- Max Speed
Is it a car or a crossover?
Way back when, 'crossover' was the coinage for something that crossed between a car and an SUV. The XCeed is midway between a car and a crossover. Cross-crossover? Crossunder? Crossover-squared? Any old how, it's not as tall as a Nissan Qashqai. It's a bit less hatch-y than a Ford Focus Active. It's somewhere around the VW T-Roc or new Mazda CX-30 ballpark. For people who find a crossover is too clumpy and a hatch is too normcore.
And the Kia Sportage is a crossover and the Ceed is a hatch…
Quite. Kia didn't want to eat its own lunch, or indeed breakfast, with this. So it's a kind of showroom elevenses. Early indications are that most buyers are coming out of other makes, not from other Kias.
How related to a Ceed is it?
Very. The front doors are actually the same, as is the whole floorpan, suspension, powertrains, and nearly all the dashboard. It's a bit longer at the ends, in the interests of style.
Style is a significant part of the pitch. So it has pointier head and tail lamps, bigger grille, shallow glazing, a sloped tailgate, and generally more assertive details than a Ceed.
And how high up?
To cross it over, the suspension is raised a little and the tyres have taller sidewalls. Sitting in it, the driving position is entirely car-like, but you're higher off the ground. If – at risk of sounding repetitive – nowhere near as high as in most crossovers.
They're aiming this thing at young families, but the slightly high seat makes it easy to get in and out for the older and stiffer of hip. Remember the DS4 Crossback?
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Any different from the Ceed to drive?
Not much. There's the same high-geared steering, and good balance in a corner, and very little body roll. So it swings tidily and keenly through an S-sequence. If you know the road, it can be good fun.
But the steering has no feel, so at other times find yourself short of the confidence to use that agility, especially if it's damp or wet. Being seated higher subtracts from the sense of connection, too. The Focus Active has more supple suspension, yet you feel at one with it.
Despite special damper bump stops (somewhat similar to the ones Citroen is rolling out) the ride takes a tough approach – to any disturbance at any speed. You're shaken about a fair bit. The up-spec XCeeds on 18-inch wheels add tyre noise too. The whole suspension is unnecessarily tight. How much tautness does a low-powered crossover need?
Lots of manufacturers keep us spoilt-brat press away from their base-model offerings. But admirably Kia lent us a 1.0-litre triple, with 118bhp, in the cheapest '2' trim. It takes 10.9 seconds to get to 62mph, and doesn't have the mid-rev torque of some rival little engines. But it doesn't mind if you rev it. In fact you have to, because there's a big gap between second and third in the six-speed box.
There's some gain in poke from speccing up the 1.4-litre alternative. But beware that engine comes with a seven-speed DCT that's indecisive and drunken in its shifts.
Final choice is a clean diesel. I tried the 134bhp version, but though it's economical and smooth-ish, it's a bit lethargic. More interesting, there's a plug-in hybrid coming next year.
Is the interior enough to make us forget the harsh suspension?
Soft-touch stitched materials are smeared over enough of the prominent parts that you feel they're looking after you. Rear room is OK, but the shallow window-line isn't ideal for the claustrophobic.
It's all very neat and easy to use. Kia's infotainment was always refreshingly simple to use and effective. All models have Apple CarPlay (recently improved in iOS13) and Android Auto. Trim level '3' and up gets a wider central screen with built-in connected nav and remote apps.
The top spec has more driving assistance, and a virtual instrument cluster that's so well-detailed you can hardly tell it from… the real instruments on the cheap versions.
How cheap, or not-cheap?
The 1.0-litre '2' has enough kit to be getting on with, and is £21k, including that legend of a seven-year warranty. This definitely feels like value. The top-spec one is £29k, which is XCeedingly ambitious, taking it into the territory of an Audi Q2 – with 1.5 litres, S-tronic and S-Line. In fact as I write, Kia will do you a ridiculously well-kitted 250bhp Stinger for under £30k. Just saying.
So can I justify any XCeed?
You’ll want it because you want it. Like we said, not exactly a hatch, not exactly a crossover. If that's your sweet spot, you won't care that it's not exactly a great car.