Along with Fiat undergoing a revamp to become more credible and volume manufacturers saying they’re not doing daily rental any more, the other most common phrase I hear is one about a South Korean car firm. Apparently, Kia’s new model is the one to finally challenge the might of its European and Japanese rivals.
“Ho-hum” and “yeah, right” are the phrases that usually spring to mind – after all, there is still not one Korean model that rivals the established leaders in any sector.
But the Kia Cee’d may well be the car to break that tradition. Not that you’d know by looking at it.
The Cee’d follows the “offend no-one, excite no-one” styling theme that Toyota has taken with the new Auris (in fact, the Cee’d could well be mistaken for an Auris).
The Cee’d is, to put it bluntly, an amorphous blob. That said, it’s a far more homogenous look than the jumbled appearance of some of its earlier stablemates. While visually it’s nothing special, the feel of the car is way different from any previous Kia. Glance around the outside and the panel gaps and paintwork are first class while inside, things get better.
The fit and finish are poles apart from anything to come out of Kia before and it puts many in the lower-medium sector to shame.
It feels and looks like a Nissan inside, with a hi-tech appearance thanks to contrasting black and silver trim. The dashboard is a soft-touch, almost rubbery affair and the plastics used elsewhere around the centre console and door bins are excellent. Only a very annoying rattle from the steering column spoiled things during the car’s stay with us – hopefully a one-off that won’t detract from the focus on quality that has obviously taken place.
On the road, the 1.6-litre 121bhp petrol engine (expected to take the lion’s share of sales) provides average performance. It needs plenty of revs to make decent progress and sounds harsh as it nears the red line, but once up to cruising speed it is quiet and refined.
The handling veers towards comfort rather than thrilling dynamics, with a very bouncy ride indicating a soft suspension set-up. That said, it handles fairly well, with little body roll through the corners.
All in all, it matches the current standard of lower-medium models and Kia’s stated aim of selling a third of the 10,000 models it expects to sell every year to fleets seems realistic. But being a good car alone is not enough in the fleet market and the Cee’d will have to offer a strong wholelife costs proposition to succeed.
P11D value: £11,332
CO2 emissions (g/km): 152
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 17%
Graduated VED rate: £125
Insurance group: 5
Combined mpg: 44.1
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £2,825/25%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £296
Around £11,000 gets you a lot of car, with the Kia being the cheapest and also well specified with air-conditioning, MP3-compatible radio/CD player, chilled glovebox and rake-and-reach adjustable steering wheel. It’s also the most powerful, with a 121bhp engine.
All four cars are easy on the wallet, but the Astra is the easiest, costing a 22% taxpayer £33 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. The Kia’s blend of low price and emissions puts it in second at £35 a month. The Skoda costs £4 a month more, while the Leon will cost £48 a month.
The Kia is more than 1ppm more expensive than the Octavia and this comes down to the timing of service schedules. The Cee’d has to visit the dealer every 10,000 miles compared to the Vauxhall which manages twice that distance between service stops.
Octavia: 2.58 (pence per mile) £1,548 (60,000 mile total)
Astra: 2.73 £1,638
Leon: 3.47 £2,082
Cee’d: 3.67 £2,202
The Astra leads the way, with Vauxhall claiming an average of 46.3mpg, which equates to just over £5,000-worth of petrol over 60,000 miles. The Kia is close behind on 44.1mpg while the FSI Octavia outclasses its VW Group stablemate, the Leon with its older engine.
Astra: 8.53 (pence per mile) £5,118 (60,000 mile total)
Cee’d: 8.95 £5,370
Octavia: 9.23 £5,538
Leon: 10.36 £6,216
A convincing advantage for the SEAT, which CAP thinks will retain 38% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The Skoda will retain 32%, the Astra 31% and the Kia a disappointing 25% – obviously, the brand image does not reflect the quality of the Cee’d yet.
Leon: 11.67 (pence per mile) £7,002 (60,000 mile total)
Astra: 13.02 £7,812
Octavia: 13.41 £8,046
Cee’d: 14.09 £8,454
With the lowest fuel costs and strong showings in the SMR and depreciation sectors, the Astra takes a convincing wholelife costs win, costing around 1ppm less than the Skoda in second. The Kia is well off the pace thanks to a poor RV forecast and expensive service stops.
Astra: 24.28 (pence per mile) £14,568 (60,000 mile total)
Octavia: 25.22 £15,132
Leon: 25.50 £15,300
Cee’d: 26.71 £16,026
If it wasn’t for such a poor residual value forecast, the Kia Cee’d would be right in the reckoning here. It’s a strong package with a decent engine, high level of standard equipment and quality interior.
But in wholelife cost terms it is outclassed, meaning a Cee’d will cost a fleet around £1,500 more to run over a typical lifecycle than the Astra in first place. At this level, where it is more job-need than user-chooser, the Astra ticks all the boxes.