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Driven: the new Kia C-Apostrophe-D
Every time you
read about Kias, you’re almost certain to also read about designer Peter
Schreyer, the man behind the original Audi TT. But I’m not going to talk about
Schreyer’s styling of this, the second generation Cee’d, as you can look at the
gallery of pics and make your own mind up.
What I do want to talk about is Kia’s European incursion – which will bring us
round to the Cee’d itself shortly. I can’t think of a company that has mounted
a better planned, more aggressive, or commercially successful incursion into
Europe. As you well know, Kia is Korean, but its cars – specifically this new
Cee’d – aren’t. This is a European car.
And not European in the same way as VW, Peugeot or Fiat. They are all national
companies, bred to feed their home markets first and foremost. In their own
way, this makes them a little parochial and inward-looking. Kia is European in
the broadest sense of the word. It has no geographic loyalties. The C’eed I
drove in Austria was designed and engineered in Germany, built in Slovakia, and
registered in Spain. That alone is indicative of the company’s broader outlook.
Kia genuinely seems to see Europe as a single market. The EU must love that.
Kia Europe is largely autonomous, free to design and create the cars it thinks
the market wants. Its first success, back in 2007, was the original Cee’d, of
which some 430,000 have been sold (and also, of course, secured itself a
starring role on the Top Gear track). Now’s the time for its replacement. The
temptation here for many firms would be to jazz up the looks a bit, make sure
the CO2 is where it needs to be, add some new tech and send it back out to
Instead what we have are deep, well thought out changes – the kind you expect
from an aggressive, successful company that still sees plenty of room to
improve. Kia isn’t ready to consolidate yet – it’s still in the expansion
So what we have is a bodyshell that’s a massive 45 per cent stiffer, which in
turn allows much more careful tuning of the suspension. There’s also thicker
window glass, more foam insulation in the window pillars, extra seals around
the doors. Although the 2650mm wheelbase is carried over, the platform is new
and the car is longer, lower and wider, plus bigger inside.
To be honest, you don’t really notice the extra few mm’s of shoulder and
headroom, nor even the 40-litre larger boot. You don’t even notice the hugely
upgraded interior design and quality for the first few miles. Instead, I was
being quietly dazzled by the new Cee’d’s sheer refinement. It moves quietly and
smoothly and expertly. It feels very professional. If the old one was white
goods (and, in truth it was better than that), the new one is white goods by
It’s also a very nice car to be in. The ride is well padded, motorway wind
noise confined to a rustle from the A-pillars. If you’re one of the vast
majority who just want a family hatchback to use for your life, then this is a
very nice one. Kia knows its audience, knows what pleases them.
It’s not sporty, and doesn’t pretend to be, so it seems almost unfair to have a
go at it for not delivering on the thrills front. It actually copes reasonably
well: good front end grip, reasonable steering accuracy, good chassis balance.
It’s a well engineered car, but not an entertaining one.
Part of the blame lies with the drivetrain. The new direct injection 1.6 (no
baby turbo engines for Kia yet – that surely is the next stage) is fine when
surfing in the shallows, but becomes slightly boomy and harsh towards the top
There’s now a twin clutch gearbox too, and like the rest of the car, it does
the everyday stuff unobtrusively. But you can tell this is a first effort – its
reactions aren’t that sharp.
But the point is that this is a car for Kia’s core audience, those who don’t
care about brand and image, but want a good, ordinary car. It’s for those who are
persuaded by a seven year warranty and a good value price. Speaking of which,
prices haven’t yet been announced, but given the level of progress Kia has made,
it’s safe to assume that Top Gear’s current celebrity lap car will no longer be
quite so reasonably priced…
Not when it can be kitted out with all manner of interior gadgets. The options
lists are rife with items such as lane departure, dual zone climate, LED
running lights, a panoramic sunroof, an electric driver’s seat, a digital
screen to replace the central dial, an electric handbrake. All of these were
fitted on our test cars, and thus all the cars I saw had more buttons on the
steering wheel than the last Bentley I drove, but I was impressed by the well
thought out stowage, the general ergonomic excellence. The seat was rather firm
and lumpy, but that might just have been me. The boot floor is definitely
Still, these are small drawbacks and do nothing to detract from a Kia that’s
now a real threat to the European mainstream. The Cee’d used to be a second
rank hatch, mentioned after the Focus, Astra, Megane, 308. Not now. I still
can’t believe how quickly Kia is progressing, but the new Cee’d is a direct,
focused threat to every other European hatch, even the mighty VW Golf. OK, so
it might not have their readily identifiable mannerisms and heritage, but
neither does it have their baggage. This is a second generation European Kia.
And it’s as good as pretty much anything Europe has to offer.