Kia Cee'd SW review
The Kia Cee'd SW is an affordable and cheap-to-run estate that has largest boot in class and delivers impressive refinement
If maximum load capacity for as little money as possible is top of your list, then look no further. The Kia Cee'd SW has a bigger boot than the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, Ford Focus Estate and Hyundai i30 Estate and costs less than all but the Hyundai. Revised in 2009, the SW is now more both more comfortable and more involving to drive, although it's happier on motorways or around town than on twisting B-roads. A seven-year warranty and good equipment levels make this an attractive proposition.
Our choice: Kia Cee'd SW 1.6 CRDi 2 (113bhp)
In 2009 the Cee'd SW received the same suite of styling updates as the Hatchback. That means a striking new family grille, reshaped light clusters, front and rear, and a new bonnet. The net effect is a stylish modern car that, while not as eye-catching as some rivals, won't put buyers off either. The transformation from Hatchback to Estate is a successful one too, with the thick sloping C-Pillar adding a much needed dash of excitement to the design. What the Cee'd SW's interior lacks in ultimate quality it makes up for with a bright and pleasant ambience. Having said that, barring a smattering of cheap materials, quality is almost on a par with the Ford Focus and VW Golf - a demonstration of how far the Korean brand has come.
Pre-2009 models were criticised for overly-harsh suspension, but Kia has addressed the situation by retuning the springs and dampers for UK roads - Lotus and Porsche even checked the settings for Kia before the refreshed car was signed off. The result is a more compliant ride and slighty more driver involvement than before - it still can't match the Ford Focus and VW Golf for thrills though. Light steering, pedals and gearshift action on the six-speed manual makes it a doddle to use around town. The 1.6-litre petrol engine struggles with a loaded car, which is why the 1.6 diesel is better suited - in 113bhp guise it blends adequate refinement with plenty of pulling power.
The Cee'd was Kia's first car to be awarded the full five stars for adult occupant protection (it was awarded four for child protection) in its Euro NCAP crash test - and the SW variant should be just as safe. Six airbags, Isofix points and ABS are all standard - although electronic stability control, which helps stop the car from spinning, is only standard on top-spec models. As for reliability, the Cee'd hatchback came 22nd for reliability in our 2011 Driver Power survey.
The Kia's steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake, which makes finding a comfortable seating position easy, although the front seats could do with more support. With all the seats in place, the SW's 534-litre boot is large for this class - in fact it's almost on a par with the much bigger Ford Mondeo. Fold the rear seats flat and that climbs to an impressive 1,664-litres - a figure only the Reanault Megane Sports Tourer can get close to competing with. It's easy to load too thanks to the rear hatch being hinged at the top of the roof creating a wide opening. Additional storage compartments under the boot floor help to keep valuable items out of sight.
An EcoDynamics model, using the 89bhp 1.6 CRDi engine, returns 62.8mpg and 119g/km of CO2, but it costs the same as the non-EcoDymics 113bhp oil-burner, and in the real world both will return similar fuel economy. Low insurance premiums and a price tag that undercuts the equivalent Ford Focus Estate by over £2,000 make it cheap to run. But be warned, come resale time the Kia's fall in value will be steeper than a Ford or VW. Kia's seven-year warranty should ensure that no big repair bills come your way.