The third generation of lower-medium Kia hatch loses the apostrophe of previous cee’ds, but swaps it for new style, technology and driving appeal
On the road
On the road
The Ceed is Kia’s company car mainstay, a model historically designed to appeal to the job-need end of the fleets sector, which explains the surprisingly high proportion of SW estate models in the sales mix, as the archetypal service engineer deployment is a staple part of the car’s diet.
The new estate is due imminently, with a stylish shooting brake Proceed model following next year, but first to market is the five-door hatch. Kia is hoping for even bigger things from it this time around, thanks to improved driving dynamics, an “athletic” new design and new safety and driver-assistance systems.
Designed, engineered and built in Europe, the car is claimed to be new from the ground up, and is 20mm wider, 23mm lower and with a longer rear overhang than the outgoing model, with the successful intention of making it look a more purposeful and sportier car. The front has the wider Kia ‘tiger nose’ family face, and the design is sharper and more angular than the rounded previous model.
The Ceed launches with four trim levels, three different engines and six-speed manual or seven-speed auto, the latter adding £1100 to the cost. Not all come with each trim, so there are actually 11 different models to choose from.
Two of the engine options are petrol, in the form of the 118hp 1.0 GDI and the 138hp 1.4 GDI units. There is also a 114hp 1.6 diesel that’s predictably the most efficient engine in the line-up at 99g/km in the entry ‘2’ spec driven here, or 103g/km with the bigger wheels of the ‘3’ spec. The 118hp petrol gets as low as 122g/km, and the range’s most powerful model – for now at least – doesn’t get lower than 127g/km. Unlike in the diesel, the automatic is more efficient than the manual in the 138hp petrol.
What those figures mean is that any taxpaying company car driver will need to assess their mileage, because the more miles, the better bet the diesel is going to be. There’s not too much in it overall, with the base spec 118hp petrol being £2 per month cheaper than the diesel on benefit-in-kind tax for a lower-rate taxpayer, thanks to the Government’s punitive treatment of diesel, but there’s a 22.0mpg difference in fuel economy.
The trim levels run from the entry ‘2’,up to the Blue Edition, ‘3’ and top-spec First Edition models, the last of those being an all-singing all-dancing specced-with-everything sort of offering at considerable cost.
The 2 gets 16-inch alloys, seven-inch touchscreen and a reverse camera that is unfortunately in lieu of rear parking sensors.
It’s worth remembering when you’re going backwards that, unlike the rest of the model range that gets sensors as well, there won’t be any beeping to warn of impending impact, so keep your eyes peeled. Also included are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as is also the case on the Kia’s main rivals, something premium brands could certainly learn from, and an array of safety kit including Lane-Keeping Assist, High-Beam Assistant, Driver Attention Warning and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist. It’s a good list to have as standard on all Ceed models.
Go up by £2000 to the Blue Edition, and the wheels get an inch larger, while privacy glass, LED cornering headlights, electric folding heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors and a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen system are all added. The 3 spec is only another £410 and also brings auto wipers, powered lumbar support for the front seats, dual-zone climate control and LCD full colour dash display, although it doesn’t get the Blue Edition’s LED headlights and stainless steel pedals.
At the top of the range, a huge £4245 step from 3 to First Edition spec brings a car stacked with goodies that, generally speaking aren’t even offered on the other models, because Kia has kept the options list to the absolute minimum of basically just paint colour. It’s good from a simplicity point of view, but some users will be looking for a mid-spec model with the odd luxury such as heated seats, and that’s not possible with the Ceed.
The cabin will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with Kia, and although the brand claims to have taken inspiration from the interior of the Stinger grand tourer, it’s still not the most exciting of places, dominated by dark colours. Still, the quality is good, with soft-touch materials used across the top of the dashboard in particular, even on the entry model driven here. But on the flip-side, the steering wheel feels thinner and less chunky than it looks, and it’s a shame the armrest doesn’t slide. But there is a very good-sized bin under that armrest, as well as a useful spot for dropping phones and wallets into ahead of the gearlever. One other irritation, common among cars from Korea and Japan, is that the binging to remind about putting on a seatbelt begins before the engine is even on. For drivers who put the key in and turn on the ignition before reaching for the seatbelt, you’ll have been comprehensively binged at well before the engine is running. Which is annoying.
Rear space is adequate, likewise boot space of 395 litres, which is good, but massively beaten by the likes of the Honda Civic or Peugeot 308 if load-lugging is important. That said, the Ceed SW estate will tick that box anyway. The hatch’s boot floor is also adjustable, either offering a flat floor or dropping down for extra space.
One of the biggest steps forward is in the driving experience, where the Ceed, middling before, is now composed, sharp and fun to drive in a way Kias have never really managed before, apart from the big Stinger launched last year. While not necessarily toppling the Ford Focus in this trait, it’s much closer to the top of the class than it was before. And the more entertaining driving experience isn’t at the expense of ride quality, with the car still managing to act as a regular mile-munching hatchback, which is a primary function.
In our test experience, the 1.6 diesel seemed to be running closer to its official 74.3mpg than some of its rivals would manage, although it’s not the punchiest of units, as might be expected, given there’s only 114hp on tap. For now, the 138hp petrol is the only one offering drivers anything even remotely performance-orientated, although there are more potent versions on the way that should exploit the new-found chassis prowess.
Costs-wise, this entry spec Ceed undercuts its rivals such as the Ford Focus, Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra on price, while still lining up well in terms of standard equipment, and its residual value outpoints all of them. Emissions are below 100g/km, which is no mean feat in the post-WLTP era, but the new Focus is down below 95g/km.
Overall, the Ceed proves to have made some significant steps forward, mainly in the areas Kia declared were its targets. The more sporty design aligns with a better driving experience, and there’s plenty of standard safety kit, while everything from the interior quality to refinement and boot space are all stepped up over the old car. While it’s not a radical revolution, Kia’s recent success in both fleet and retail markets has proven that wasn’t necessary. The Ceed is simply improved in every way over its predecessor, and so is more competitive and appealing as a sensible company car purchase than ever before.
Kia’s Ceed is the car that launched the company’s seven-year warranty when it appeared in 2006, and more than 1.3m have come out of the Korean firm’s Slovakian factory since then.
The first generation, known as cee’d, has the apostrophe because the name stood for European Economic Community (CEE in some countries) with European Design, and as Ceeed would have had too many letters across the middle, the apostrophe was added. It stayed for the first two generations of cee’d, but has finally been dropped for the new car.
The first model (pictured) ran from 2006 and replaced the Cerato in what was a seismic change in quality terms, before being updated with the second-generation car, which made its world debut at the 2012 Geneva motor show. The role of the second car was to shift Kia into the mainstream sector.
Kia’s UK boss, Paul Philpott, describes the Ceed as being “at the heart of our brand”, and it is second to only the Sportage crossover in UK sales terms, the two accounting for half of the brand’s UK volume, a volume that puts it well inside the top 10 of the sales chart.
What they said
What They Said
"The traditional strength of Ceed in fleet has been as a cost-effective solution for the job-need driver. The three-door has been a smaller fleet player with some user chooser presence. The new Ceed is well placed to build on these strengths – although the list price of the car has increased, this has been compensated for by big residual value gains, producing competitive contract hire rentals. As ever, the car is very well equipped."
"The Ceed is visually appealing and the engine range, from the 1.0 petrol to the 1.6 diesel, has a fit for all types of fleet usage."
John Hargreaves, head of fleet and remarketing, Kia UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
A sportier look includes chunky bumper with deep-set reflector
The front seats are supportive, well-bolstered and comfortable
The classy remote key is a cut above that offered by rivals
...And one we don't
There are no parking sensors as part of the reversing camera on 2 trim - beware!
The chassis and steering make the Ceed much more enjoyable to drive than the previous car. Engine is eco-biased but not asthmatic.
Sub-100g/km efficiency is acceptable in the new WLTP testing climate, although it’s one BIK band higher than the new Ford Focus.
The boot space is reasonable without troubling the class best, and four adults can be housed in the cabin with relative ease.
Standard safety kit is impressive, although the lack of ability to choose specific or packs of options means some potentially expensive steps up the trim levels.
The new Ceed is evolutionary in styling, but subtle tweaks to the dimensions have managed to make it look more sporty and muscular.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
The diesel emits a bit of a rattle on idle to remind you what powertrain it is, but is commendably quiet under acceleration. The seats are supportive and well-bolstered.
The cabin is a pretty dark place, but materials are good quality for the sector and it’s all laid out neatly.
Even this entry trim level gets a decent size of touchscreen at 7.0 inches – higher trims go up by an inch. The system is all very usable.
Whole life costs 9/10
Very good residual values for a mainstream lower-medium hatch, along with decent SMR and efficiency figures, make for a sensible fleet choice.
CCT opinion 8/10
Still a car for the head rather than heart, despite improved dynamics.
A nice update to an appealing mainstream choice, the Ceed is improved in every area, with safety equipment, looks and driving experience being the main successes.