Head or heart?

Road test: Kia Cee’d ’2′ 1.6 GDi

I have written before about Kia’s rapidly improving aesthetics and the new Cee’d is no exception. Its design is clean, current and the biggest criticism which could be levelled is that it is slightly bland. There’s a hint of Vauxhall Astra about its rear and Fiat Bravo in the front. Thankfully, it steers away from the awkward, crossing of the front and rear swage lines favoured at the moment and is easy on the eye.

Inside, this Kia retains its non-premium textures and finishes and on first glance, the dashboard design is a little old-hat. However, start to use the Cee’d and it’s clear there has been a great deal of thought gone in to some of the smaller aspects. Like the indicator and light stalks, for example. These are high-enough up (and the cut away in the steering wheel sufficiently large) to see the markings showing their operation. Even the grab handles on the doors just feel in the right place. There is sufficient information displayed at any one time to minimise polling through menus, instrumentation is easily readable and the action of switches and levers is positive. So what at first appears less than dynamic is actually simple, good design. My only criticism is with the A-pillars which curve inwards at the bottom, restricting the forward view slightly.

Little reward in hunting for the red line

The 1.6 petrol engine on this mid-spec Cee’d ’2′ is impressively smooth and quiet at low revs; in fact it isn’t always obvious that the start-start mechanism has cut the engine when at a standstill. However, smoothness is no indication of power delivery and despite a (just) sub 10 second 0-60 mph time, the engine is short on torque and becomes gruff when opened-up; there’s little reward in hunting for the red line.  Economy is average at 37.6 mpg over a mixed 400 miles.

Trim-wise, there are electric folding mirrors, USB connectivity, manual air-con and rear parking sensors – nothing to distinguish it from the competition on this mid-spec model but enough to make life easy. Seating isn’t the best, with the fixed lumber curve a little low and the cushions rather unyielding but I found an adequate (rather than comfortable) position with some fiddling.

In terms of handling, it’s actually rather good.

Ride and handling really are two discrete characteristics and the Cee’d does one slightly better than the other. Ride is a little agitated at side at low speeds but does eat-up some of the larger imperfections such as speed humps well, and feels fine at motorway speeds. In terms of handling, it’s actually rather good. I put it though the test on one of my favoured back roads with odd cambers and corners with varying radii and it hunkered-down and clung to the tarmac where lesser vehicles have twitched and bucked – due in part to its fully independent rear setup.  Steering feel is good, too, and well weighted in sport mode.

The Cee’d has some pretty stiff competition from the blue oval and flag-wielding griffon, both of which offer top products in this sector. It comes close though and although the engine isn’t as much fun nor the interior finish as pleasing, it’s still a good, well thought-out car. It might not stir the soul but if it is your head rather than heart choosing, add Kia’s seven-year warranty to the slightly lower list price and this makes it a good common-sense buy.

Kia Cee’d ‘2’ 1.6 GDi petrol, tested, costs £17,195 plus £445 for metalic paint

Power: 133 bhp (6,300 rpm), torque: 121 Nm (4,850 rpm), emissions: 124g/km CO2 (band D), 0-60 mph: 9.8 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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