KIA is a company which has come a long way in a relatively short period of time and has built up a fan base which is increasingly loyal and committed. Look at company product such as the Sportage SUV, for example, and you find a car with a devoted following which is completely sold on the model and the brand.
That the South Korean manufacturer has been perhaps the most active of the major Asian automotive car makers in terms of its keenness to Europeanise its products and make them more appealing to us allegedly cultured types, is one of the reasons why the Sportage is a massive ongoing success.
Another is the fact that Kia has a propensity for continual mining of the buyers’ psyche by exploring the possibilities of any niche it sees as potentially profitable.
Having found a large stash of the magic dust it sprinkles over models aimed primarily at the broader European market, Kia understandably seems hell-bound to exploit this acceptability as much as possible.
Just look at the Kia Ceed range, for example. Not quite content in simply making an excellent hatchback, it expanded the line-up into the estate and shooting brake (fancy-dan estate) markets.
This three-car roster has now been added to once more with the XCeed, which, according to the company, is a ‘crossover urban utility vehicle’ or a CUV in the vernacular.
Oh dear. I mean there’s niche and there’s niche, but this is taking the niche thing to a really nichey place. Truly. The XCeed appears to be something Kia lashed together as a car which tries to appeal to every single characteristic anyone could possibly want in a car these days. It is a sort of an SUV; a sort of a hatchback; a sort of an estate; and, a sort of an SUV coupe thingy.
The net result, however, is a car which has such potentially broad appeal, it might actually overshadow all the other Ceed models. And it might also take sales away from other models in the Kia repertoire — such as the Stonic and the aforementioned and savagely successful Sportage.
Technically, the Xceed fulfils a gap between the Ceed range and the Sportage, but it also now fills the hole (if one existed) between the Stonic and the Sportage. All very confusing, I know, but you might now have a clearer picture of what I mean when I suggest this is a niche vehicle to beat all niche vehicles, but one which could well outsell all the Ceed variants it is essentially competing against.
Why? Well, it drives like a normal hatchback, has an SUV look about it, has a well-appointed interior with plenty of tech and sports a jaunty demeanour. One thing against it, however, is that it is a deal more expensive than its stablemates — prices from €26,245 — €30,495 as tested.
The driving end of things — despite the raised chassis, the 18” alloys, the plastic wheel arch cladding and all the rest of the SUV apparel — is not much different from any ordinary hatchback experience. It is sure-footed and not prone to excessive roll when pressing on, but it is not a particularly engaging car to drive.
Sure you get a car with demonstrable front-end grip at low to moderate speeds, but when you start asking questions, the XCeed does not demonstrate as much resilience as its hatch and estate siblings. If you’re a press-on sort of type then you will encounter understeer much earlier than expected, although a face-saving throttle lift will bring things back into line pretty quickly.
That said, it seems to me that Kia is now building cars that demonstrate more handling verve than is standard across not alone the regular hatchback segment, but it has stretched that characteristic to this CUV too.
The tester was fitted with the 1.6 CRDi turbodiesel engine and while it was quite decent to drive, it’s not the sharpest I’ve ever pedalled. With 115 bhp on tap and producing a respectable 240 Nm of torque, top speed is a tepid 189 kph and the 0-100 kph is an almost glacial 11 seconds. There is a 136 bhp version and if you demand a bit more grunt than what’s on offer here, then it is the one to get.
That said, the six-speed box helps things along nicely and allows you to keep the revs spinning in the zone you need most – when you need it most. And, further on the upside, the emissions are only 109 g/km (for an annual €190 tax bill) and it will also return 4.1 l/100 km (68.2 mpg).
Understandably most of the décor and furniture on the interior of the car is lifted from its’ Ceed siblings and that’s not a bad thing at all because the layout and build quality on offer here are of a higher standard than many might expect.
Stuff like the seat trims and the air vent surrounds are colour coded in line with the ‘Yellow Colour Pack’ with the Quantum Yellow exterior colour and while such stuff can look tacky and gawk-inducing in some cars, here it looks smart and modern.
On the ‘K3’ spec level we tested, there is also a 10.25” touchscreen controlling all the infotainment and connectivity requirements and there is also a battery of specification you will find both helpful as a driver and comforting as a passenger.
These days a lot of cars are about optics — and this is one of them. It is, after all, a car that visually tells you it is a hard-bitten off-road contender. In reality, it is nothing of the sort, but the looks alone are what people demand these days, regardless of the fact they might be misleading.
The Xceed then is something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, but for all that, it is not a bad purchasing option at all, especially when you factor in the economic elements of the car post-purchase.
Prior to buying one, though, you might like to consider that there is something like a €3,000 premium for this model as against its hatch and estate brethren and there is not a lot more on offer in performance or even off-road abilities.
This is a nice car and quite lovely to live with, but you are left wondering why they bothered.