review (2012 onwards)
Summary - Kia builds on the virtues of its previous Cee'd success with a new all-rounder that scores many plus points.
We like - quality feel to the interior, comfortable seats, lack of noise, long warranty
We don't like - performance a little dull, Kia prices are creeping up
If you look at the latest sales figures, Kia is on something of a roll. While many of the major manufacturers are finding it increasing hard selling new cars, for Kia it is the opposite. That's helped by the raft of recent model changes.
In a period of 12 months the Picanto and Rio have been replaced by funky new designs, the Optima family saloon is introduced and now there's a new Cee'd.
The previous version of this compact family hatchback is the model that did it for Kia. A major step up in every area, and combined with some sharp pricing, the Cee'd put the Korean brand alongside all the big boys for the first time, with no excuses.
So the expectations are high for this all-new Cee'd. It's slightly bigger all-round, with some new engines that offer the possibility to get below the magic 100g/km CO2 figure that has so many tax advantages.
Kia isn't content with this though, and it has included a bucketful of technology that, a few years ago, you'd have never have dreamed of in a family car.
So the high-spec trim level driven here had cornering headlights, a heated steering wheel with no less than 14 controls mounted on it, steering that can be adjusted for weight, an electric parking brake, lane departure warnings, self parking, a panoramic roof and much more.
You will, of course, pay for this luxury and we suspect that more affordable Cee'ds will be the big sellers. This hatchback arrives in June, an estate in September and the three-door Pro_Cee'd early in 2013.
The 1.6 diesel in its most powerful form has 128hp, with it comes a somewhat split personality. Driven like we guess it will be used much of the time, it is smooth and refined for a diesel and particularly quiet.
The six-speed manual gearbox (there's also a traditional six-speed auto as an option) has an easy change which helps make the Cee'd whisk along in town and on open roads with almost serene progress.
Where it doesn't quite come together is on motorways. Sixth gear is extremely high - to aid economy - with the result that the engine has very little in the way of acceleration in this gear.
Swapping gears to fifth is a common requirement, sometimes fourth to give the car enough shove to maintain the right level of progress. It's rather tiresome.
The 1.6 petrol model gets the option of a new automatic transmission with a double-clutch system. A different technology to the diesel automatic, this DCT gearbox is more efficient to offer better economy. It comes with paddles mounted behind the wheel for manual shifting when you choose.
It works well enough, though objectively it is not as smooth or honed as you'd find in a VW or Ford. The real problem is that the 1.6 petrol engine is tuned more for power than torque, and as a result there's a lot of engine noise if you want to drive quickly.
Ride and handling
The new Cee'd, like virtually every new car launched these days, has electrically assisted power steering rather than hydraulic assistance that has been around for a century.
The advantage of electric power steering is that it consumes less power, so economy is improved. Kia, though, couldn't resist taking advantage of another possibility it offers, to vary the weight at the steering wheel.
So the Cee'd has a Normal setting, Comfort and Sport. There is some argument for the super-light steering that you get with Comfort, for the lazy and those simply with weak biceps.
But Sport just increases the rubbery feel of the steering and is pointless. It's a common illusion that making steering heavier makes it sportier. In fact the Cee'd is a long way from being a sporting drive whatever way you look at it.
That isn't necessarily a major criticism, because Kia buyers tend to have other priorities. The Cee'd handles well enough and rides reasonably smoothly, but there are rivals out there that do both better.
A strength of the original Cee'd, the new car's interior moves ahead in leaps and bounds and can genuinely be considered alongside an Audi for its perceived quality.
The dashboard makes extensive use of chrome highlights that veer, but only just, on the right side of tasteful. The switches and levers are finely detailed, as good as you get in a compact hatch.
There's more choice of seating colours and materials too, though it's unlikely all of the eight options will finally make it to the UK. The seats are well shaped and comfortable, a decent height from the floor both front and back.
There's a little more room inside, and the Kia can take four adults with ease. The full-length opening panoramic sunroof is a nice feature for those in the rear.
Boot space is up by 40 litres to 380 litres, but as importantly, the luggage area has a good, square shape and the floor is completely flat when the rear seats are folded down.
Economy and safety
The official figures for the diesel promise an average economy of 68.8mpg, an astonishing figure no doubt helped by the absurdly high gearing. Yet the test car computer showed close to 60mpg on the motorway, and the mid-forties in town, which is still excellent.
In terms of safety, the body is stronger than before, Kia says, notably for side impact protection. Six airbags are standard across the range. The previous Cee'd scored five stars in the EuroNCAP safety tests, but the new model has yet to be assessed.
The MSN Cars verdict
There's much to admire about the new Cee'd and we suspect it will hit the spot for many drivers. The interior is particularly appealing and as the interface between driver and car, that's important.
So too is the seven-year warranty. Yet the new Cee'd is not a five-star car. It needs a little more finesse in the tricky technical aspects that turn a good car into a great one. The Golf can rest awhile yet.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.4, 1.6|
|Engines, diesel||1.4, 1.6|
|Power, hp||90 - 135|
|Torque, lb ft||102 - 194 lb ft|
|0-62 mph, secs||13.5 - 9.9|
|Top speed, mph||106 - 123|
|Mpg combined||41.5 - 31.0|
|CO2, tax||97/13% - 138?17%|
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