Kia Motors Europe is just weeks away from an annual sales record by crossing the half-million mark. In Britain, KME’s best market, the brand will get close to six figures, the year-to-date total being 91,954 cars, some 6,000 ahead of Hyundai. The increasingly sought-after third generation Ceed is the new growth driver, building on the strong performance of the Sportage. 

The Europe-wide roll out of Kia’s C segment five-door hatchback completed, now the division is pressing ahead with the phased release of additional bodies and variants. We saw the ProCeed at the Paris show in October, this being the successor for the pro_cee’d, KME hoping that this low-roof liftback five-door will open up a new sub-segment. The GT versions of both Ceed and ProCeed also started coming off the line at the Zilina plant a couple of weeks ago, the Slovakian factory therefore now producing three body styles: five-door, liftback and wagon.

The Ceed (CD) and K3/Forte/Cerato (BD) might have different codes but they are part of the same new family of Compact models. The three Ceeds and one sedan will next year be joined by a crossover, which could be restricted to Europe. When will we see it? The Geneva show seems the likeliest of venues for its debut, and the name may be ‘CrossCeed’. That will give Kia dealers another offering to complement the Sportage, which is marketed as an SUV of around the same size. Not forgetting the Niro, which is yet another option albeit one which comes only with hybrid, PHEV or EV power. Even without the sedan being available for buyers in European markets and no mild hybrid or PHEV versions of the Ceed – yet – that’s a lot of choice.

Will the constant addition of extra cars expand Kia’s presence in these segments even further? Or could people instead become confused? The evidence of rising sales over several years as models have been phased in suggests KME knows what it’s doing.

What then of the car itself? The development story and initial impressions of the launch variants were covered in July, and now it’s clear that buyers have responded very positively indeed to the range. I recently tried a five-door hatchback with the 1,598cc ‘U3’ series diesel. This is a new Hyundai Motor Group engine and it produces 86kW (115PS) and 280Nm. You can have it with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.

The manual can be something of a mixed bag due to the ratios clearly having been chosen for maximum advantage in the EC’s testing regime. Which means low CO2 (99g/km) but a downside of fifth and sixth being gears which many owners simply will give up using at speeds below national or motorway limits. You can try to keep the car in fifth (it’s a high 0.660 and sixth is 0.549) but the engine just doesn’t provide enough torque to prevent things getting a touch strained. Which means fuel consumption in the low to mid 50s rather than anywhere near the official Urban (67.3mpg) or Combined (74.3mpg) averages. Better then to pay for a higher trim level than the 2 which I sampled, which means you can then have the DCT. Ceed prices start at GBP18,295, rising to GBP28,600 for the range-topping First Edition estate.

Even the basic spec 2 variants have strong spec sheets, which, along with the seven-year warranty, is an expectation from buyers attracted to the brand and a big part of why KME continues to thrive. All cars come with cruise control, de-icing for the front wipers, four electric windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, cornering lights, demisting for the powered mirrors, cloth trim, leather covering for the steering wheel, DAB radio, a reversing camera with guidance lines, plus Android Auto/Apple Carplay. Automatic activation and deactivation of the high beams, something which so often varies from being a nuisance to a danger in some cars, works just about perfectly in the Ceed. What’s more, along with lane keeping assist, it’s also standard.

The way the interior has been redesigned is another strongpoint of this car. There is ample space for five occupants, hardly any transmission hump for anyone sitting in the middle of the back seat, soft materials everywhere and upholstery which looks and feels as though it will wear well. The doors will take large water bottles as well as multiple other bits and bobs, there is a handy ledge which is angled so that your phone doesn’t fall out when accelerating and the cubby box under the central elbow rest is especially deep. I’m not a fan of the little tune which plays whenever you climb into and out of all Kias but perhaps owners get used to that over time – why do we need extra noise? Silence is much nicer.

The way the Ceed responds to corners and longer bends is what really defines it as a proper move forward over the cee’d. Not quite as agile as a Focus yet not a long way from being as good as the class benchmark. Anyone who owned the prior model will instantly notice the new Kia has sharper dynamics and yet somehow the old car’s emphasis on comfort is still there too. I’m yet to drive the GT but if the base car is this good, then the Gran Turismo might well surprise some of the doubters who may not believe any Kia can be a serious challenger to the Golf GTI.

Can Kia keep the sales momentum going?

Next year will see the biggest hitter in the Ceed’s segment replaced, the new Golf due to be in UK dealerships from August after a production changeover which commences in June. The Astra is another car which will be in for the update treatment although in its case, this is instead a facelift. Kia therefore has something of a clear run for the next half year or so as the newest model in the class, which should give dealers in all European markets an ideal opportunity to build on the early success that the Ceed is already having.