Kia Cee'd (2012-2018) review

The Kia Cee’d offers practicality and solid build quality, but the driving experience is on the dull side

Kia’s new 1.0 three-cylinder turbo engine adds efficiency and cuts emissions in the facelifted Cee’d. It’s been a long time coming, but the downsized unit is worth the wait, delivering adequate performance and lower running costs.

On top of this there’s also a new seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox available in conjunction with the higher-powered 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine.

Kia’s also improved the quality and styling inside and out with a few minimal changes and a new sporty-looking trim level – as well as updates to the GT warm hatch – putting the Cee’d back in the running in the family hatch sector.

It may have a rather unconventional name, but the Slovak-built Kia Cee’d is a straightforward and conventional competitor for established European family hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and the Vauxhall Astra.

There are plenty of other options for less badge conscious buyers, of course, including the Hyundai i30, Fiat Tipo, Nissan Pulsar, Skoda Octavia or even the SEAT Leon. That’s a pretty challenging bunch the Cee’d must see off. It was the first Kia to benefit from the famed seven-year warranty, which gives it a unique selling point in the segment.

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The first Kia Cee'd arrived in 2006 and represented a watershed moment for the brand. It was the first Kia to be designed and built in Europe, and the prices started from a headline-grabbing £11,000.

It was hardly exciting, but compared with previous models, such as the Cerato, Mentor and Shuma, it represented a quantum leap forward for the Korean giant. We're dozing off just thinking about those old models. Zzzz...

An estate version arrived soon after, wearing an SW tag to inject a little glamour into an otherwise dull but worthy wagon, along with a three-door version, with a Pro_Cee'd badge, to ensure the daft name box wasn't left unchecked.

The Cee'd was facelifted in 2010, before an all-new version was unveiled 2012. By now, the Cee'd had cemented itself as a key player in the family hatchback sector, but it remained a little short of the segment best.

Step forward a new, sharper design, led by European design chief, Gregory Guillaume, and overseen by chief design officer, Peter Schreyer. This time, the Cee'd was about more than just a seven-year warranty.

The current Cee'd – which was given a subtle facelift in 2016 – is slightly prettier than before, better to drive, and blessed with a nicer interior. But the trade-off is an increase in price, with the Cee'd no longer occupying the bargain basement end of the market.

Prices start from just over £15,000 for the admittedly well-equipped Cee'd 1, but you'll pay upwards of £20,000 for the top-spec GT-Line models. You can buy a basic Fiat Tipo for £13,795, possibly less, after a little haggling. In fairness, the Cee’d is cheaper than the entry-level Hyundai i30 and Peugeot 308, and you do get a seven-year warranty.

While the five-door hatchback remains the most popular version of the Cee'd, it's also available in three-door Pro_Cee'd guise and Sportswagon estate.

While the Cee’d name may be unusual, Kia’s trim level nomenclature is more straightforward. The entry level model is the Cee’d 1, while the better equipped models are badged 2, 3 and 4. The GT-Line and GT-Line S models are designed to provide the styling of the Cee’d GT, with no changes to the steering, suspension or brakes.

Spec levels for the Cee’d 1 aren’t bad, with DAB radio and air-con included, as well as Bluetooth, LED running lights and front electric windows. The Cee’d 2 adds 16-inch alloys, 7-inch touchscreen navigation and a reversing camera, as well as electric folding mirrors, cruise control and cornering lights. The Cee’d 3 brings 17-inch alloys, dual zone air-con and parking assist, while the Cee’d 4 adds leather heated seats, a stop/start button, panoramic sunroof and an electronic parking brake.

There’s also a sporty-looking Cee’d GT-Line with side-sill extensions and distinctive front LED ‘Ice Cube’ lights, while the GT-Line S adds Xenon adaptive lighting and Lane Departure warning to the kitbag.

All the Cee’d engines are EU6 compliant for emissions, including the 99bhp 1.4-litre petrol entry-level unit. You can also choose a 133bhp 1.6 petrol, but we rather like the ‘downsized’ 1.0-litre three-cylinder ecoTurbo petrol unit with 118bhp.

Diesel enthusiasts have a decent choice too, with an 89bhp 1.4-litre CRDi and two 1.6-litre turbodiesel options making 108bhp or 134bhp. The latter is offered with Kia’s new seven-speed DCT gearbox.

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