"New Cee’d competes strongly on space, style and quality – plus Kia's excellent warranty."
The 2012 arrival of the current Kia Cee’d cemented the company's position as a true rival to the likes of Ford and Volkswagen. It's a stylish, spacious and comfortable family car with a quality interior and plenty of standard equipment. If you plump for one of the diesels it's impressively frugal, and while the Cee’d is geared for comfort rather than fun, it's also a pleasure to drive on long motorway journeys. There's the choice of a five-door hatchback with a huge boot, or the even more versatile SW Sportswagon estate. In 2013, the range was also joined by a sleek three-door Pro_Cee’d hatchback, while a quick Cee’d GT will be added later. The hot hatchback will take on the brilliant Ford Focus ST, producing 201bhp from a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
Unlike the Ford Focus and Mazda3, the Kia Cee’d has been engineered for comfort rather than fun behind the wheel. The steering is light and the suspension soft, making it a great long-distance cruiser and handy around town, but a bit uninspiring on a twisty back road. Higher spec cars get the option of a ‘Flex Steer’ system, giving the driver a choice of Sport, Comfort and Normal modes, but even the Sport option feels a bit lifeless and artificially heavy. Engine choices are geared for economy too, and if you go for the frugal 1.6-litre diesel, you’ll manage more than 76mpg. However, if you value an enjoyable drive you’d be better off with the well-rounded VW Golf – which manages to mix performance, comfort and economy in a way the Cee’d simply doesn’t.
Where the Kia falls down for driver enjoyment, it excels for its comfortable ride. The soft suspension does a great job of soaking up bumps and ruts, while the light steering makes driving around town a doddle. Thanks to the Cee’d's aerodynamic shape, the interior is relatively hushed from wind noise, and tyre roar is minimal, too. There's plenty of room for five occupants, thanks to lots of rear head and legroom, while various cubbyholes allow you to keep the cabin free from odds and ends. There's loads of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel so the driver should be able to find a setup to suit, and, thanks to a large glass area, the visibility is better than in a Hyundai i30.
Over the past decade, Kia has stormed up the rankings in terms of owner satisfaction, placing 12th in the 2012 Auto Express Driver Power survey. Question marks remain over the dealer experience, but all its products – including the Cee’d – feel well-built and solid to drive. Factor in the industry-leading seven-year warranty and you should feel reassured of the brand's confidence in its cars. All Cee’ds performed well in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, too, gaining a full five stars for occupant safety thanks to a range of airbags and plenty of clever technology. All cars come with stability control, ABS, hill-start assist and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points.
If plenty of space is top of your shopping list then the Kia Cee’d is well worth a look. Practicality is one of the Kia's strong points - the 380-litre boot is 64 litres bigger than a Ford Focus and identical to that in a new VW Golf. Fold the rear seats flat, and you’ll get an even more practical 1,318-litre load area. There's plenty of room in the rear seats, too, with the generous dimensions giving lots of head and legroom – even behind a six-foot driver. There's good adjustment in the seats and steering wheel, so finding a comfortable position for longer journeys shouldn’t be problem, while the numerous cubbyholes and deep door bins will help keep the interior tidy.
Value for money
Unfortunately, Kia's bargain list prices are a thing of the past – the current Cee’d is only marginally more affordable than all its main competitors. However, factor in the extensive specs and an industry-leading seven-year warranty, and the brand's renowned value becomes apparent once again. Unlike on a Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus, discounts are rare, but even entry-level 1 models come with body-coloured bumpers and front fog lights. Mid-spec 2 and 3 cars add 16-inch alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, while top-spec 4 and 4 Tech models get leather seats and keyless entry. Factor in rock-bottom running costs and you’ve got one of the best value family cars for sale today.
The Kia Cee’d gets a wide range of economical petrol and diesel engines to choose from and although they aren’t particularly fast, they are relatively clean. If you do a lot of miles, the obvious choice would be the 1.6-litre CRDi Ecodynamics diesel, which will manage impressive mpg and emit less than 100g/km of CO2 – making it free from road-tax. The smaller 1.4 diesel offers no economy gains, and, given the very slight price advantage, it's best avoided. There's an automatic option, too, but it's only available on the 1.6-litre engines. Buy a Cee’d and you’ll be able to keep unexpected bills in check, thanks to pre-paid servicing plans and a comprehensive seven-year warranty – just be aware that resale prices won’t be as competitive as on a VW Golf or Audi A3.