The outgoing model is by no means an old car. It was introduced in 2007 and updated in 2009. But such is the pace of development at Kia that the new car is a significant step forward.
Closely related to the impressive Hyundai i30, the new Kia looks sharp and modern. The interior in particular is more contemporary than the old model’s. The finish looks more upmarket and everything you see and touch feels well screwed together. Some of the plastics on the lower dash and doors are rather hard and shiny, but the Cee’d is a world away from Kia’s past as a budget brand.
There’s plenty of space inside, too, although the rising window line and thick rear pillars mean rear-seat passengers feel rather hemmed in.
The driving experience has moved on significantly in the five years since the original Cee’d went on sale. Today’s car rides more comfortably, and the steering is more responsive either side of straight ahead. However, it’s still too numb and has an over-strong self-centring action. A Ford Focus or VW Golf is more fun.
Motorways rather than country roads play to the Cee’d’s strengths. Wind and road noise are kept in check and the car feels planted and secure – a good indication that the Kia should make a stable towcar.
Four engines will be available when the car reaches showrooms. Petrol buyers can choose between a 99bhp 1.4 and a 133bhp 1.6. I’ve driven the more powerful of the two, and found it disappointingly flat. It needs to be worked hard to get the car moving with any urgency and sounds strained at high revs. The shortage of mid-rev muscle means this engine won’t be well suited to towing.
The 1.6 CRDi, with 126bhp and 192lb.ft of torque, is a much better bet for caravanners. In fact, even if you’re considering the Cee’d as a second car which will never do any towing I’d recommend the diesel, as the extra pulling power makes it a much more relaxing car to drive than the 1.6 petrol. If you can believe the official figures it’s very economical, too, returning 74.3mpg on the combined cycle.
Buyers can also choose a 1.4 CRDI with 89bhp and 162lb.ft, although the less powerful engine doesn’t quite match the 1.6 CRDi’s economy figures.
Four specification levels are available, simply badged ’1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, and ‘4’. All cars come with air conditioning, front electric windows, stability control and six airbags, so there’s no need to buy one of the more expensive models to get respectable standard kit.
The 1.6 diesel’s kerbweight varies from 1375kg to 1499kg depending on the spec. The legal towing limit is 1500kg for the manual, dropping to 1300kg for the auto.
Prices start from £14,395. The 1.6 CRDi 2 – predicted to be the best-seller – costs £18,295. Kia has promised to lend us a car with a towball soon.