Kia long talked about levelling the playing field with the established mainstream manufacturers in Europe and its cee'd was the model that finally did so. Designed for Europe, in Europe, the cee'd not only looked good, but brought a high quality, well equipped cabin, good space and dynamics that were competitive with the class best. Add a comprehensive seven-year warranty into the mix and it's little wonder Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen and Opel dealers weren't seeing so much demand for their Auris, Focus, Golf and Astra models. That warranty - subject to correct servicing being carried out - is transferrable too, making it a canny buy on the second-hand market.
The model range comprises of 1.4- and 1.6-litre petrol engines, and a pair of turbodiesels of 1.6- and 2.0-litre capacity. Five-door hatchbacks are most common, but there's an estate, badged SW, and a three-door model, called the pro_cee'd - both joining the five-door variant in the showroom in 2008. Irish cars are badged EX, LX or TX, though there are loads on the market with other trim levels that are usually imports.
In 2009, changes brought all-red dashboard illumination, a new steering wheel and gear lever, while the facelifted cee'd was identifiable outside thanks to its more striking ‘tiger nose' Kia corporate grille and neater rear lights. Even pre-facelift models look good, the cee'd not overshadowed in the styling department by its rivals. A popular buy, there's plenty available on the used marketplace, with diesels typically dominating the classifieds. Don't rule out a small petrol engined model if you're only doing short distances, though the diesel's economy advantage is worth it if you wind on plenty kilometres annually.
Even entry-level cars come with decent standard equipment, expect air conditioning and alloy wheels on most, the CD player offering full MP3 capability, though the base models do without aux-in and USB connection for iPods and the like. There's an automatic gearbox too, offered on the diesels only. The small 1.6 CRDi manual car is the best all-round proposition, the 90hp model offering a 119g/km CO2 figure and 4.5 litres/100km combined consumption.
All are good, but the 1.6-litre CRDi is arguably the best option thanks to its parsimonious thirst for diesel and fine performance - in and out of town. Add low CO2 - and hence more palatable tax - and it's the one we'd have. Trim levels depend on your budget, but really even the entry models come with everything you could reasonably expect - and more - for this class of car.
Kia cee'd 1.6 CRDi
Engine: 1,582cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Maximum speed: 172km/h
0-100km/h: 13.8 seconds
Fuel consumption: 4.5 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: *****
• Good looking inside and out
• Excellent standard equipment
• Desirable warranty
• Petrol engines are noisy at revs
• Ford Focus more fun to drive
Kia aimed to take on the best hatchbacks in the European marketplace with the cee'd and it has succeeded in its task. A good buy new makes for a great buy used, with good equipment levels, decent running costs and the assurance of that manufacturer warranty on cars aged less than seven years old.