Some of America’s most extreme exotica, captured here for your delectation
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£21,440 when new
Manufacturers’ first port of call when re-engineering a car isn’t normally to rummage through Rachel Riley’s (Countdown queen and TopGear office pin-up girl) bag of letters. But Kia, looking to compete with their European rivals, wanted to flesh out the initials of their previous generation mid-size estate, the SW, to give it a new identity and name. They came up with Sportswagon. Which is a problem, because it’s not sporty. Even though Kia has made significant changes in the dynamics department – stiffening the body by 51 per cent, making it lower, swelling the track at both ends and altering the suspension geometry – the car doesn’t engage enough to be called sporty. Granted, the ‘ring’ this car will be going round won’t be the one in Germany, but the congested one that circles London. And for that, it’s fine. It rides well, is quiet and – because it has identical internal architecture to the hatch – is spacious and comfortable. Particularly capacious, actually. Because what the big-booted Cee’d lacks in sportiness, it makes up in space. It doesn’t matter if the rear seats are up or folded flat to the floor, there’s still more litreage in the back than in a Ford Focus Estate. There are also many nets and hooks to pin down your shopping if you feel like hunting out some of that tricky-to-find ‘Sport’. Which is a good thing, as Kia’s pitching this car at the fleet market. That’s why there are only two diesel engines available – an entry-level 89bhp 1.4 and a 126bhp 1.6. The 1.6 is the one to have: it’s smoother, quieter, easier to live with and will return 64.2mpg if you tickle the pedal in sixth. It’s also the only engine available with a six-speed auto: good for business types who want to minimise on-the-move skinny-mocha-cappu-latte-ccino spillage. They’re well-specced too – all cars come with aircon, Bluetooth and iPod integration as standard. But you can no longer use cost as Kia’s trump card. Prices rise from a reasonable £16,895 for the 1.4 in 1 trim, to a whoa-this-is-getting-increasingly-out-of-TopGear’s-reasonably-priced-category of £24,795 for a fully loaded 4 Tech. But they’re spending your money in the right places by making their cars better and more appealing. Just don’t go looking for the ‘Sport’ bit.
£21,390 – £30,185
Good design and dynamics at a decent price, this is another class act from Hyundai
£20,740 – £32,115
A worthy competitor in the saloon and estate market. It offers lots, for not much cash
£19,200 – £28,990
Mid-life overhaul for the Focus Estate is a success. Not cheap, but it doesn't need to be.