We’re sent a great number of cars to test here, and many of them aim for excitement with powerful engines, shiny styling additions and a list of equipment as long as your arm. That’s all well and good, but even the most extensive spec sheet can’t cover up a car that’s simply a pain to live with.
That’s why I had such high hopes for the new addition to our fleet – the Kia Ceed SW. Kia and its parent company Hyundai, in the main, produce cars with one particularly brilliant attribute – the total inability to irritate. While Kias often struggle to excite, they hit back by offering absolutely nothing to moan about, which is a pretty rare thing indeed.
I had plenty of time to put this to the test in my first run in the car – a marathon 10-hour day where I’d cover nearly 600 miles. A funeral in the family meant driving from Southampton to my grandparents in Great Yarmouth, before dropping my siblings back in Cheltenham – via Bristol, just to spice things up. A noble mission, then, for our Ceed SW 3 1.6 CRDi DCT.
Let’s dissect that badge. The Ceed is Kia’s rival to the Ford Focus and VW Golf, a mid-sized family hatchback built in Europe and tuned specifically for European tastes. It’s the successor to the Cee’d – Kia thankfully decided to drop the apostrophe. SW stands for Sportswagon, which in this case means ‘estate’.
Our car’s fitted with the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine, which produces a decent if not sparkling 134bhp and is supposedly capable of nearly 70mpg. We’ve paired it to the DCT seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. As for ‘3’, that’s the trim level, in a line-up which confusingly starts at 2 and finishes with First Edition. Right.
Practically, that means our car does without particularly fancy styling and luxury features, but provides all the essentials – cruise control, alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, climate control, a reversing camera, and Kia’s 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB, and smartphone connectivity. It’s this last feature that I’m so glad to see – I’m a huge convert to Android Auto, and use it wherever possible, including on 10-hour trips to see family.
With the addition of Shadow Black metallic paint, our car weighs in at a very palatable £24,605. A bargain? Well, perhaps, but certainly not in the way Kias used to be. For just a few hundred pounds more, Ford will sell you a Focus Estate in Titanium trim, netting you keyless go and heated seats as well as a more renowned badge.
Perhaps slightly annoyingly, Kia doesn’t really offer an options list, either. There’s currently no way to get more features on a diesel model – the range-topping ‘First Edition’ does get LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking, heated seats all round and a premium sound system, but is only offered with the 1.4-litre petrol engine. It costs a pretty penny, too.
Are any of these deal-breakers, though? Not really. The Kia proved a great companion on my terrible day – a relaxing cruiser, happy to sit at 70 for hours at a time and providing nothing for me to distract myself complaining about. Even my passengers couldn’t moan too much, with a decent amount of space in the rear and comfortable seats. In the end, I had only a couple of complaints.
Firstly, I’d like to be able to specify heated seats, improved headlights and a premium sound system on a diesel model. The latter two simply address the Ceed’s weak points, while the former is a personal favourite. And secondly, given the Ceed’s quoted fuel economy of 68.9mpg combined, I felt 56.6mpg was a bit below par for a car that spent nearly 10 hours with the cruise control never exceeding 70mph. Perhaps economy will improve as we rack up the miles – which I’m sure we’ll be doing, given how easily the Ceed laps up long journeys.