A quick look at any car forecourt these days tells you that SUVs and crossovers are flavour of the month.
Since the launch of the Nissan Qashqai back in 2006 soft-roaders have gradually replaced hatchbacks as the car of choice for many families.
But there are enough buyers out looking for more traditional models to make it worth manufacturers’ while to persevere with the C-segment hatchback.
The last couple of years have seen a number of the major models in this segment either refreshed or completely relaunched, including the Ford Focus, VW Golf, Toyota Corolla, Vauxhall Astra and this, the Kia Ceed.
Like the Focus, Golf and Corolla, the latest changes to the Ceed have been major, from the chassis up.
While all the development and updating has significantly improved the Ceed over the old cee’d, it is still not a remarkable car. From the outside it looks like a host of other five-door family hatchbacks and inside it’s similarly straightforward, functional and unshowy.
Everything looks and feels of a quality that Kia could only dream of 10 years ago and it’s easily a match for Ford’s current Focus and better than the ageing Vauxhall Astra. It’s still not quite the equal of the evergreen VW Golf or stylish Mazda 3, though.
The most remarkable thing about the Ceed is its economy. Even in supposedly frugal cars I generally struggle to see much more than 50mpg on my commute, which involves rural A roads and city centre streets. The 1.6-litre diesel in the Ceed, however, managed between 58 and 66mpg on the daily 60-mile run. A brief slog along the M8 even saw the short-term economy hit more than 70mpg.
It’s not a fluke either. On the launch in late 2018 our test car returned a ridiculous 82mpg over just shy of 100 miles.
While the engine betrays its diesel nature at times it’s generally a pretty quiet and smooth operator and its 114bhp and 207lb/ft provide adequate performance for a family hatchback.
The driving experience is also perfectly adequate for a family car. It still isn’t up to the level of the imperious Ford Focus but neither is it an embarrassment and few drivers are going to ask too much of it in daily use.
Our entry-level test car came on 16-inch alloys and relatively high-profile tyres which might not help the handling but made it far more comfortable than the many cars that run around on big wheels and skinny rubber despite claiming to be family-friendly transport.
The Ceed comes in four trim levels, starting with the tested ‘2’ specification. At £20,165 it goes toe-to-toe with the less powerful Ford Focus Style but chucks some goodies you won’t find on the Ford. A seven-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Carplay tops the Ford’s DAB radio with Bluetooth, and a reversing camera and cruise control are also present on the Ceed but not the Focus.
The Ceed also gets a suite of safety tech, with lane keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, high beam assist and driver attention warning standard on every model.
At the end of the day the Ceed’s appeal is perhaps still not a match for the segment leaders. The Golf’s interior is still superior, the Focus continues to set the bar for driving feel and the new Corolla shows Toyota has upped is game. But the Ceed is closer than ever and makes a strong argument for itself in terms of quality, value and running costs.
Kia Ceed 2
Price: £20,165; Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, diesel; Power: 114bhp; Torque: 207lb/ft; Transmission: Six-speed manual; Top speed: 118mph; 0-62mph: 10.6 seconds; Economy: 60.1mpg; CO2 emissions: 122g/km