First introduced in 2007, the Kia Ceed has, alongside the Sportage SUV, underpinned the growth of Kia in the UK and Europe.
But while it has always been aimed at this part of the world, it has never been quite able to match the driving finesse of rivals such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
Now, with the arrival of the third-generation Ceed, Kia says it has finally addressed this issue and given the car a more dynamic feel. It has also introduced a more modern turbocharged petrol engine and a cleaner diesel unit.
The looks, particularly the more accentuated front grille and air vents, have tones of the new Kia Stinger, an executive car that’s been praised for its combination of driving prowess and value for money.
What’s more, safety has been beefed up, with automatic emergency braking and a driver fatigue warning system standard across the range.
You can even have Level Two autonomous driving technology, in the form of Lane Following Assist – a radar based system that tracks the vehicle in front and automatically controls acceleration, braking and steering to maintain a safe distance from it.
2018 Kia Ceed on the road
There’s also a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol that produces 118bhp and does 0-62mph in 11.1sec. That may not sound like much of a turn of speed, but the turbocharger kicks in from low revs, so this little engine has perfectly adequate performance on faster roads, let alone around town.
It’s a better option than the diesel, which is signifiantly noisier and still not especially clean, with CO2 emissions ranging from 104 to 111g/km.
Special eco versions of the 1.0-litre petrol and 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel, with improved aerodynamics and low-rolling resistance tyres to improve efficiency, will follow later, and Kia is also planning a diesel-electric hybrid version of the Ceed.
For now, however, the highlight of the line-up is the 134bhp 1.4-litre petrol, which feels surprisingly responsive, remains smooth and quiet most of the time and feels well matched to its light yet positive six-speed manual gearbox.
As mentioned, improving the Ceed’s dynamics was a priority for Kia, and it’s succeeded; the steering is sharp and precise, and the car now feels every bit as agile as the Golf.
This hasn’t been achieved at the expense of ride quality, either; the Ceed is still comfortable and forgiving over uneven surfaces.
2018 Kia Ceed interior
Kia has improved the look and feel of the Ceed’s interior trim, and although it’s still not as opulent as that of the Golf or Skoda Octavia, there’s now lots of attractive matte black and aluminium trim, along with the option of shiny piano black inserts.
The driver sits closer to the ground than before, too, which creates a sportier feel and improved head room, while visibility is good to the front and sides.
It’s just a pity things aren’t as good for those in the back; the rear windows are shallow, which can make things feel a bit claustrophobic, and you don’t get as much leg room as you do in the best rivals.
More positively, shoulder room has been improved, so it’s more comfortable for three teenagers to sit side by side. And, at 395 litres, the boot is bigger than the Focus’s and Golf’s, although it still falls well short of the Octavia’s.
The boot entrance is wide and close to the ground, and there’s only a small lip at the entrance, so it’s relatively easy to lift heavy items in and out. There’s also an adjustable boot floor for added versatility.
Standard kit includes either a 7.0in or 8.0in infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, while handy options include wireless smartphone charging, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated windscreen.
The Verdict – ****
The combination of a punchy new petrol engine, improved interior trim and enhanced handling mean Kia has really upped the Ceed’s game. And it’s one of the most comfortable family hatchbacks around.
True, the Octavia remains a more practical choice, and Kia is still to confirm full prices and specs. But if it gets them right, the Ceed will be a serious threat to the class leaders.
Overall, What Car? awards the 2018 Kia ceed 4*
The Kia Ceed is due to arrive in our showroom from 24th July. Register your interest today.