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Form and function combined

The new Kia cee'd blends sleek looks with practicality -- a good mixture for a family car, writes Martin Brennan

FIVE years ago, the arrival of the cee'd family car kick-started Kia out of an era where Korean offerings to the motoring public were perceived to be cheap and cheerful. The step-up in materials, build quality and design sent shockwaves through the ranks of big timers such as VW, Ford and Toyota -- big sellers in this segment, with Golf, Focus and Auris.

Since then, the flow of new quality models from Kia has been relentless: a new Sorento in 2010; a new Picanto; new Rio (Continental Irish Car of the Year 2012); a new Soul; a new Sportage; and this year a new entry into the family/fleet segment, the Optima, are attracting a lot of attention as much for their style as for their enviable seven-year warranty.

And the pace continues. A new five-door cee'd will arrive here next month, with three-door and SW versions to follow; an Optima hybrid will appear later this year; and, not to let its cousin, Hyundai, away with its Veloster coupe, Kia plans its own sporty model to add spice to the range.

The new cee'd is fresh off the drawing boards in the German-based design studios and is built in Slovakia. Last year Kia sales went up 19 per cent in Europe, and so far to March this year, sales are up by 23 per cent at a time when the market has dropped by almost eight per cent -- which proves Kia's mantra that if you have the right cars at the right time you'll win, even in a falling market.

The new model has flowing exterior lines with a coupe-like look, combined with five-door functionality. There is a new grille, prominent day-time running lights, a rising beltline, chrome window surrounds, and wheel arches that can accommodate 18" alloys. Inside, there are improvements in the quality of material used with the cockpit orientated towards the driver, a full range of controls and a high-definition sat/nav screen that doubles as a reversing camera in some versions.

Rear headroom has been increased by 15mm and rear legroom by 8mm due to the long wheelbase. The boot capacity has been increased by 40 litres to 380 litres and extends to 1,380 litres when the rear seats submerge into a flat floor. Items such as a cooled glove box, heated steering wheel and air purifier are also on offer and drivers can choose Comfort, Normal or Sport response from the steering wheel.

All models come with good standard equipment. The entry TX versions get Bluetooth, audio remote controls, air conditioning, trip computer and six-speed transmission. The EX versions, which are expected to be the top sellers, add 16" alloy wheels, cruise control, flexible steering, all-round electric windows, fog lights, LED front lights and rear parking sensors.

The 1.4l, 90bhp entry level TX version is €18,995. This has a CO2 output of 139 and falls into Band B for road tax. There are two diesel engines on offer, both in the Band A tax bracket. The 1.4l, 89bhp unit with CO2 output of 109 is priced at €20,995 in TX trim and €22,495 in EX trim.

This is the ideal choice for the family driver, with good pulling power and low fuel consumption. Engine and tyre noise are surprisingly muted and the driving position is good. The 1.6l diesel with CO2 output of 100 offers 126bhp and is priced at €21,795 in TX trim and €23,295 in EX trim. This model is suited for the high-mileage driver. The top-range 1.6l version in Platinum trim costs €29,295 with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Kia expects to sell 1,000 a year with the new offering.

Indo Motoring