We drove the Kia cee’d Sportswagon : your smooth companion…

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The moment comes when one has to turn its attention to a (very) successful Korean car manufacturer, which is going from strength to strength in world markets, and last but not least also in Europe: Kia.

You might know already, Kia Motors is actually now a subsidiary owned by more than 30 pct by Hyundai since 1998, so their models have a lot of (drivetrain) technology in common.

It was for us the very first time we sat behind the wheel of a Kia four wheeled product, and we chose fittingly a car out of the cee’d range, a model that has provided the foundation for Kia’s continuing success in Europe over recent years.

The cee’d has enjoyed a comprehensive upgrade last year, and we drove her for you the stylish and practical Sportswagon version, equipped with the 81 kW 1,6 liter CRDi diesel engine and the slick six speed manual gearbox. It proved sophisticated and very pleasant to drive, offering surprising mechanical refinement, amply proving the know-how of this manufacturer and, rightly so, Hyundai. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Inviting  looks…

The Kia cee’d has been designed and engineered in Europe ever since its original launch in December 2006, and quite naturally, the Kia cee’d model family is manufactured at Kia’s production facility in Žilina, Slovakia, and remains one of the brand’s bestselling models.

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Its looks and proportions have therefore a decidedly European flair. The mid 2015 facelift retained Kia’s hallmark ‘tiger-nose’ grille, wraparound headlamps and integrated fog lamps. Changes to the ‘face’ of the cee’d include a more angular and wider bumper, with chrome trim around the fog lamps, and a new oval-shaped grille mesh echoing many of the shapes and design forms on the front of the car. At  the rear, reshaped bumpers and sporty-looking reflectors adding greater volume and “zest”  to the car’s appearance.

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LED rear lamps complete the rear of the car. Indeed, proportions are quite pleasing, and what we appreciated even more was the excellent visibility, especially sideways, due to the sloping waistline at the front, which lets you see the edges of corners and kerbs in narrow city streets so much better. How often is the massive sideview mirror together with the high window sill blocking your view here… it was quite refreshing and pleasant, making the car a joy to drive on winding roads and city boulevards, and making the cee’d in this respect really stand out from the competition!

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In the interior we were impressed to see and feel the impeccable finish and the good quality of materials and surfaces, with a refined touch of luxury added thanks to a flash of chrome around the instrument binnacle, driver-side and central air vents and around the upper edge of the instrument panel.

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The central fascia panel is now finished in an anti-scratch gloss black for a more premium ambiente. Other chrome highlights have also been added to the cabin, in particular around the base of the gear-stick, on door handles, and to the temperature control dials on the dashboard. Indeed, the cabin is pleasant and we have also to applaud the excellent digital ventilation and heating, adjustable individually for both front passengers.

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Everything in this cee’d is intuitive to use, last but not least the infotainment system. It now has a 7.0-inch central fascia display.  Whether it is hooking up your phone or putting in an address, the commands are just so straightforward, logical and simple. All the knobs and handles are positioned where they should be.

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The steering and infotainment controls are also illuminated at night, so it helps you to become a surefooted user of all the controls when driving at night.

A new addition to the cee’d is a wide range of multimedia information services, Kia Connected Services. Provided by TomTom, the new connectivity features include live traffic updates, speed camera locations and alerts, local search and weather forecasts.

Refined diesel power

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Under the hood of our cee’d test car lived the 1,6 liter the CRDi diesel engine, which has also been upgraded for its application in the new model. A new high-pressure injection system and continuously-controlled variable oil pump reduce friction losses in the engine. CO2 emissions fall to 102 g/km, or just 94 g/km when fitted with Kia ISG (Idle Stop/Go).

Indeed, this engine is actually a Hyundai “U” engine, which was originally introduced in 2005 in a 1,5 liter version. It has an aluminum cylinder head with chain driven DOHC (4 valves per cylinder), Bosch common rail direct injection (CRDi), variable geometry turbocharger (VGT) and intake air swirl control.

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The 1.6-litre U diesel engine (known as D4FB) from the Žilina Kia factory in Slovakia is a bored-out version of the 1.5-litre U series engine (77.2 mm versus 75 mm). It is a “best in class” diesel engine in the world. In 2009, it was refined to the 1.6 U2 version. As said, further improvements were made with the facelift. This engine is also found in the Hyundai i30 amongst others.

Our test car came with the 81 kW/110 HP variant, and proved ultra smooth and flexible. Its torque is up to the mark with a healthy 280 Nm over a wide rev range between 1500 and 2500 rpm.

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For diesel variants, the upgraded interior of the cee’d offers improved noise, vibration and harshness characteristics. Additional sound-absorbing materials have been adopted for the carpet and ventilation system, while twice as much anti-vibration foam has been added to the dashboard panel to cut engine vibrations intruding on the calm of the cabin. All diesel engines have also been fitted with sound-absorbing material to the engine block, oil pan and diesel particulate filter. It is effective indeed…

The diesel unit  just needs to revved a bit higher and kept somewhat longer in the (lower) gears than indicated by the eco coach, as it will produce some vibrations below say 1500 rpm when having to pull a bit harder. When you observe this, which takes only a few minutes to get used to, you will have a very refined engine which delivers very creditable economy and also quite good performance. Top speed is 188 km/h, so this cee’d is also an excellent high speed long distance cruiser, with 0 to 100 acceleration absolved in 11,5 seconds.

 

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The dynamic qualities are further greatly enhanced by an excellent, and then we say indeed excellent 6 speed manual box. It is one of the very best manual boxes we have come across lately, with very slick and smooth gear changes, truly a delight to use. The clutch is also smooth and progressive.

It has to be mentioned here that the cee’d can now also be had with all-new seven-speed double-clutch transmission (DCT), available exclusively on models equipped with the higher powered 136 HP 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine.

All this is true Hyundai technology, as you understand. The transmissions are stemming from Hyundai Powertech, actually becoming the new force in the global automotive industry. Incorporated in 2001, Hyundai Powertech is a main auto parts manufacturer of Hyundai Motor Group, specializing in automotive transmissions

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Frugality is also at the rendez-vous, we said, with an average test consumption around 5,2 liters/100 km. The manufacturer quotes 3,9 liters as the average ECE consumption. CO2 emissions fall to 102 g/km, when fitted with Kia ISG (Idle Stop/Go).

(Very) creditable handling and good comfort…

We were also impressed and surprised by the very pleasant comfort and agile road manners of the cee’d.

Indeed, it is a pleasure to steer the cee’d with abandon over winding roads, as the road holding is neutral and fully predictable, and the car steers with entertaining precision.

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The principal enhancement to the upgraded cee’d is the addition of a new torque vectoring system, which reduces understeer by partially applying the brake to the inner wheel under cornering. The motor-driven power steering system now results in more linear and predictable steering inputs, while changes to front wheel geometry have improved on-centre steering feel. Finally, new stoppers on the rear strut mount insulators and new outer ball joint on the rear stabilizer bar help to improve ride comfort on poor surfaces by minimizing vibrations through the suspension.

Comfort is also quite good, with the car unfolding excellent high speed comfort, and good absorption of low and high frequent undulations. Also low speed comfort is on the mark.

The Sportswagon is of course very practical with good load capacity and boot space. Standard capacity is 528 liters, with maximum 1642 liters with all rear seat backrests folded down.

Conclusion

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A very well engineered and built car, with excellent visibility, nimbleness, smooth handling, practical and pleasant to drive everyday with a very smooth, refined, willing and frugal engine, and one of the best manual gearboxes we have come across lately. It is most practical, and last but not least, comes with a 7-Year, 150,000 km warranty as standard. Need we say more?

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

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