Never a fan of SUVs and crossovers, Carlton Boyce wonders whether Kia’s XCeed CUV can change his mind.
You might be forgiven for not knowing what the Kia XCeed actually is. You will, of course, know that the Ceed (now minus the apostrophe that no one could ever remember where to put) is a decent three- and five-door hatchback, and that the ProCeed is a coupe-like estate that is both longer and lower than the Ceed Sportswagon estate/SUV, so where does the XCeed fit into Kia’s UK lineup?
Well, if you’ve been paying any attention at all over the past five years you’ll know that every manufacturer now has to offer a raised version of its normal hatchback models. This faux four-wheel-drive stance is invariably supplemented by black plastic cladding with which to toughen up its urban credentials – and if you think that’s a really silly idea, you’re absolutely right; the consumer pays more for a car that handles less well and looks worse.
Funny old world, isn’t it?
So, when you’re testing one – and yes, the XCeed is Kia’s, although it calls it a Crossover Utility Vehicle or CUV rather than the more usual nomenclature of crossover or SUV – the only question to be answered is just how much worse than the hatchback version is it?
In the case of the Kia XCeed, the answer is barely discernibly. Almost all of the metalwork is new, and only the front door skins are carried over from the Ceed hatchback it resembles. It’s a bit taller of course, and a bit longer too but the extra length is aft of the rear axle, which might give a bit more boot space but leaves the rear seat passengers feeling a little cramped.
It also has hydraulic front bumpstops, which allows Kia to soften the front and rear springs by 7% and 4% respectively, which is an interesting move as most vehicle manufacturers stiffen the suspension on their SUVs and crossovers to counter the added body roll that is inevitable with taller suspension. The XCeed is only available with a front-wheel-drive chassis.
The first car I drove was the XCeed First Edition. Fitted with a turbocharged 1.4-litre, 138bhp petrol engine mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox it is only available with yellow coachwork and a black and yellow interior. Now, while I’m an even-tempered sort of fellow I am rarely described as jolly, which means I didn’t like the colour scheme at all but if you’re the sort of chap who wears novelty socks then it might be just up your street. (That is a pun; I am trying to be suitably droll.)
Looks aside – and if you ignore the First Edition’s somewhat lurid colour then it isn’t a bad-looking car – it drives well. The ride is pretty good, and the engine is sufficiently powerful that I didn’t ever feel that I needed more. A big gob of torque helps – it has 178lb/ft between 1,500rpm and 3,200rpm – but it starts to feel a bit flatter at high revs than I was expecting. As is usual these days, switching into ‘Sport’ mode sharpens everything up nicely and transforms the way the car feels. The ride height really isn’t much different to the standard Ceed, so it rides and handles in a very similar way; there is a tiny bit more body roll but you probably wouldn’t notice it unless you were driving them back-to-back.
The First Edition costs £29,195.
Next up was a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It had a lower trim level than the previous car (it was a ‘2’ in Kia-speak), and with a price tag of just £21,045 it felt every bit the budget option; the three-cylinder engine is as gruff as everyone else’s and needs working hard despite only having a 20bhp deficit compared to the 1.4-litre version. And while the manual gearbox is up there with the best in its class, the overall experience felt a bit too poverty for my tastes.
My final drive was in the 1.6-litre CRD diesel engine. This has 134bhp and 153lb/ft of torque, and the lazy power delivery and mid-range torque suits the XCeed in my opinion. It is also quiet enough that its oil-burning status was never an issue for me and while it does run out of revs more quickly than I was expecting, I suspect that virtue signalling will be more of an obstacle to you buying one than any practical considerations.
It was fitted with the ‘3’ mid-level trim package, which lifted it nicely compared to the base model. While the top-of-the-line First Edition is fully loaded and trim level 3 has a good level of standard equipment, the basic model had a stripped-down feel to it that spoiled the experience for me. At £25,345, the diesel option with the middle trim package isn’t desperately expensive, and moving up to it won’t make a huge difference to your monthly payments if you use finance rather than paying upfront.
Every Kia XCeed model gets a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating and a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, which makes them a safe and practical choice. More premium than you might be expecting too, it’s a better car than the popular Nissan Qashqui, and cheaper than the premium German brands.
Carlton Boyce @motoringjourno