X-rating a plus for Kia Ceed
Korean marque successfully blends its SUV expertise and best-selling family hatchback, writes Campbell Spray
It is always fraught recommending cars to family, friends and colleagues. It is even more so when one of the latter's brilliance and exacting standards are only matched by what can be described politely as challenging moodiness. That he was a great friend and sat next to me complicated the process.
Luckily we never fell out during nearly a decade after he bought, with my recommendation, the family hatchback known then as a Kia c'eed and which has now morphed into the more sensibly named Ceed.
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In that time Kia has become an increasingly bigger player in both the new and second-hand market. The company's seven-year warranty has been a big factor but that would count for little if the cars themselves - ranging from city vehicles such as the Picanto to its well known SUVs like Stonic, Sorento and Sportage (the country's 12th best-selling vehicle this year) but all the time pivoting on the Ceed - weren't really up to the job. Excellent EVs like the Soul and Niro have given the marque a funky modern face.
Since the first c'eed was launched in 2006, the Korean marque has more than doubled its sales in Europe, fulfilling its mission statement that it could engineer and design a car that appeals to European drivers. It was created in Frankfurt, tested on roads in the south of Spain and the north of Sweden, and built in an all-new plant in Slovakia. More than 1.4m versions have been built and sold in Europe since its launch 13 years ago. It has also won 10 European design awards.
Now Kia is merging its SUV expertise and Ceed family appeal to ride the wave of the urban crossover popularity in the XCeed, a very tasty vehicle with the requisite cladding, raised height, stance and design tweaks but keeping the handling and packaging of a hatchback.
It arrives later this month and costs from €26,245 with mainly petrol engines until a plug-in hybrid version arrives in the new year. The company is expecting great things from the XCeed with probably more than 1,100 being sold next year of which 500 might be the PHEV, which will be high spec and have a starting price of the early €30ks.
Last week, the XCeed was launched in the French port of Marseille and proved to be a very attractive proposition. Slightly longer and wider it is a lot more imposing than the standard Ceed while not being the height of a Sportage. That is replicated inside, where driver and passengers get a more commanding view of the road. The car is virtually all new with only the front doors inherited from the hatchback. Despite a coupe look to the back of the XCeed, headroom was adequate.
The turbocharged engines give good progress and are efficient without being ground-breaking.
The launch came days after James Brooks, the likeable long-serving head of Kia Ireland, went on "gardening leave" after being headhunted by the Gowan Group to lead the revitalising of the Opel marque here, of which Gowan has taken control.
Aidan Doyle, marketing guru of Kia Ireland, said it addressed the "growing desire for cars which offer more emotion and dynamism than an SUV, both in terms of the way a car looks and drives. Yet these customers don't want to lose the practicality that a larger car offers them."
It is worth checking the XCeed out. You won't lose any friendships over it.