Quarter final 3

Kia Cee'd vs Volkswagen Golf

EntrantsWINNER: Volkswagen Golf (£14,850-£31,980) Our choice: 1.4 TSI (122PS) SE

RUNNER-UP: Kia Cee’d (£10,995-£16,850) Our choice: 1.6 CRDi 2 EcoDynamics

You have to feel sorry for the Kia Cee’d – when the draw was made for the quarter finals, it got one of the toughest names out of the hat. The Volkswagen Golf is the car that sets the standard in the small family car class, and has a history stretching back 36 years.

The past counts for nothing here, though, and while the Cee’d only arrived in 2007, it has already been facelifted. It now features stop/start technology on some models, and comes with the backing of the longest new car warranty in the business.

If the VW thought it only had to turn up to clinch a routine victory, it was in for a shock. The Kia is every bit as good to drive as it is to look at, and with its affordable prices and a lively 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine, it raced into an early lead. Was a shock on the cards?

The VW was never going to lie down easily and while the two cars are evenly matched on size, the shorter Golf provides marginally more load space – 350 litres versus 340. Where it really scores is on quality, though, because the sensibly laid out cabin is good enough to rival a compact executive model. It feels like a premium machine from behind the wheel and delivers a sharper driving experience, too, with brilliant handling and class-leading comfort and refinement.

The Golf line-up is also huge. It starts with the brilliant entry-level 1.4-litre TSI petrol and includes torquey diesels, an economical BlueMotion model (tested on Page 88) and hot GTI and GTD variants. There isn’t a weak powerplant in the line-up and the brand’s excellent DSG gearboxes help put it back on level terms.

When it comes to desirability there really is no contest. Few, if any, of cars in our 40-strong field can hold a candle to the VW where image is concerned. So after a slow start, the classy Golf overwhelmed the Cee’d with its breadth of ability to move into the semis.

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