New Kia Cee'd 1.6 CRDi review

We drive facelifted Kia Cee'd hatch with seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The new dual-clutch gearbox is a worthy addition to the tried and tested Kia Cee’d range, bringing welcome gains in fuel economy and a decent drop in CO2 emissions. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is new as well, but despite a jump in power, still can’t match the smooth options from VW or even Vauxhall. This top-spec hatch is expensive, too.

Back in May we visited Kia’s state of the art European factory in Slovakia to help build the one millionth Cee’d. Just four months later the brand has facelifted its second-generation family hatch with updated styling, new engines and a fresh seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.

We drove a range of revised models – including the 1.0-litre three-cylinder – a few weeks ago, but as with any new car, the true test comes when it arrives in the UK.

As popular as these scaled-down turbocharged petrol engines are, a considerable 40 per cent of Cee'd sales are still accounted for by diesels. So a new 1.6-litre CRDi is an important introduction for the Korean car maker.

On paper, this four-cylinder unit sees CO2 emissions drop by 10g/km, while fuel economy for the manual car jumps to an impressive 78.5mpg. However, the biggest gains are on the automatic model, where this seven-speed dual clutch trumps the old six-speed torque converter by almost 25 per cent.

That means emissions are down to 109g/km (from 145g/km) and fuel economy is up to 67.3mpg (from 51.4mpg). Not quite as frugal as the manual – but impressive nonetheless.

The engine is more powerful too, and feels it in near enough every situation. The 0-60mph sprint takes just 10.2 seconds (compared to 11.3 seconds in the old car), while a 40Nm bump in torque to 300Nm ensures it also feels quicker in gear.

It’s still not as refined as some of its European competitors, emitting a mildly intrusive clatter on start up and at low revs – but settle into a cruise and it’ll plod along nicely. What’s more, plant your foot at motorway speeds and it’ll surge forward, letting you overtake slower moving traffic more easily.

The gearbox is the biggest revelation though. It feels smooth and quick to react – especially at the top end, where it shifts from sixth to seventh without you noticing. There’s a pair of (admittedly cheap-feeling) steering wheel mounted paddles too, so you can even have a bit of fun if you find yourself on a twisting back road.

But don’t expect Kia to have transformed the Cee’d into a Ford Focus-fighting drivers car. Despite tweaks to the chassis and suspension, this remains a car that prioritises comfort over dynamics. It’s impressively composed over lumps and bumps, but throw it into a bend and the lifeless steering does little to instil confidence. That said, there’s plenty of grip and providing you don’t push too hard, too often, it’ll prove a satisfying enough car to live with.

All models are now available in sporty GT Line trim, though our car came in the slightly more restrained, yet still well-equipped ‘4’ specification. At £23,730 (for five doors, a diesel engine and an auto gearbox) it does look expensive – especially next to the SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDI DSG – but you will benefit from a quite extraordinary list of standard kit. Interior quality is good, too, and rapidly approaching German levels of solidity.

All ‘4’ models get 17-inch alloy wheels, heated leather seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and go, an LCD high-definition display and a panoramic roof. That’s not to mention the adaptive xenon headlights, 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, front and rear parking sensors, and Smart Park Assist system. You’d have to spend quite a bit more on an equally-equipped VW Group car.

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