Overall rating: 4/5
The first cee'd represented a seismic shift into the mainstream for Kia so the second generation model has a lot to live up to. Clearly it's an even better car than before, but does that mean it can take on the mighty Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf?
In the metal 4/5
While the original cee'd's style was bland, if modern, the new car seems to split opinion - which could be seen as daring in this segment. For the record, it looks best in bright colours and metallic paint, which help the distinctive grille and the sculpting under the rear lights stand out. From the back it appears quite wide and low.
The first thing that strikes you about the interior is just how much room there is to stretch out. That's true in the four main seats, and even the central rear seat passenger only has to put up with a slightly raised floor. The boot is large too. Next you'll notice the quality. Kia has managed to raise the cee'd's cabin above the already quite good Rio so it competes on a level playing field with the best in class. That's especially true in the higher trim levels, which feature better materials.
Driving it 3.5/5
Our test route had little in the way of poor surfaces and potholes. Neither did it feature any tight corners, so take this as a first impression only and we'll go into more detail when we drive the car on Irish roads later this year.
The suspension feels on the firm side, which hopefully doesn't mean it's uncomfortable over bad roads. This does, however, endow the cee'd with great body control. There's very little roll in fast bends, where it feels stable and even offers a little adjustment mid-corner. The set-up is biased towards safety rather than driving enjoyment, which is what most buyers would want in any case.
We were unimpressed by the steering though. There's very little feedback through the rim and the Flex Steer system, which offers Comfort, Normal and Sport settings, only changes the level of assistance. It seems like an unnecessary feature in this class of car. No doubt it'll be more useful when Kia launches a sporty derivative.
More impressive is the cee'd's refinement. It isolates passengers from the outside world as well as the best cars in the C-segment and the engines are surprisingly hushed. The 1.4-litre diesel's 90hp figure won't excite anyone, but its 220Nm of torque ensures that it can keep up with traffic. In town you'll find yourself changing down a gear more often than you would in the 1.6 diesel, but thankfully the six-speed manual gearbox is good to use.
What you get for your money 3.5/5
The headline starting price for the Kia cee'd hatchback in Ireland is €18,995. That gets you a 1.4 TX petrol model, which comes with Bluetooth, stereo controls on the steering wheel, front electric windows, electric mirrors, air conditioning, USB and aux-in connectivity, ESP and six airbags. Both the 1.4- and 1.6-litre diesel engines are also available in TX trim for €20,995 and €21,795 respectively.
Kia Ireland reckons the best-seller with be the 1.4 EX diesel, which features 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, electric windows all round, electric folding door mirrors, front fog lights, the Flex Steer system, LED lights, a leather steering wheel and rear parking sensors. This costs €22,495, or €23,295 with the 1.6-litre 128hp diesel.
For buyers that want a fully loaded cee'd there's the 1.6 Platinum diesel. For €29,295 this adds 17-inch alloys, heated leather seats with electric adjustment, Smart Park Assist, a heated leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, Super Vision instruments, a panoramic sunroof, satnav and more.
Kia's seven-year warranty is standard as ever and the diesel engines sit in Band A for tax.
Clearly there's more to come in the Kia cee'd range. The SW estate was revealed earlier this year and Kia has all but confirmed that a sporty three-door version is imminent. It also admitted to working on something 'GTI-like', though would say no more. It's highly likely that a hot hatch variant would be based on the sportier three-door body. We'd expect a derivative of the turbocharged 1.6-litre engine fitted to the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, which delivers 186hp and 270Nm of torque.
Given that Kia now has a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox in its arsenal, we'd hope that the new hot hatch features that as an option.
First impressions suggest that the new Kia cee'd is directly comparable to the class leaders, including the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. It has the quality, refinement, space and efficiency to compete, along with good specification and a great warranty. It'll need all that to succeed in this hotly-contested sector.