Kia Excee'd

10 Jul, 2007 1:00am James Foxall

Kia's Excee'd is a good looking car with an equally attractive seven-year warranty scheme and competitive pricing

Verdict

4
Officially, Kia has yet to give the go-ahead for the Excee'd, but it's in the last stages of discussion and the green light seems likely. It's certainly a good looking car, and Kia's seven-year warranty scheme and competitive pricing are equally attractive. Factor all these in and the Excee'd will prove a welcome addition to the family cabriolet market, particularly now that so much of the competition has moved to offering a metal folding roof.
If you want the proof that Kia is not merely knocking on the door of credibility, here it is.

This new Excee'd is a stunning convertible version of the impressive Cee'd family hatchback, which shows that the ambitious Korean car maker has both feet planted firmly on the threshold of international success.

More than that, the Excee'd is the first piece of Kia work from Audi TT designer Peter Schreyer, who joined the firm late last year. Quick to realise that the marque badly needs a 'halo car' if it is to become more than a maker of solid budget motors, the Excee'd is his answer to models such as Ford's Focus Coupé Cabriolet.

Much more than simply a Cee'd without a roof, the Excee'd uses the same chassis as the three-door Procee'd, which arrives later this year.

Just like the Procee'd, the Excee'd has short overhangs which give it a purposeful stance. The nose takes the three-door's design a step further, with chrome intakes and a grille which is more striking than the one on the five-door Cee'd.

Kia has plumped for a folding soft-top rather than following the trend for a metal lid. According to Schreyer, this is not simply for cost and design reasons, but also because he feels that a soft-top is more likely to appeal to a driver's emotions.

Certainly, during his time working at Audi - where he presided over the styling of the A4 Cabriolet as well as the classic TT Roadster - the German designer refused to employ a folding metal roof, which he has admitted in the past he's not keen on.

And when you see the Excee'd up close in the metal, it's easy to see that Schreyer has a valid point. As well as providing a generous dose of practicality (because fabric roofs take up less space than metal ones), the car looks great, too.

It certainly doesn't have the ungainly rear end that invariably blights rivals with folding hard-tops. Nor does it have such a long rear overhang, or the heavy bootlid that tin-topped cabrios seem to require.

However, from certain angles, its flanks do appear a touch slab-sided. Not even the clever detailing - such as the chrome strip inset at the bottom of the doors and the flares above the wheelarches - can quite manage to obscure this.

The Excee'd may not bring anything new to the cabriolet sector, but it certainly seems a viable rival to models such as the Vauxhall Astra TwinTop. The adoption of a folding soft-top frees up boot space and means that the rear seats are big enough for an adult - just.

The glamorous instrument dials tell us what buyers of the forthcoming Procee'd can look forward to, although it seems unlikely that the chocolate brown leather dashboard and details, plus the white leather seats, will be on the options list.

However, these touches are perfect as an example of how Kia might give the production version of a Cee'd cabrio a lift when it goes on sale in the UK in around 18 months' time.

Under the Excee'd's bonnet, the company has slotted in its 2.0-litre petrol engine. Available in other markets, we have yet to see this powerplant make its debut on British shores. Accelerating from standstill, the unit provides plenty of urge, and this prototype combined that witha rorty exhaust note.

Our test run was restricted to a 40mph maximum speed, but out on the road, the driver's seat is a remarkably calm place to be with the roof down. There was little buffeting, even with the side windows lowered, which is encouraging for driving around town. And although the engineers haven't started to work on the handling yet, it seems fair to assume that the Excee'd will be a cabriolet which is aimed more at posers than at performance car fans.

Key specs

* Price: From £15,500 (est)
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 143bhp
* 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds (est)
* Top speed: 120mph (est)
* Standard equipment: Electrically powered folding soft-top, bespoke 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome detailing on bodywork
* On sale: 2007

AEX 1,338
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