Road tests

New Kia Ceed 2021 review

The popular Kia Ceed has been updated for 2021, but is it now better than ever? We find out...

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4.0 out of 5

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The facelifted Kia Ceed is a worthwhile update to the Korean brand’s big-selling family hatchback. Visual tweaks offer a stronger, more striking look, while the digital dash and further improved infotainment give a boost inside. The 1.5 T-GDi engine is smooth but a touch noisy, yet offers acceptable performance; we’d save some cash and opt for the manual instead of this less impressive DCT. The Ceed’s relative practicality remains unchanged however, so it’s still a contender in this class.

The second-generation Kia Ceed (née Cee’d) was one of the cars that really helped put the Korean brand on the mainstream map in Europe. Along with the Sportage launched in 2010, it changed consumer perceptions of Kia.

It’s fair to say the third-generation model didn’t have quite as big an impact, but in a bid to keep it on fighting terms with the best hatchbacks on sale, Kia has now facelifted its family favourite.

The first thing you’ll notice is the sharper look, with revised front-end styling that’s crisper and features Kia’s new logo – part of its push further upmarket as a more premium brand.

Each trim level becomes further differentiated from one another, with our GT-Line test model featuring some sportier touches, LED headlights and gloss black 17-inch alloys. There’s also more chrome trim, new LED tail-lights and a gloss black diffuser element in the rear bumper for some added style. The eye-catching Orange Fusion paint colour in our pictures is new for this facelifted model too.

Inside, GT Line trim features optional sports seats trimmed in black suede with contrasting stitching. There’s also a new gear knob. Kia has upgraded the infotainment too, enhancing further what was one of the previous car’s strong points. There’s now a 12.3-inch digital dash, with sharp graphics and an easy-to-use interface, while the central 10.25-inch touchscreen is as simple to use and as full-featured as ever.

The usual level of smartphone connectivity is standard, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, but Kia’s also boosted its Kia Connect smartphone app, including a new User Profile Transfer system that backs up your preferences in the cloud. It’s all very techy – and the strong fundamentals of the system means it works well, plus the quality of our late-stage pre-production prototype model seemed solid enough – but what about the more traditional elements a family hatch needs to nail?

Our 158bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol model showed that there’s life left in ICE cars yet. Thanks to Kia’s ‘Smartstream’ continuously variable valve duration, efficiency is improved; when mated to our car’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, it offers CO2 emissions of 136g/km and around 48mpg – although this latter figure is still to be confirmed. Expect a similar 0-60mph time to the pre-facelift 1.5 Ceed DCT’s 8.3-second offering. 

Performance is fine, with enough grunt lower down thanks to a total 253Nm of torque from 1,500rpm. It pulls smoothly, even if it isn’t the quietest engine as the revs rise into the mid-range and beyond; it’s a little grumbly, which is not helped by the DCT gearbox. The shifts are a little sluggish but only get jerkier in Sport mode or if you take manual control using the paddles, but the transmission is unobtrusive enough as long as you take a more leisurely approach.

Which you might well do, because the Ceed defaults to Eco mode when you turn it on, and this brings benefits in the form of super-smooth engine-off coasting, especially at higher speed on the motorway. You’ll barely notice when the 1.5 engine cuts in and out - a trick it uses to boost efficiency. The engine is better on the motorway at a constant cruise too, where the revs are low and refinement is better.

It’s a shame that the ride can’t quite match up here, then. The GT line model feels tautly set-up, with a firmness to its springing that might not suit some family hatch buyers. It helps keep the car flatter in corners, but it feels like it’s unsettled more by smaller bumps than you’d expect.

The steering is fast enough that the Ceed delivers decent agility for this class, with quick reactions just off centre, albeit with next to no feedback and quite a light weight.

Kia has boosted the Ceed’s safety credentials with new driver assistance systems. There’s now a blind-spot warning system that will avoid a collision, collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and an upgraded rear cross traffic alert.

Full UK specifications and pricing have not yet been revealed, but given the new Ceed is an update of what came before and the platform underneath hasn’t changed, boot space should still stand at around the 395-litre mark its predecessor offered. Rear-seat space is just as good too, with a solid level of head and legroom, even if cars like the Skoda Octavia offer more space. It’s on par with a VW Golf though.

As for pricing, given the increase in tech and kit on offer, expect this 1.5-litre DCT car in GT Line trim to cost just under £26,000 when it goes on sale later this year.

Model:Kia Ceed GT-Line 1.5 T-GDi
Price:£25,995 (est.)
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 158bhp/253Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
0-60mph:8.3 seconds (est.)
Top speed: 130mph
Economy/CO2: 48mpg/136g/km (est.)
On sale: October 2021

Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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