KIA has thoroughly rejigged its “cee’d” and dropped the silly apostrophe and now calls it Ceed. That’s an acronym to do with the European community because the five-door hatchback and estate are conceived by Kia Frankfurt and built, alongside the cute Sportage SUV and the less cute Venga, in a modern factory at Zilina, Slovakia.
We were taken there to drive the all-new Ceed hatchback up into the glorious High Tatra mountains, lodging in immense style at the Kempinski in Štrbské Pleso, then back down the next day. The short runway needed so much oomph that our jet had to refuel at Leipzig.
We went up the hill in a Ceed with the new 114bhp 1.6 diesel. We came down with the new 138bhp 1.4 petrol engine. The climb recorded 54mpg. The descent averaged 52mpg. Over matching terrain the diesel would have gained in economy and reduced CO2. Official figures are 74.3mpg and 99g for the diesel and 48.7mpg and 132g for the petrol. A 118bhp one-litre petrol turbo engine rated at 52.3mpg and 122g is also offered. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is an option on the larger engines.
Both engines were smooth and quiet – though the return route was undemanding of the petrol motor.
The new body is lower and wider. The windows are shallower, the bonnet front is higher so in some ways the old Mk2 model was more functional yet looked sportier.
The Ceed hatchback comes in four trim lines for the UK, with a lower and cheaper level available elsewhere. UK cars start with a well-specced grade 2 (£18,295 with the one-litre engine or £19,546 with the diesel). The better-equipped 1.4 Blue Edition brings navigation at £21,095 or automatic at £22,195. Grade 3 offers all three engines and both transmissions. Prices are £20,705 for the 1.0; £21,505 for the 1.4 (£22,605 automatic); £21,955 for the diesel (£23,055 automatic). The top First Edition is only with the 1.4 (£25,570 or £26,850 for the automatic). Prices for the estate are awaited.
The level 2 Ceed has all you need, other than built-in navigation and the option of the 1.4 petrol engine. You get a reversing camera with guide lines, cruise control with a speed limiter, AC, power windows front and back, smartphone connection through which you can get navigation. Safety kit includes lane-keeping help and mitigation of a frontal collision. Alloys are 16s.
The Ceed seems to have been tested thoroughly in its development, including high speed handling assessment on the Nurburgring. Of course it’s a family car not a racer and the mix of surfaces in Slovakia suggested that on British roads it shouldn’t have any nasty surprises.
Verdict: Another refined contender for private buyers, with the seven-year warranty as a sweetener.
In the mountains there was a chance to try the latest Sportage with Kia’s hybrid/diesel unit. The hybrid is a mild system, with 48 volt input for starting the car and assist with acceleration. It cuts CO2 by several percent and costs from £32,545 with automatic gears and 4x4 drive. On test I recorded 29mpg on a one-hour loop. Others reached 34mpg. Kia suggested the hills were responsible for the thirst – but inclines were matched by battery-boosting declines.
Dubbed the 48v, the hybrid is a player in a revised Sportage range, from £20,305 as a 2x4 with the 130bhp 1.6 petrol engine.
Kia is doing well enough. It ranks number four in sales in Europe with its partner Hyundai (producing cars in the Czech Republic), shifting 7.2 million vehicles a year. The UK is its second market after Russia, with 14pc and 18pc respectively. Slovakians already make cars for Peugeot, Citroen, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and SEAT. Land Rover is moving production of its Discovery to a factory near Bratislava. It is mooted to build the next Defender there, a model for which I am so tired of waiting.
Kia’s flagship is the South Korean-built Sorento, dating from 2002 as a budget contender and transformed in subsequent generations into a reasonably refined SUV, ideal for caravanning and sub-Audi people carrying. This year the 2015 Mk3 Sorento had some mild updates but it is hard to notice the visual changes unless you are a Sorento follower. Here, the seven-seater interior is now standard, for which the £30,000 KX-1 is a family bargain, with all-wheel-drive, Bluetooth, AC, cruise control and smartphone interaction. The main changes this year have been the introduction of cosmetically sportier GT-Line and GT-Line S versions and a more economical automatic gearbox with eight speeds – available from KX-2 grade at £35,025. All versions use the 2.2 litre, four cylinder turbo diesel giving 197bhp and 325 lb ft. The 0-62mph time is around nine seconds. The top-price GT-Line S automatic tested had a quoted 43.5mpg and 170g of CO2. On test it returned 37mpg to 41 mpg touring. At £42,325 it is in the price field of quality premium models – many are larger – but they can’t match its equipment level nor its seven-year warranty.
Verdict: South Korean-built all-rounder with value appeal.