Feb 6 2010 Patrick James
Kia cee'd 1.6 CRDi 2 EcoDynamic
KIA's amazing sales success story just gets better and better and its impressive hatchback the cee'd is leading the way.
The Korean car maker has notched record after record, but even after achieving this feat, it appears it still has some work to do get established as a household name.
Overhearing a conversation in a Renault dealership which had just taken on a Kia franchise as well, a couple who were purchasing a French car were pretty much oblivious to the Kia name, asking who the company was and where they came from.
They are perhaps in a small minority as sales figures show more than 17,000 British customers have purchased the cee'd alone.
The lack of recognition is even more strange when the company has a couple of unique selling points like the cast-iron seven-year warranty and some memorable, if puzzling model names, including the cee'd.
Where the name comes from is anyone's guess, but this compact family car has taken Kia to another level - from cheap, but not very cheerful to high-quality and competitive value.
The cee'd has been around since 2006 and the latest car gives even market leaders like the Ford Focus and VW Golf something to think about.
It offers potential buyers value and reliability, if still only slightly lagging behind the quality of those rivals. But crucially, it also lags behind with the price, undercutting its rivals by thousands in some cases.
Starting at £11,895 the cee'd is a well manufactured car that offers good levels of equipment with impressive engines and gearboxes.
The interior fittings and plastic have more in common with American cars rather than European with the harsh plastics and fittings, which are nevertheless hard-wearing and utilitarian and designed to last.
Exterior styling is very much in the mould of European competitors. Hardly award-winning, but not ugly either with some neat styling revisions, while the interior is light, airy and comfortable, defying the bargain price tag.
It offers excellent head and legroom with four occupants seated in comfort, although a fifth person would be a bit of a squeeze.
Dials and instrumentations are clear and simple, while control stalks (now, thankfully on the correct side) are handily placed and easy to use.
Seats are comfortable and look hard wearing and the whole interior feels well engineered.
The EcoDynamics test model is powered by an extremely economical 1.6-litre diesel engine that feature stop/start technology for even better fuel economy.
Called Intelligent Stop Go or ISG, it switches the engine off when the car comes to rest at traffic lights for instance, and then starts again when the clutch is depressed.
Claimed official economy figures are 67mpg while CO2 emissions of 110g/km make it eligible for the lowest level of road tax and attracts a 13 per cent company car tax figure.
EcoDynamics is the umbrella for Kia's fuel-saving, emissions-reducing technologies which will eventually be expanded to include hybrids, electric cars and fuel-cells.
The 89bhp engine isn't the quietest and there is a fair amount of clatter on start-up, but once under way it quietens down and is a refined cruiser on the motorway.
The six-speed gearbox is precise and easy to use and the handling feel taught, and agile thanks to suspension upgrades and stability control system.
The steering is on the light side, which many, particularly women prefer, especially when parking, while the ride is firm, but comfortable.
Boot space is competitive with 340 litres while the split rear seats offer extra stowage space, up to 1,300 litres.
Standard kit is comprehensive and includes the usual electric gizmos like air con, electric windows and door mirrors and added safety gear like ABS front and side airbags. Other features include assisted hill start.
Prices of the revised cee'd start at £11,895. There is a £1,300 increment between each trim grade and a £1,000 premium to move from a petrol engine to a diesel or manual transmission to automatic.
The cee'd is a fine car and is catching up rapidly with its European competitors, while it has already overtaken some.
Kia cee'd 1.6 CRDi 2 EcoDynamic
Mechanical: 89bhp, 1,582cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 107mph
0-62mph: 13.5 seconds
Combined mpg: 67.2
Insurance group: 5
CO2 emissions: 110g/km
BIK rating: 13%
Warranty: 7yrs/ 100,000 miles