A WARRANTY covering a car for seven years is not going to mean a lot to a fleet unless it has a most eccentric and leisurely replacement policy.
It’s a clear vote of confidence in its product by the manufacturer but nobody is going to give two hoots about the warranty – which is transferable to second and subsequent owners – unless the car is any good. And thankfully, in the case of the Kia Cee’d, it is.
The Cee’d is a new lower-medium sector hatchback, designed to take on the might of the Ford Focus, VW Golf and Vauxhall Astra. And it goes on sale from February with this unprecedented seven years of cover, five on everything from front to back plus another two on the engine and gearbox.
It’s a gutsy move from a company that’s been quietly building up a fan base in the UK, particularly with its Sedona MPV, which is the third biggest seller in the fleet market, and Sorento off-roader.
Kia has been at great pains to point out how its engineers and designers have tried to analyse what it is that Europeans love about their cars. Copying that could have been a disaster, creating something that aims to please everyone and ends up doing the opposite. But it hasn’t, and the Cee’d is easily the best hatchback Kia has ever built.
There will be a choice of four engines, 1.4 or 1.6-litre petrols or a 1.6-litre diesel with 115 or 90bhp. A 2.0-litre 135bhp diesel will be available from the summer. There are four trim levels – S, GS, LS and TS – though not all are available with each powerplant. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard and a four-speed automatic is on the options list.
Every car comes with air-conditioning, CD player with MP3 compatibility plus steering wheel controls, central locking and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
Safety has been given a top priority with twin front, side and curtain airbags on every Cee’d. Bosses are already talking about getting their first ever five-star Euro NCAP rating when the car is crash-tested next year.
The styling inside and out isn’t particularly daring, but it is smart and modern, with body-coloured door mirrors and handles. The same is true of the cabin – the dashboard lines neatly flow into the doors in a way they haven’t with Kias of old.
Space in the rear is good and the bench seat folds flat to create a practical load bed.
The crowded lower-medium segment is dominated by some extremely good cars and Kia has traditionally been a tiny player. Its outgoing offering, the Cerato, shifted about 3,000 units during 2005 and that was its one and only full year on sale.
Prices won’t be confirmed until the new year, but it’s likely the entry-level 1.4 S will be £10,995.
That’s certainly competitive, but it’s going to have to be – Kia’s top brass want to sell 10,000 cars annually in the UK, with 35% going to fleets. An estate version plus a sporty three-door model, both due later in 2007, should help things, though.
Behind the wheel
KIA reckons about 65% of UK buyers will opt for the petrol version of the Cee’d. Unfortunately, it isn’t particularly exhilarating.
The pick of the line-up are the turbodiesels, which work much better with the character of the car.
The 115bhp engine isn’t the quietest diesel there’s ever been but it has got plenty of punch and is much more fun to be in than any of the petrol cars.
The steering is nicely weighted – light steering that feels totally numb has blighted numerous Korean cars of this type in the past, but thankfully not this one.
Dynamically, the Cee’d is no match for the likes of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra. But it handles well enough and sticks reassuringly to the road if you push it a bit through the corners. You could say the quality of the ride isn’t top notch – it’s a touch on the firm side – but it will be perfectly acceptable for the way most owners will drive it.
KIA has really tried with the Cee’d, but it doesn’t bring much new to the market besides the seven-year warranty. It’s no Focus or Golf, though it is a marked shift up in quality, style and function over previous cars.
|Model:||1.4||1.6||1.6 CRD 90||1.6 CRD 115|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||109/6,200||122/6,200||90/4,000||115/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||101/5,000||113/5,200||173/1,750||188/1,900|
|Max speed (mph):||116||120||106||117|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||46.3||44.1||60.1||60.1|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||145||152||125||125|
|Prices (est):||from £10,995|