Kia Cee’d 1.6 CRDi 2

The great-value Kia Cee'd is a serious contender

Given the fierce competition in this class, the Kia’s third place is no disgrace. The eye-catching Cee’d hasn’t quite got what it takes to topple the class leaders, but it’s still a capable, practical and desirable family runaround. It’s also great value and inexpensive to run.

Not long ago, you’d never utter the name Kia in the same breath as VW and SEAT, but that was before cars like the latest Cee’d. With its bold styling, upmarket interior and grown-up driving experience, the five-door is a genuine class contender.

Even in mid-range 2 specification, the Kia gives nothing away to its newer rivals in terms of kerb appeal. Its sleek lines are more eye-catching than the conservative Golf’s, while neat additions include the LED daytime running lights and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Kia has clearly spent as much time on the interior, where the wraparound dashboard design apes that of the Golf. And while some of the plastics look and feel cheaper than those in the VW and SEAT, build quality is first rate and the switchgear operates with precision.

It’s just surprising to discover that the Cee’d doesn’t lead the way for standard kit. Essentials such as Bluetooth, air-conditioning and cruise control are included, but you’ll have to trade up to the £20,095 3 if you want automatic lights and wipers, while a DAB radio isn’t even available as an option.

The Kia is practical, with plenty of useful storage including deep door pockets, a large glovebox and a pair of cup-holders neatly hidden in the folding rear armrest. As with the Leon and Golf, the Cee’d benefits from a generous 380-litre boot, while folding the split/fold rear bench flat frees up a 1,318-litre capacity, which is larger than either rival’s.

And the Kia has an advantage under the bonnet, too, as its smooth 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel is the most powerful here. Yet at the track, the car was actually slightly slower, both in the 0-60mph sprint and our in-gear tests. In the real world, the Cee’d doesn’t feel as responsive and needs to be worked harder to keep up with it rivals. At least the engine is refined and the standard six-speed manual gearbox has a slick and precise action.

Kia’s Flex Steer set-up allows you to choose between three driving modes, but it feels most natural in the Normal setting. The Cee’d is the least engaging of the three to drive, but independent rear suspension means it’s less unsettled by mid-corner bumps than the firmer SEAT. Better still, it almost matches the cosseting Golf for ride comfort. Unfortunately, it isn’t as quiet as the VW, as there’s more wind noise and tyre roar, although it’s far from unrefined.

As you’d expect from Kia, the Cee’d offers great value for money. At £18,295, it undercuts the Golf by £1,755 and comes with a seven-year warranty. There’s also the option of a £329 servicing pack, which takes care of mechanical maintenance for three years and 30,000 miles. Only disappointing residuals of 37.4 per cent let the Kia down. Will that be enough to cost it victory?

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