IAIN ROBERTSON 

By introducing an overall atmosphere of ‘pleasantness’, highlights Iain Robertson, South Korean carmaker, Kia, has injected a calm confidence into all of its models but the latest Ceed actually whisks the brand into the senior league, with some ease.

Frequently, I judge new cars by how keenly they are received by public services, whether they are the police and other emergency types, or the nation’s taxi ranks. The core measure lies in dependability and delivery of glitch-free transportation. If a car can survive in that form of cut-and-thrust, it would be fair to suggest that it could become a model that earns trust and consumer confidence by the bucket-load.

It can be hugely convenient to draw correlations between military might and Kia’s might have. Yet, I would refine my bottom-line by suggesting that Kia probably runs closer parallels with a UN peace-keeping force, rather than a brand on the offensive. I can perceive a Kia workforce striding quietly, yet confidently, into the frontline, waving white lilies and carrying palm branches, rather than firearms.

No single car brand has managed, with successive and progressive model lines, to grab the zeitgeist in such a well-mannered and compliant manner, as Kia has. In fact, as all true peacemakers know, it is the art of listening and understanding that keeps hostilities at bay. In a hotbed of hyperactivity that is the world motor industry, Kia produces vehicles that are pleasingly inoffensive, without cloying sentimentality. Kia equips its products comprehensively, without potential customers having to clamour for more. Kia creates desirability, without enforcement.

Kia is abundantly clear in its aspirations. It does not talk of ‘world domination’ like the VeeDubs and BMs of our world. However, it squares up to them, with a benign smile on its face, and points out a few convenient home truths. No other carmaker has made such abundant advancements in its model lines as Kia has. In fact, it now sets the agenda. Kia IS the benchmark for other brands, demonstrating, in the process, its design elegance, engineering know-how, quality adherence, comfort, safety, security and value for money, at the highest apolitical standards, without ramming it Ford-like down the consumer’s throat.

None of this is more apparent than in the latest versions of the Kia Ceed, where its former, quirky model designation of ‘c’eed’ has now been adapted into a more normal typeface. The test example is a prima facie case of all of those combined strengths. In entry-level ‘2’ form, it even shows a price reduction over what might have been its predecessor (had one existed).

Peter Schreyer has created a strong, Teutonically-influenced but orientally-inclined design for the Ceed, possessing enough crisp edges, yet curvaceous panels, that gel into each other with such satisfying fluency and elegance that the end result is both sturdy and pleasing to the eye. The overall exterior contains a hunkered-down sincerity that imbues the car with a road-hoovering quality on its 16.0-inch diameter alloy wheels. It is an ingenious dynamic that looks both sporty and engaging.

While ‘keyless entry’ is the preserve of the higher specifications, even the key-fob possesses a high-end tactility that is virtually Volvo-like in its appeal. The four occupant doors open wide conveniently to reveal a spacious and accommodating interior that is as easy to enter, as it is to alight from. Attractive cloth upholstery clads the supportively bolstered front seats and the shapely rears, where there is space for three abreast in comfort. Naturally, the rears split-fold 60:40 and, once the hatchback has been opened, its class-leading (better than either Golf, or Focus) 395-litres of boot space almost trebles in capacity, when the seat-backs are folded forwards.

The soft-touch dashboard layout is a paragon of clarity, with a practical touch-screen in the central upper section, a small information screen between the main speedometer and rev-counter dials and easy familiarisation to all of the main controls and switchgear. Although the front passenger seat lacks height adjustment, the driver’s seat is manually adjustable through an enormous range, supported by a tilt and reach adjustability for the steering column, that makes the driving position as flexible as possible for the broadest range of driver types.

If it all sounds eminently ‘normal’ at this stage, it is because the Ceed is normal but, where it succeeds lies in a degree of supra-normality; the overall impression is of competence and excellence of detail. All of the touch surfaces give off a high-quality aura that is evident without pervasion.

It is the same beneath the bonnet. The 1.6-litre (in this case) turbo-diesel, four-cylinder engine, driving through a slick six-speed manual gearbox, meets all of the latest WTLP regulations. It develops a modest 114bhp that is accompanied by a meaty 206lbs ft of torque, which is enough to make easy the task of towing an up to 1.2-tonnes trailer. However, there is significantly more to it than bald figures, as the Ceed can despatch the 0-60mph benchmark in a cool 10.6s, with excellent mid-range punch, to a top speed of 118mph. It emits 99g/km of CO2 and returns 74.3mpg on the Official Combined test cycle. This equates to a first-year road tax of £125, with an annual fee of £140 thereafter. Petrol versions are available.

The new Ceed’s driveability is outstanding. It starts with the first-rate cabin refinement and continues through on-road poise that is surprisingly good. Bump absorption is excellent and the fast-reacting steering (2.4 turns lock-to-lock for a 5.3m turning circle) is exemplary. Yet, there are no surprises beneath the car. Its Macpherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension is pretty much standard fayre for the class. The secret lies in the damping, which has been especially tuned to meet the rigours of the British roads network.

It stops on a 50p piece, shifts gears fluently and corners with competence. Yet, Ceed manages to achieve its commensurate balance, with a sense of connected fun. Whether you are a full-throttle merchant, or a main road dawdler, the car will respond to your every whim with religious zeal.

Finally, its equipment level is significantly higher than any of its purported rivals, which is a factor worth contemplating, when looking at the test car’s price tag of £19,545. It is too easy to state that Kia is starting to price its way out of the market. While it is true that the brand has moved away from its ‘budget’ aspirations of a few years ago, it has done so by making measurable improvements and ensuring that value is inherent to its ethos. Most drivers will want for no more than what is provided as standard. The stereo is good and both connectivity levels and driver aids are all top notch.

Conclusion:    With each successive model introduction, Kia has made massive improvements, which culminate in its all-new Ceed, which makes it simply the best-in-class; a statement I make, without a moment’s hesitation.