It’s funny, the things you latch onto about a new car.
Take the Kia XCeed with which I spent lockdown. There’s much to like - its bold looks, eye-catching and comfortable interior, generous equipment - but what proved to be the highlight for me was the hands-free, gesture-free powered tailgate.
You might think it’s an unnecessary frippery but every time I staggered back from the supermarket, laden with bags, to find the boot springing open at my approach I gave thanks to the Korean god of car specification.
It’s just one feature that cements my opinion that the XCeed is the best of the Ceed range.
Positioned between the regular Ceed and the larger Sportage, the XCeed is a crossover in a similar vein to the “SUV-inspired” Ford Focus Active or Toyota Corolla Trek. However, unlike those, which are jacked-up and body-clad versions of standard estates, the XCeed’s body is completely different from the standard Ceed Sportwagon. There’s a clear similarity with others in the range but in keeping with the crossover vibe, the XCeed is a bit chunkier, a bit more aggressive and a bit more rugged.
The XCeed is also a little larger in every direction - offering decent passenger space and a larger boot than regular Ceeds (although not as big as the Ford or Toyota’s). But beneath the bodywork (an eye-catching Quantum Yellow on our test car) it is largely indistinguishable from the standard car. That means for all its tough posturing, this is a strictly two-wheel-drive affair and while the suspension is a little taller than a standard Ceed it’s still more for show than any genuine rough road use.
As well as bringing added ride height, the XCeed’s suspension is softer than the regular hatchback’s, supposedly for a more comfortable SUV-like ride. Our test car never quite achieved that brief. At higher speeds it is less noticeable but around town there is a jiggle to the ride that never fully goes away. It’s possible that is down to our top spec model’s 18-inch alloys as previous examples on smaller wheels have felt more settled.
The softer setup at least doesn’t come at the expense of body control, with composed handling more like a standard estate than any “real” SUV. Fittingly for a car in this class, it’s easygoing and pleasant to drive, with fairly light controls. The sport mode is fooling no-one with its big digital graphics and added steering weight, but ignore that and the XCeed will cover mile after mile in peace and quiet.
As befits a top-of-the-range First Edition, our car features the top-of-the-range 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine can sound a little raspy at times but it’s smooth, responsive and makes reasonably quick progress when needed. It also returns decent 40mpg+ economy and even short, economy-killing runs from cold fail to drag it below 30mpg.
Also befitting a top-of-the-range model is a specification list that runs to two sheets of A4 paper and will leave you wanting pretty much nothing. That clever tailgate aside, personal highlights include the heated seats for all, the panoramic roof, 10.25-inch internet-connected media/navigation screen and the suite of convenience and safety tech that ran the gamut from blind spot assist and automatic high beam operation to adaptive cruise control and forward collision avoidance assist.
The XCeed is part of a small but growing class of cars that hark back to older ideas of a crossover. With its taller, tougher looks but regular road car underpinnings, it’s a halfway house between a hatchback and an SUV. Personally, I prefer such things to the unnecessary bulk of a “proper” SUV and the XCeed can easily hold its own in the class, but only time will tell if there’s enough demand among the SUV-obsessed public.
Kia XCeed First Edition
Price: £29,195; Engine: 1.4-litre, turbo, petrol; Power: 138bhp; Torque: 178lb ft; Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; Top speed: 124mph; 0-60mph: 9.2 seconds; Economy: 40.4mpg; CO2 emissions: 134g/km