BMW’s classiest tuners work their thoughtful magic on the ultimate diesel X3
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Tell me what this is. It’s the new Kia Ceed, the latest version of the car Tom Cruise two-wheeled around Gambon. Both it and the Proceed have enjoyed a rejig for 2015. Kia says it’s new, we say it’s a facelift, and a very mild one on the surface. More interesting things lie beneath the subtly updated headlights and wheel designs, though. Like what? A three-cylinder petrol turbo, called Ecoturbo, joins the engine range, with the aim of tempting a few people out of their diesels and restoring the sales balance between the two fuels to 50:50. It’s a mere 1-litre in size, like the Ecoboost you’ll find in the Focus, and comes with two power outputs, 98bhp and 118bhp. Also like the Ford, then. There’s also a new seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox, developed in house by Kia, though only available with higher powered diesels for now, and a new torque-vectoring system to tidy up the handling. How’s the new triple? It’s an engine all about effortlessness; it’s not brimful of character like Ford’s Ecoboost 1.0, but it’s refined, barely audible at a motorway cruise and responsive in the middle part of the rev range that you use in sensible, everyday driving. It just blends in and does its job, while having enough power for simple overtaking or accelerating confidently down a slip road. Ceed buyers likely aren’t seeking a sports car, and the Ecoturbo should suit them just fine.
And the fancy torque vectoring? It’s a brake-operated system, not a million miles from McLaren’s brake-steer system in theory. Though while you can sense its operation during ambitious cornering speeds, it’s there for comfort and safety rather than turning the Ceed into a hyper-alert supercar. Yep. Despite the addition of a more assertively styled and stiffer sprung ‘GT Line’ trim and the Ceed’s still gimmicky adjustable steering weight, this is a car refreshingly free of sporting pretension. Its ride is supple and its demeanour effortless, an approach finely in tune with the whacking great seven-year warranty that Kia is still unique in offering. How many people still buy normal hatchbacks like this? Lots, says Kia, claiming the C-segment this Ceed competes in as the second largest in Europe. It’s growing, in fact, with people downsizing from bigger saloon cars. As such, there’s a ton of grown-up stuff on offer to ease their transition, including an upgraded self-parking system, swish TFT dials and a 7in touchscreen media system that includes satnav updates for all seven years of that warranty. There’s also been a focus on something called ‘sensory quality’, so there are thicker carpets to improve noise insulation and splashes of chrome across the interior on higher specs. Does that mean it costs quite a bit? Kias aren’t the budget option they used to be, certainly, and the Ceed battles the Focus and Golf with its ability rather than its pricetag. Things kick off below £15,000, but you’ll need to spend at least £17,445 to get a 1.0 turbo. As stylish as the Ford and as painless to own as the VW, though, it belongs on your shortlist.