Road test: Kia grows reputation with Cee’d

SWITZERLAND, and the rain that has been bouncing off the Alps since the moment we arrived shows no signs of relenting. My Michelin map tells me I’m already 1,500 feet above Lake Geneva’s shoreline, but instinct tells me to seek refuge on still higher ground until the storm abates. Normally in this situation, you’d long for an expedition-ready Land Rover, a Dakar-rally prepped truck – an ark, even – to see you right in the flood. What I’ve got is the second-generation Kia Cee’d, which goes on sale in the UK today.

Now, the Cee’d has many endearing qualities – a sharp new look, a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines, stacks of creature comforts and Kia’s wonderful seven-year warranty – but the owner’s manual mentions nothing about where the lifejackets are stowed, or whether the Cee’d can right itself after a capsize. So, with thoughts of Lake Geneva’s waves snapping at my heels, I take to the hills, stopping only when the road peters out a few hundred yards short of the summit.

On a sunny day, I’d be fighting tourist traffic for the best view of the lake far below. Today, there’s only me, some clouds and a friendly cow, who is oblivious to the fact that she’s breathing grassy breath all over one of the first Cee’ds to feature Kia’s new twin-clutch automatic gearbox with flappy paddle shifters. With a flick of her ear, she sends a dollop of rainwater right into the lens of my camera and retreats to join the rest of her herd underneath a tree.

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The original Cee’d burst on to the scene just five years ago and confirmed the Korean manufacturer’s entry into the mainstream but, so frequently has Kia updated its range since then that it was already beginning to look like the frumpy sister of the family. So, before the warranty has even expired on those first cars, the second version is here.

Out go sober lines, in comes a sleeker look. Engines are petrols and diesels in 1.4 and 1.6-litre flavours, and the Cee’d comes in four trim grades – named 1, 2, 3 and 4. Well, four and a bit trim grades, actually – there’s the option of a 4 Tech version right at the top of the range, which is the car you see here. It gains a panoramic sunroof, ten-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, parallel parking assist, a lane departure warning system should you feel drowsy after gorging on too many Toblerones, and xenon adaptive front lights.

Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to a range-topper, you won’t feel like a pauper. All Cee’ds feature electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and a height-adjustable driver’s seat, air conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted controls, front electric windows, projection headlights, daytime running lights, remote central locking, a cooled glovebox, a flat-folding 60:40 split rear seat, ambient front lighting, an iPod-compatible audio system with radio and CD player, USB port and Bluetooth connectivity, six airbags and speed-sensitive auto door locking.

If the 1.6-litre petrol Cee’d with the flappy paddles and smooth-shifting twin-clutch set-up is a showcase for Kia technology, it’s the 1.6 diesel, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, that’s the more appealing prospect to the everyday punter. It’s only slightly less powerful than the petrol engine but, more importantly, offers much more torque, which is handy if your commute involves crossing the Alps or just ambling along in the fast lane of the motorway.

A 100-mile drive from the airport to the hotel confirmed what a good all-rounder this engine is. It’s quiet, smooth and was never found wanting for pace on the motorway but, best of all, returned 60 out of a promised 74mpg on a route that included some roller-coaster cross-country sections.

The first Cee’d was good. This one’s better. About the only thing it’s still guilty of is crime against punctuation.


CAR Kia Cee’d range

PRICE £14,220-£23,620

PERFORMANCE Max speed 106-122mph; 0-60 9.8-13.0secs

MPG (combined) 46.3-76.3

CO2 EMISSIONS 97-145g/km