In the past here on MTI we have tended not to do too many car reviews. This was mainly because we thought the web was awash with them and our contributors preferred to voice their opinion about what they saw as other more pressing matters. Despite this the reviews we have done have all proved popular so we know there is an appetite for them.
At a recent editorial meeting it was decided that we should carry out more car reviews but with a difference. We would not use the approach of a somewhat cynical motoring journalist and certainly not from that of an equally cynical car retailing professional. What we wanted to do was take normal cars that most people might end up driving and review them from the perspective of a real owner and driver.
Of course this might be easier said than done as the vast majority of our contributors work in the trade. So having decided this was something we wanted to pursue it fast became clear that I, as editor, would be the ideal choice for the first review of this kind. With my background being in IT and coming rather late in life to the “trade” I should be able to give a balanced view on the merits or otherwise of a particular car.
I have been told on more than one occasion by various people in the motor trade that they just don’t make a bad car anymore. This wasn’t perhaps the story 10 or 15 years ago but it is pretty much the case now. That said we still have to deal with people’s perceptions of a car or brand and tags of unreliability and poor build quality are difficult to shake off. After all if enough people believe a particular brand to be unreliable then the actual truth of the matter becomes less relevant, it’s the perception that counts.
So we drew up a shortlist of cars that we’d like to review and top of the list was a model from one of the kings of scrappage, Kia. As it is the summer holidays I thought what better way to put a family hatchback through its paces than take it for a weeklong tour with the wife and two kids. So the good people at Kia kindly lent us the cee’d 1.9 CRDi 2 and off we went.
What is it?
The interestingly named cee’d is Kia’s European designed and made five door family hatchback and comes in three different trim levels, namely 1, 2 and 3 and four different engine options (2 1.6 CRDi diesel engines with 89 or 113bhp and 1.4 and 1.6 litre petrol engines) offering a choice of 10 versions overall.
The name itself comes not from some ancient Greek goddess that nobody’s heard of (which was my assumption) but, rather more mundanely, from the initials of the European Economic Community CEE (as it is know on the continent) with ED added for “European Design” and one of the “E’s” replaced by an apostrophe presumably to stop people taking too long to pronounce it. In fact when Jeremy Clarkson announced the cee’d as the new “reasonably priced car” on BBC’s Top Gear he referred to it as the “only car with an apostrophe in its name”.
The whole concept is to stress the “European” nature of the cee’d and the fact that it is not available in any other markets (OK it is sold in Iran and South Africa but apart from that it’s 100% European).
Simple, so now you know.
OK, so it’s got an unusual name but what of the car itself?
When I first saw the car we would be driving around in for the next week I have to admit I was rather pleasantly surprised. I’m not sure what I was expecting but given the “Scrappage King” status of the brand I wasn’t really expecting something quite so, how can I put this, “robust”. And I wasn’t alone as my next door neighbour (let’s call him John because that’s his name) came over to have a look and was, in his own words “bowled over” by the design and finish. In John’s opinion Kia “had certainly come a long way” and I could tell he was genuinely impressed. In fact people being pleasantly surprised became a bit of a theme throughout my time with the cee’d.
Sitting behind the wheel I was immediately struck by how roomy the cabin was and although the console appeared a little Spartan everything felt well put together. There were several nice little touches too; an air conditioned glove box and a plug and play USB connection from which you can play all the MP3’s loaded on a memory stick to name but two. It also has what appears to be (and probably is in fairness) a massive boot (340 litre to be exact).
I took it out for a drive around the town and was once again impressed by the ride and engine. The cee’d 2 that Kia had lent me came with the 113bhp diesel engine and it felt punchy through the gears. At first I didn’t like the gearbox and it felt a bit lose and not what I’m used to in a new car but over time I got used to it and by the end of the week I actually quite liked it.
What’s it like, then?
In total we covered a little over 650 miles during our time with the cee’d, taking in every aspect of driving on British roads, from country lanes to motorways and everything in between. From our holiday base in leafy surrey we went to Thorpe Park, Windsor Castle, Central London, Chessington, Stamford Bridge and up to Norwich and back and myself my wife and two daughters found the cee’d very comfortable and surprisingly quiet on the motorway where we averaged a very decent 52mpg.
The air-conditioned glove box was an excellent place to keep the Fruit Shoots cold for the kids (make sure you take the manual out though as it can get a little soggy) and overall the general feel of the car was one of refinement.
The Kia brand has suffered in the past because of their reputation for churning out budget cars, their relentless pursuit of market share and the old marketing campaigns which played up to this (New Kia for a £1 deposit) meant the brand was somewhat devalued. But in my opinion with the new cee’d they have definitely turned a corner.
Should I buy one?
Before I’d had the cee’d for a week I would have probably laughed had someone suggested to me that I might consider buying one but what a difference a week makes. When you take everything into consideration; the build quality, the ride, the comfort, the spaciousness, the price and best of all the confidence inspiring seven year warranty it’s a very formidable package.
We’ve spoken about the car itself so let’s take a look at the price; the model I tested was the cee’d 1.6 CRDi 2 which has a list price of £14,955 OTR which is approximately two grand cheaper than the equivalent Ford Focus and 3 grand cheaper than the equivalent VW Golf. Of course it’s not a Golf and doesn’t pretend to be but it’s actually a closer alternative than you may think.
When you consider how the seven year warranty displays the great faith the manufacturer has in their product I firmly believe Kia are on to a winner.
Note to Kia: given my rather low expectations of what the cee’d would be like and my surprise at just how good it is you might want to offer a few extended test drives to win over more people like myself!
Test car data:
Model tested:Kia cee’d 2 1.6 CRDi (113bhp) 5 Door Hatchback
Price: £14,955 OTR
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel (VGT), 113bhp and 255Nm of torque from 1,900rpm
Transmission: Six speed manual gearbox with front wheel drive
Performance: 117mph, 0-62mph 11.1 seconds, 62.8mpg (52mpg actual), CO2 118g/km, VED Band C £35
Insurance group: 6
For: 7 year warranty, roomy interior, good specification at a very competitive price, drives well, economical.
Against: The cee’d name, gearbox takes some getting used to, residual value.
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