Kia mov­ing on up with im­pres­sive Ceed

Irish Examiner - - News - On the road with DE­CLAN COLLEY

The Kia Ceed has been given the looks, en­gines, and qual­ity, to al­low it com­pete in the com­pact fam­ily hatch-back seg­ment.

Use­less in­for­ma­tion (Part 1): the name Kia is de­rived from the Sino-Korean char­ac­ters ‘Ki’ which means ‘to come out’ and ‘A’ which de­notes East Asia, so the com­bi­na­tion lit­er­ally means ‘to come out of the East.’

Use­less in­for­ma­tion (Part 2):

Kia started life in 1944 as Kyung­sung Pre­ci­sion In­dus­try, the man­u­fac­turer of steel tub­ing and bi­cy­cle parts. In 1951, it pro­duced Korea’s first do­mes­tic bi­cy­cle — the Sam­chully.

Now there are those who will main­tain — un­kindly, it has to be said — that the world would be a bet­ter place if Kia had not ‘come out of the East’ and had stuck to mak­ing bi­cy­cles.

But given that the com­pany now makes gazil­lions of ve­hi­cles an­nu­ally and em­ploys many tens of thou­sands of peo­ple world­wide and is a se­ri­ous player in the au­to­mo­tive hi­er­ar­chy, that sce­nario is un­likely to play out.

A good ex­am­ple of just how se­ri­ous a player it is comes in the shape of the new Kia Ceed which, shorn of its apos­tro­phied unique­ness, has now been given the looks, en­gines and qual­ity which it is hoped will al­low it com­pete strongly against the two kings of the com­pact fam­ily hatch­back seg­ment — the Volk­swa­gen Golf and the Ford Fo­cus. Not to men­tion Toy­ota which is fight­ing back with the Corolla hatch, hav­ing aban­doned the ‘yoof’ ori­ented Auris pro­gramme.

This sce­nario is big ba­nanas for Kia. Not that very long ago, the com­pany was mak­ing Mazda and Honda knock­offs for a liv­ing and at one point man­u­fac­tured and sold — un­der li­cence — vari­ants of the Fiat 132 and the Peu­geot 604. Not what you might rightly con­clude as the pre­cur­sor for a re­al­is­tic as­sault on the global car mar­ket.

But with a much fo­cussed ap­proach to growth in ev­ery sin­gle mar­ket it tack­led, as well as a some­what vi­sion­ary de­sign-led cor­po­rate ideal, Kia has come from mak­ing bi­cy­cle bits to tak­ing on the au­to­mo­tive world. And the new Ceed is the car Kia reck­ons will crack Eu­rope for it.

Sure there have been suc­cesses down the years — the Kia Sportage be­ing the most no­table, glob­ally — but Kia mainly traded as a low-cost, value-for-money car maker and one which made very re­li­able cars, hence it be­com­ing the first man­u­fac­turer to pro­mote a seven-year-war­ranty pro­gramme.

The war­ranty shtick was some­thing of a smoke and mir­ror job be­cause, af­ter all, who in this PCP world keeps a car for seven years any­way, but it did in­di­cate to pun­ters that the com­pany was pre­pared to stand by its prod­ucts and that had to mean they weren’t kid­ding. It worked.

That is all very well when you are largely mak­ing un­so­phis­ti­cated and tech­no­log­i­cally con­ser­va­tive cars, but it be­comes a very dif­fer­ent thing when you step be­yond those pa­ram­e­ters and at­tempt to take on au­to­mo­tive be­he­moths such as Ford and Volk­swa­gen. The qual­ity of the prod­uct be­comes ev­ery­thing.

For some 10 years now, Kia has fo­cussed largely on ex­pand­ing into Eu­rope and hav­ing promised back in 2005 that ‘de­sign’ would be the com­pany’s “core fu­ture growth en­gine” it has largely de­liv­ered on that pledge, cre­at­ing (through the work of chief de­signer Peter Schreyer) a very iden­ti­fi­able ‘Kia’ look and not some­thing (like their brethren at Hyundai) that merely mim­ics con­tem­po­rary generic Eu­ro­pean de­signs.

Be­yond that, Kia has also started to make cars that that will make driv­ers smile. It has crossed that Asian Ru­bi­con whereby cars are merely util­i­tar­ian things which are not meant to be fun; they’re meant to do things and bring you places — not pro­vide en­joy­ment while you’re do­ing so.

The Ceed is the car which has at­tempted smash a glass ceil­ing and while it may not have com­pletely shat­tered the premise that the Asians will never make cars which Euro­peans adore, it has cer­tainly gone a long way to­wards do­ing so.

Look at the ba­sics: in­de­pen­dent all round sus­pen­sions (check); a prop­erly weighted steer­ing rack (check); elec­tronic driv­ing aids which im­prove the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence rather than prove what an id­iot you are (check); top drawer space and prac­ti­cal­ity (check); and, a range of mod­ern, clean and ef­fi­cient en­gines (check).

OK, so the Kore­ans have de­signed a car for Eu­rope and Euro­peans, rather than one com­pro­mised (and emas­cu­lated) for Asian or Amer­i­can tastes and it is one which truly has the moxie for the job at hand.

We tried the Ceed with the small­est en­gine — the one litre, three cylin­der turbo petrol unit — and with the sec­ond-to-top K4 spec­i­fi­ca­tion rat­ing which throws in a lot of kit on top of the K2 ver­sion (which fea­tures such as cruise con­trol, air con, leather trim for steer­ing wheel and gear knob, 16” al­loys, auto lights, 7” touch­screen, DAB ra­dio, Blue­tooth, car play, an­droid and all that other stuff).

K4 adds 17” al­loys, an 8” touch­screen with sat nav and Wi-Fi, ex­te­rior and in­te­rior styling up­grades, pri­vacy glass, park­ing sen­sors, ex­tra steer­ing wheel con­trols and so forth.

You will nev­er­the­less find all that stuff in most cars th­ese days — at some point in their spec grade — will of­fer items which, while not to be sniffed at, still don’t make it a good car. Think back to the likes of fel­low South Kore­ans Dae­woo. All spec­i­fi­ca­tion, but no sole in the shoe when it came to the cob­bler, as many will re­call wist­fully.

This is dif­fer­ent. Not only will it make a de­cent re-sale propo­si­tion in time to come, but it will still look good look too — much like any Golf or Fo­cus.

What makes the Ceed a very good car is the way the en­gine per­forms and the man­ner in which the chas­sis con­ducts it­self on the road. I’m not say­ing the new Ceed is a great car, but it is cer­tainly one hell of an improve­ment on the two which pre­ceded it and it is in­dica­tive that the Kia game has shifted up a gear.

It han­dles with pre­ci­sion and poise and if those char­ac­ter­is­tics by ne­ces­sity mean that the sus­pen­sion set­tings are a tad stiffer than some would like, then so be it. But it han­dles so well it will gen­uinely put a smile on your face.

Be­cause the han­dling is so well sorted and the ride shows a level of en­gi­neer­ing eru­di­tion, it makes the car a cut above.

The en­gine, too, is a bur­bly com­pan­ion with its throaty and en­thu­si­as­tic sound­track and while top speed is only 180km/h and the 0-100km/h dash achieved in 10.9 sec­onds, it re­ally is very good to live with.

Al­lied to a slick six speed gear­box, it is fun to drive and ef­fi­cient too, re­turn­ing a 5.5 l/100km econ­omy (50.9mpg) and a €270 an­nual tax bill.

Throw in roomy, prac­ti­cal and well equipped and you have, in my opin­ion, a real con­tender and one which might not just yet up to Ford and Volk­swa­gen stan­dards, but not trail­ing far be­hind ei­ther. Sure the dash could be a touch un-sexy for some, but it worked fine for me.

I don’t think Kia is go­ing to go back to mak­ing bi­cy­cles any­time soon and the main ev­i­dence for that is the qual­ity of this car and the im­pact it is go­ing to have across Eu­rope. It’s a good ‘un.

The new Kia Ceed is a car de­signed for Eu­rope and Euro­peans.

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