• "Athletic" new design for C-segment hatchback with estate, crossover and other body styles to come within a year or so
  • Renamed: cee'd becomes Ceed
  • Designed and engineered in Germany, built in Slovakia
  • Completely redesigned with latest technology
  • All engines meet latest Euro-6d-Temp emissions regulations
  • New safety and advanced driver assistance systems
  • First Kia to offer lane following assist technology
  • 11 variants using three engines, two transmissions and four trim levels
  • UK sales start 1 August
Peter Schreyer styled nose ensures latest Ceed remains unmistakably a Kia

Peter Schreyer styled nose ensures latest Ceed remains unmistakably a Kia

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Kia Motors (UK) insiders like to stress the importance of the Ceed C-segment model line (originally named c'eed for reasons which escaped me). It was the automaker's first European built model - followed closely by the second  generation Sportage - but it's not the brand's top seller though it's nonetheless still significant in volume terms, accounting for about 12% of the UK unit's sales, while the also-Slovak-built-for-Europe Sportage eclipses the entire range with a 40% slice.

Since the first-generation cee'd started production at the then-new factory in Zilina in December 2006, 1.3m units have been built. Over 660,000 of those alone have come off-line since second generation production began in 2012.

The new name Ceed stands for "a car for the Community of Europe, with European Design", according to its maker: "As it enters its third iteration, the all-new Ceed is expected to account for an even greater proportion of Kia's European sales."

Like predecessor generations, #3 was designed in Frankfurt and developed and engineered in Ruesselsheim by European R&D teams with the odd trip to the infamous Nurburgring to hone the handling. Zilina manufacture is in a spotless factory alongside the Sportage (also made for other markets in South Korea) and Venga (like the Ceed, made only in Europe).

In 2017, the C-segment accounted for 22% of all European vehicle sales and is consistently one of the two largest segments by volume. The outgoing cee'd accounted for 16% of Kia's total European sales in 2017 and has regularly ranked, after the top Sportage, as one of the brand's best-selling models in Europe.

Since cee'd #1, its maker's annual European sales have more than doubled, from 225,000 in 2006 to more than 472,000 in 2017. In the medium term, Kia is targeting annual sales of more than 500,000 vehicles.

"The all-new Ceed model family will therefore continue to underpin the sustained growth of the Kia brand for years to come, remaining one of [our] best-selling product lines. The Ceed occupies a unique position in the line-up, perceived by buyers as the most dynamic and sporty volume car to drive, while also being one of the most reliable, practical and recognisable," a media launch statement said.

Lower, wider and sportier

The latest Ceed was designed at the brand's European design centre in Frankfurt, Germany, under the direction of European and global styling chiefs Gregory Guillaume and Peter Schreyer. The stylists say they were influenced by the "sporty, emotional design character of the Stinger" to give the Ceed "a more self-confident new look". The five-door hatchback was first out of the blocks, an estate car will follow (Kia insider's talk a vague "next year" and just-auto's PLDB database also expects 2019 to bring us the CrossCeed to compete with the new breed of pseudo-SUV family hatchbacks such as Ford's Focus Active. 

The five-door Ceed was designed with a cab-rearward silhouette while straight lines replace the rounded-off edges of its predecessor. The new model has 'ice cube' LED daytime running lights as standard across the range, similar to those previously reserved for GT and GT-Line variants. Built on Kia's new 'K2' platform, the car is 20mm wider (1,800mm) and 23mm lower (1,447mm) than the outgoing model. Its wheelbase remains the same at 2,650mm, with the front overhang shortened by 20mm (to 880mm), and rear overhang extended by 20mm (now 780mm). The new platform allows more efficient packaging which translates as greater shoulder room for rear passengers, more headroom in front, a lower driving position and a larger, 395-litre boot.

UK variants will offer seven paint colours and 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels with different styling across 11 versions based on four trim levels - 2, Blue Edition, 3 and Kia's now traditional and juicily equipped First Edition (a trick also used to good model launch effect by Volvo and others).

The oily bits

The redesigned Ceed engine choice is nice and simple: an updated 118bhp version of parent Hyundai Motor Group's well liked I3, 1.0-litre, T-GDi (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct injection) engine (my favourite in last year's Stonic B-SUV), plus a new, 138bhp, Kappa I4, 1.4-litre T-GDi petrol unit 4% more powerful than the 1.6 GDi it replaces. Kia says the engine's turbocharger ensures a wider torque band than the 1.6, making it more responsive in a wider range of driving conditions, while also reducing emissions. We found it very smooth and, above the 1,500rpm turbo kick-in, very responsive, even in higher gears - a six speed manual is standard.

The Ceed also gets Kia's new 1.6 litre U3 diesel engine intended, in the UK's current anti-diesel atmosphere, to go beyond the stricter limits laid down by the EU's latest EEuro-6d-Temp emissions standard. The CRDi (Common-Rail Direct injection) engine uses Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) with urea injection active emissions control to regulate emissions and produces 114bhp and 280Nm of torque when paired with a manual gearbox or 300Nm when combined with HMG's in-house designed and made seven speed Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT), also optional with the 1.4 petrol. This engine also is available with an ECO Pack with manual gearbox and should achieve CO2 emissions as low as 99g/km, Kia says, "using the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), when converted to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC)". The one we drove had a distinctive diesel 'crackle' under acceleration and would not idle below 1,100rpm (we could cruise foot-off-accelerator at 60km/h in sixth) so we'll reserve final judgement but potentially this is also an excellent new motor.

The ECO pack adds an active air flap which opens and closes depending on engine cooling requirements and improves aerodynamic efficiency. There's also an underbody cover and lower suspension, aiding air flow beneath the vehicle, plus low rolling resistance Michelin tyres.

Kia claims the new fully-independent suspension provides more agile and immediate handling responses, complemented by revised spring and damper rates. The ride, the automaker claims, "remains comfortable while giving drivers the confidence of tighter body control under cornering and stability at higher speeds". We'd largely agree - handling is predictable and steering accurate and the ride, on some good EU-funded new roads and some less good, apparent hangovers from Slovakia's previous management, was mostly good but inclined towards harsh on rough surfaces.

The front springs are now 40% stiffer and the torsional rigidity of the front stabiliser reduced by 22%. In addition to accommodating the lighter range of engines, these modifications deliver more immediate handling responses and a flatter ride under cornering, reducing understeer and producing greater mechanical grip. The front suspension is aided by a new damper valve system to absorb smaller vibrations. Conversely, the rear spring rate has been relaxed by 10%, absorbing small vibrations for better ride. The adoption of a newly designed rear stabiliser, new trailing arm bushings and optimised shock absorber bushings ensures maximum body control under cornering. The redesigned Ceed has a 17% more direct steering rack than its predecessor, with a 12.7:1 ratio from its electric motor-driven power steering system which requires just 2.44 turns of the wheel. Testing was done on European roads – including some in the UK – HMG Group test tracks in Korea and at the infamous Nurburgring race circuit in Germany.

The tech

Like every other new model launched these days, the Ceed gets a heap of new 'tech' and Kia claims the Ceed "will become the most high-tech car in its class". That 'floating' tablet style infotainment screen comes standard in lower grade models as a simple (but quite intuitive) seven-inch touchscreen audio system or, in upper grade, as an eight-inch navigation system. Bluetooth smartphone integration, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are all standard (premium brands will usually charge extra) and the First Edition has a JBL premium sound system with Clari-Fi music restoration and wireless smartphone as well.

A Drive Mode Select system with Normal and Sport modes is in launch Blue Edition, 3 and First Edition grades with the DCT automatic transmission. This alters the level of effort required to steer the car while each mode changes the character of the engine. Normal maximises fuel efficiency and offers more relaxed steering inputs, while Sport enhances throttle responses, enables faster acceleration, and adapts the steering to offer additional weight and sharper responses to driver inputs.

Full LED headlamps are standard for Blue Edition and First Edition grades.

Safety and driver assistance

Seven airbags are standard and driver assistance on all versions includes High Beam Assist (HBA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) and Forward Collision Warning with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA). The Ceed is also the first Kia in Europe with Lane Following Assist (LFA), fitted initially only to First Edition versions, which tracks vehicles in front and identifies spaces in other lanes to move in to safely to gain more ground in heavy congestion. It detects road markings to keep the car in its lane and controls acceleration, braking and steering depending on the convoy of vehicles in front. The system uses external sensors to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, operating between 0 and 81mph.

Additional technology for that First Edition grade includes Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Blind Spot Collision Warning (BCW), Smart Parking Assist System (SPAS) and pedestrian recognition with haptic steering wheel warnings for the Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) system. All Ceeds have Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), ensuring stability when braking and cornering by controlling the car's Electronic Stability Control (ESC) if it detects a loss of traction.

We were particularly impressed with Lane Keeping Assist which not only warns the driver the car is drifting out of lane but gently, and not too obtrusively, steers you back on line. If it can't, due to certain parameters, you get a warning sound and a haptic (vibration) nudge via the steering wheel rim. It also helps you steer around curves, again usefully, but not obtrusively. Once used to it, we really appreciated this electronic co-pilot.

Nicely equipped

Compared with the mainstream brands on sale here in the UK, the lower volume players tend to make their cars particularly good value with loads of added 'kit'. All UK Ceeds start (at Grade 2) with cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning, alarm, front wiper de-icer, electric windows all-round, automatic headlight control, 16-inch alloy wheels with locking wheel nuts, front fog lights, projection headlights and cornering lights, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors in body colour, high gloss black front grille, chrome window surrounds and LED rear lights.

Inside, there's black premium cloth seat trim, leather trimmed steering wheel, gearshift and hand brake and a rear centre armrest. That seven-inch touchscreen audio is standard plus a reversing camera system with dynamic guidelines, DAB (digital) radio, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming, plus the aforementioned Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with voice control (still often an option elsewhere). We've already mentioned the standard safety gear above.

Blue Edition grade is a special launch variant with the 1.4 T-GDi petrol engine, premium launch colour Blue Flame (a nice mid-shade metallic), 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, electrically folding door mirrors with LED indicators and kerbside lights, rear parking sensors and LED bi-function headlights and cornering lights. Inside it has black cloth seat trim with black faux leather bolsters, stainless steel pedals and a USB fast charger in the front centre console. The eight-inch touchscreen satellite navigation with European mapping and traffic messaging channel is standard, along with Kia Connected Services and TomTom Live. Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) version buyers gain Drive Mode select.

The 3 grade also adds 17-inch alloy wheels and privacy glass and adds rain sensing front wipers and power lumbar support for the front seats. It too gets the eight-inch touchscreen with its associated toys plus dual-zone automatic air conditioning, electrically folding door mirrors with LED indicators and kerbside lights, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and rear parking sensors, a 4.2-inch colour cluster display between the main dials, a USB fast charger in the front centre console and a dual-tone horn. The central fascia is in high gloss black, while the interior door handles have a satin chrome finish. Manual gearbox variants have the Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) system upgraded to include pedestrian detection.

The loaded First Edition grade "is the model of choice for technology fans", says Kia, and adds a Smart Park Assist System (SPAS), smart cruise control with stop and go functionality and the Drive Mode Selector with the DCT 'box. Black leather seats with contrast grey stitching, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outer rear seats, 10-way power adjustable driver's seat with memory, electric tilt and slide sunroof with automatic roll blind, LED bi-function headlights and cornering lights, electronic parking brake, heated steering wheel, stainless steel pedals, smart entry system with engine start/stop button and that eight-speaker JBL sound system with wireless mobile phone charger are all in the cabin. As mentioned, safety equipment runs to Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), High Beam Assist (HBA), Driver Attention Warning (DAW), Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist – City (FCA).

Still seven years

Kia introduced its well-received seven year/100,000 mile warranty for the UK with the original 2006 Ceed and it remains fully transferable should the car be sold before the time or mileage limits have been reached. Like many rivals, it also offers a range of fixed-price servicing packages effective for various periods of ownership. These include the original, traditional, first three and five services but buyers can now purchase services up to and including the seventh service which matches the full length of the warranty.

Overall, this new Kia impressed on first acquaintance. It doesn't set any real styling standards - in rear 3/4 profile it reminds me of the outgoing Mercedes B-class with Alfa Romeo-like tail lamps - but, from the front, that distinctive grille still ensures a schnoz that's unmistakably Kia. Inside, again, there's no real 'wow' factor but the styling is unmistakably Kia 'family' and the improved materials quality and finish is immediately apparent. The generous levels of standard equipment will give salespeople lots to show-and-tell and make you wonder why so many mainstream brands still charge so much for so many really useful items.

See also: Carmakers keeping the diesel faith - Kia

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