Your right, it doesn't seem that long ago that Kia caused a huge stir with its all new hatchback, the cee'd. Maybe it was the daft name with the irritating spelling and punctuation, or (which is more likely) because it was a great little motor. It didn't cost the earth, came with plenty of kit, looked great and it proved that not every car from Korea had to be made from recycled, and had all the handling finesse of, Tupperware.
So three years on and I've just returned from the UK launch of the refaced cee'd. It's got the same daft name however much has changed, new interior, restyled exterior and a whole lot of work underneath the surface. Unlike the original launch of the cee'd, this time Kia have launched both the hatchback and the SW (estate) derivatives at the same time. The only version we're kept waiting for is the brilliant pro_cee'd (with even more punctuation to wind us up) sport hatch. So do the exterior changes make the cee'd look like a totally different car… in a word…. Hmmm that would be a big fat no lol. Kia has taken the subtle route to restyling the exterior; as my mum would say 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. The most dramatic change made to the exterior is the all new 'Schreyer' grille, named in honour of Kia's (and Audi's ex) chief of design Peter Schreyer. Unfortunately it's the only thing about the new cee'd that I don't like. I don't get what the chrome ring around the outside of the new grille is about, it just seems a bit 'look it's got chrome, it must be sporty', its trying too hard and doesn't float my boat unfortunately. But I do think the new family face / grille looks great on Kia's bigger motors like the all new Sorento, due to launch very soon.
So what else has changed other than the grille? Well there's the new redesigned bonnet and revised / restyled 'black bezel' front headlights and the all new LED "effect" rear lights. Also new bumpers featuring a redesigned and sporty air-intake for the lower front bumper also help the new cee'd stand out from the out-going model. Where the redesign really gets interesting is when you open the door and get inside…
The interior is just superb, quality of finish and materials was always good, hell that's what made it stand out when it first launched, however this new cee'd is just in a totally different class of quality. Pretty much everything inside the cee'd is new, the dash and centre console have such a high quality feel, buttons and dials feel upmarket and way more premium that on the previous model. When it comes to audio I can't fault Kia, coming as standard with iPod docking kit from the mid range cee'd 2 upwards (cee'd 1 still gets an AUX USB port which is brilliant for the price) along with an amazing stereo system, is outstanding. Another big change inside the cabin is the new steering wheel, much nicer to grip and with a huge array of buttons, giving you the ability to control everything from the stereo to the trip computer (including the cruise control on the cee'd 3 model), it's a nice touch of class. There's still no integrated Sat-Nav to be found on any model, but you can't have everything for such a great price. The overall feel, build and materials in the new cee'd are off the chart compared with other budget brand manufacturers.
So the outsides nice and the insides great, but where you feel the huge change is with the revisions and changes with what's under the skin. The new suspension means that the little Kia has much better ride quality than before, to say the old cee'd has a hard ride would be an understatement. The new softer suspension ensures a very comfortable journey for all aboard, and gives the Kia a nicer friendly handling. Changes to the power steering to an independence electric motor system mean it's sharper than Danni Minogue's cheekbones (how much surgery can one woman have done between seasons of the X-Factor!). The places where the old cee'd slightly disappointed have been rectified and no it's just a great fun hatch.
We tested both the 1.6CRDI diesel (high power) and the same engine with the EcoDynamics tuning coupled with the ISG technology. The high power diesel engine, doesn't disappoint, although it's the same engine we had in the recent Kia Soul be tested, thankfully in the cee'd it's a lot more refined and doesn't sound like a tractor. Due to the weight difference between the Soul and the cee'd in the cee'd the engine is pokey and performance is very good. It's a sporty little engine and it really gives the cee'd the power to impress and still returns a brilliant 62mpg. Now de-tuning the 113bhp engine down to 89bhp gives Kia its new Eco engine, coupled with the ISG system the little cee'd will do an amazing 67mpg, it's CO2 is also only 110g/km meaning that its dirt cheap on road tax.
Now as we all know the current economy is spurring all motoring manufacturers to face up to both the car-buying markets desire for economical motoring and also environmentally friendly motoring. So Kia has come up with its ISG (Intelligent Stop and Go) solution. The basic non-tech version is that when you're heading up to traffic lights that are on red, you put the car into neutral and the engine turns itself off, the second you put the clutch down to put the car into 1st and pull away, the engine restarts automatically. So this clever little system is designed to give you significant fuel and emissions savings. One of the journalists on the launch took a stopwatch with him on the city route, he timed both his journey and also the amount of time the engine had turned itself off during his 45min route round Liverpool city centre. Out of his 45min journey the engine was stopped for an amazing third of that time. Sat in traffic and at lights the engine didn't waste a drop of fuel or emit a single emission. Now although it's un-quantifiable just how much the ISG system would increase your fuel economy, or how much money is saved by not wasting all that fuel, you don't have to be a genius to work out that it's saving you money and helping to cut emissions at the same time.
Well even though I don't like the new grille that much, I have to say I love the new cee'd even more than I loved the original. Its spacious cabin seats 5 in comfort, there's more than adequate boot for luggage and shopping. It's fresh, fun, and great to drive, with ISG it's economical and it's second to none in the level of equipment you get for your money.
The new Kia cee'd is on sale now prices start from £11,895 OTR for the entry level cee'd 1 1.4L Petrol. Both models we tested (1.6CRDI high power and the EcoDynamics with ISG) cost £14,195 OTR.