TODAY marks a very important day in the history of Kia.
Bosses at the South Korean firm could well spend the final moments before they fall asleep tonight imagining busy Kia showrooms across the country.
That’s because today (February 1) is the first day the public will be able to get its hands on the new Cee’d – a convoluted name which is an amalgamation of acronyms with CE denoting it is made in Europe and the ED apparently showing it is designed in Europe.
Kia describes its new lower-medium challenger as the most important car it has ever produced. Executives are proud of the fact the car was designed in Europe, at its studio in Germany, and also built in Europe, in Slovakia.
In a nutshell, the result of European design and engineering should be higher quality and better looks – South Korean manufacturers in the past were renowned for producing cars that were unstylish and cheaply built.
In truth, the Cee’d needs to banish this legacy as it is up against some stiff competition in the form of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Honda Civic.
While Kia will never sell in the volumes of these models, it hopes to shift 10,000 units in the UK in a full year, giving it a 2% market share, with around a third of those going to fleets. It expects the petrol models to account for nearly 70% of sales – illustrating its retail bias.
The third of sales intended for fleet would see Kia top the 20,000-unit mark in fleet sales and follows on from 2006 where it saw those sales rise by 18% in the UK thanks to strong demand for the Sportage and Carens. Seeing as the manufacturer has a 50/50 split between fleet and retail sales already, this new model will strengthen its business further.
The Cee’d comes with a seven-year warranty which, Kia claims, underlines the faith it has in the car. Five of those years will cover everything from bumper to bumper and the other two the engine and gearbox.
While this won’t make much difference to fleets which run a traditional three-year/60,000-mile replacement cycle, it will at least ensure that Cee’ds make a more attractive prospect on the auction floor with four years of cover still in place.
Future values have yet to be announced – Kia hasn’t been able to supply enough information early enough to the RV predictors. It’s something it will have to rectify quickly or the Cee’d will take a long time to filter through to choice lists.
Initially, four engines are available – 1.4 or 1.6-litre petrols or a 1.6-litre diesel offering either 90 or 115bhp. A 2.0-litre diesel will join the line-up from the summer and a three-door model will be added during the winter.
Safety is another important area for fleets and Kia expects the Cee’d to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating when it is tested during the early part of this year. Twin front and front-side airbags plus full-length curtain airbags are standard across the range, as are ‘intelligent active headrests’ which aim to minimise the risk of whiplash.
Ensuring buyers get value for money is also a key consideration so even entry-level models come with air-conditioning, a chilled glovebox and an MP3-compatible stereo. The top two trim levels get full iPod integration from the summer.
Behind the wheel
THE winding (and rain-soaked) roads in the mountains of Provence set the scene for the launch of right-hand drive versions of the Cee’d. A choice of two cars was available, 1.6-litre petrol and diesel. The petrol version wasn’t the most exhilarating to drive but the 115bhp diesel was sprightly enough to make for refined motorway cruising.
The diesel engine was also fairly quiet, although the car itself suffers from some tyre noise, but not so much it will annoy you.
Its handling characteristics are not as sharp as those of, say, the Ford Focus despite Kia’s claims, but for most buyers the relatively hard ride won’t matter a jot. It’s the high level of equipment and value for money they’ll be seeking and they shouldn’t be disappointed.
The interior is fairly traditional and not too daring to put off older drivers, nor too boring to deter younger ones. Build quality throughout is very good with sturdy switches and a much more solid feel than in Kias of old.
Interior room is generous and the rear seats, which can be split 60/40, can carry three adults in comfort offering a decent amount of legroom.
It won’t turn heads but the Cee’d is a nice enough looking car and fits well within its segment. Its launch should continue the erosion of any badge snobbery associated with the Kia brand, already started by the popular Sedona MPV.
The Cee’d is by far the best Kia yet, with its decent build quality, Euro-styling and value for money. But the fact that it doesn’t bring much new to the lower-medium sector may mean its launch is more significant for the manufacturer than for potential buyers.
|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|
|Now Prices (OTR):||£10,995–£14,245|