Crossovers and SUVs seem to be everywhere now, but despite their booming popularity the good old family hatchback is still going strong.
In Europe last year C-segment hatchbacks such as the Kia cee’d accounted for almost a quarter of all vehicle sales, and more than 335,000 cee’ds rolled out of Kia’s factory in Zilina, Slovakia to be shipped around the world.
That production dropped off this year as the plant geared up for the new version which is about to hit our shores.
Read more: Review: 2018 Ford Focus
Abandoning the pretentious punctuation, the cee’d has become the Ceed and is all-new from the ground up. It brings new engines, more tech and, says Kia, a more sporty, dynamic experience.
It’s an important car but, truth be told, not a massively exciting one. The last model sold well because it was a good value, sensible family car and this new model will do exactly the same.
The looks – sharper, lower and wider – are a positive evolution of the old car, but follow a mainstream hatchback template. Put it this way, it’s not going to scare off potential buyers the way a Citroen Cactus might.
Kia Ceed 2 CRDi
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 118mph
The drive, too is exactly what most buyers of a C-segment hatchback will want. In setting up the new chassis, Kia concentrated on making it suit European roads. The press pack is full of words such as agile, immediate, dynamism. But it also talks about “relaxed and safe family motoring” and that’s the real focus. New independent rear suspension and revised dampers etc may make the Ceed more direct than the cee’d, but its strength is a smooth, stable and reassuring drive rather than hot hatch levels of involvement.
At launch, the new Ceed comes with a choice of two petrol and one diesel engine. The 118bhp 1.0-litre petrol already used in the Stonic and Rio appears alongside a brand-new turbocharged 1.4 with 138bhp. The 1.4 replaces the previous car’s 1.6 and offers more power and lower emissions. It’s a smooth, quiet unit but, particularly at low speeds, needs a heavy right foot to stir it into action.
The Ceed’s diesel engine has also been replaced with an all-new version designed to exceed the latest Euro emissions standards. The 1.6 “U3” puts out an adequate 114bhp backed up with 207lb/ft of torque. Official figures put its economy at 74.3mpg but on a two-hour 79-mile cross-country drive, our test car showed an astonishing 82.8mpg. The price you pay for that is unusually long gearing that means you’ll still be in third at 30mph and sixth is exclusively for motorway work. Like the petrol, it’s refined and unobtrusive unless really overworked.
All three engines come as standard with an easy-going six-speed manual gearbox. A seven-speed dual-clutch auto is optional with the two new engines. Higher-grade autos can also be specified with drive mode select offering sport or normal settings for steering, gearbox and engine.
Kia used to have the best trim naming convention in the business – running from 1 to 4. With the Ceed, though, it has confused matters. There are four trims, starting with the 2 then the Blue Edition, 3 and First Edition.
For a lot of buyers the basic 2, which starts at £18,295 will offer everything they’ll need. Advanced safety kit such as lane keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, high beam assist and driver attention warning is standard across the range. Base models also gets a seven-inch touchscreen with DAB, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, reversing camera, cruise control, air con and alloys.
The presence of smartphone pairing means the lack of navigation isn’t a problem, but if you’re desperate for an inbuilt system, the 3 and up add that to a larger eight-inch screen. They also get bigger wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone air con and other nonessential but welcome features.
Kia say the Ceed is the most high-tech car in its class. Ford might argue with that but there’s definitely a heap of the latest driver assistance and convenience systems on offer.
The First Edition packs in everything from keyless entry and ventilated seats to leather upholstery, parking assist, smart cruise control and traffic jam help in the form of lane follow assist. It looks and feels high end, but it also costs just shy of £26,000 – within a whisker of the Ford Focus Vignale.
Whether you go for the leather-filled First Edition or entry-level 2, the new interior is a clear step above the second-generation car. In both look and feel it has improved, but it’s smart and functional rather than fancy. A new touchscreen is a neater fit than the unit in other Kias. Mounting the buttons under rather than around the sides gives a cleaner look, but the the whole centre console is a bit of a button fest, especially compared with the newly pared-back Focus.
For the moment the Ceed is available only as a five-door hatchback. An estate will follow soon, with various other “exciting derivatives” coming over the next 18 months.
Some cars grab you by the throat and demand your attention. The Ceed isn’t one of them. But not all cars are designed for out-and-out petrolheads, most are designed for people who want a reliable, economical, well-built and well-equipped means of getting from A to B. And the Ceed ticks all those boxes.