Much improved ride makes facelifted Kia Cee'd SW even more tempting

What is it?

This is the facelifted Kia Cee’d SW. The mid-sized estate only went on sale two years ago and already the Korean firm has made some changes cosmetically and under the skin.

When the original Cee’d came out, it was praised for its excellent value and superb seven-year warranty (which remains), but it was let down by its harsh ride. The latest model features a re-worked suspension set-up, which has been tuned on UK roads to improve its handling and ride characteristics.

The facelift gets the firm’s new family grille – known as the Schreyer grille, after Kia’s chief designer Peter Schreyer – new trim levels and a redesigned interior. The model tested here is the 113bhp 1.6-litre CRDi model in mid-range 2 trim, expected to be the second biggest SW seller after the stop-start-equipped ISG model.

What’s it like?

Impressive. Our test route consisted of around 75 miles of driving in Lancashire taking in country lanes and town centres, as well as motorways and B-roads. The Cee’d SW is always going to be a car bought for practicality rather than driver enjoyment, but Kia has made progress in the ride quality thanks to the reworked suspension.

The SW keeps the Macpherson strut layout at the front and multi-link set-up at the rear, but the springs have been softened and the shock absorbers and anti-roll bars stiffened. Although not class leading, the SW’s ride is improved at both low and high speeds.

Around town it can still lean towards the harsh side, but up to speed on the motorway it is more than capable of absorbing bumps and eating miles with minimal fuss. Before signing the new Cee’d off, Kia had it assessed by Lotus and Porsche, who both noted the improvements over the outgoing model – we would agree with their sentiments.

The 1.6-litre diesel unit is a bit too noisy around town, but it is more than powerful enough to help the SW keep up with the traffic. Its healthy 173lb ft of torque is available from 1750rpm, which means it should be capable of carrying the larger loads required of an estate car without blunting the performance too much.

Another addition to this model is a new six-speed manual 'box, which replaces the five-speed unit in the outgoing car. The sixth ratio is most welcome on the motorway, as it turns the Cee’d into a quieter and more refined prospect. It also helps with the combined fuel economy, which is claimed to be 61.4mpg, although it averaged around 50mpg on our route. We would expect this figure to improve once the engine has been properly worn in.

Aside from that seven-year warranty, the SW also trumps all its main rivals on boot space. Mid-sized estates are cars bought for practicality and the SW excels at this – with the seats up, it holds 534 litres and with the seats down, 1664 litres. Kia’s main rivals – in its own words – are the estate versions of the Ford Focus, Renault Megane, Hyundai i30 and Vauxhall Astra. Only the i30 can beat it on price, but none match it on boot space. Its closest rival is the recently-launched Megane Sports Tourer, which holds 520 litres seats up and 1600 litres seats down.

The interior, too, is an improvement over the original. The outgoing Cee’d had a white goods feel to it, but the new centre console, steering wheel and gear knob give the Cee’d a more premium aura. The driving position and seats are both comfortable, while standard equipment is also good, with air-con, electric windows, 16-inch alloys and iPod connectivity all featuring as standard.

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Should I buy one?

Kia Cee'd SW picture gallery

If you’re looking for a dynamic driving experience then we suggest you try a Focus, but this comes at around a £2500 premium, a large figure at this end of the market.

The Cee’d SW is a hard car to criticise. Although it’s not the last word in terms of ride quality or refinement, the Ceed’s trump cards are its value and seven-year warranty, as well as its impressive carrying capacity.

In this class, nothing offers more space for the money and this, coupled with the handsome styling changes, help make the Cee’d SW a very compelling prospect.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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TUK 23 September 2009

Re: Kia Cee'd SW 1.6 CRDi

So this facelifted Kia has a "Schreyer grille"? ... can't wait for the special edition "George Foreman grille" :)

jelly7961 23 September 2009

Re: Kia Cee'd SW 1.6 CRDi

Autocar wrote:
The latest model features a re-worked suspension set-up, which has been tuned on UK roads to improve its handling and ride characteris..

I think that the interesting part of this story is the willingness that Kia (and I have noticed Hyundai) to listen to criticism and to make changes to their cars. How long have we been saying that Audis are nice but their ride/handling balance is off? I am not saying that this car is 'perfect' but it shows a will to succeed which I don't think other manufacturers should ignore 21 September 2009

Re: Kia Cee'd SW 1.6 CRDi

Mine had disappeared too:

Kia wisely don't mention it's obvious rival - The Skoda Octavia estate. 580 litres seats up/1620 litres seats down. The same 1.6 diesel engine as discussed in the Golf 105hp above when fitted in the Octavia gives out only 119g/km CO2 (£35 a year road tax) and almost identical performance specs.