Kia facelifts its Cee'd and drops its six-speed torque converter in favour of a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox in the process. We drive it for the first time

What is it?

Few manufacturers have been as fascinating to watch in their development as Kia. The first generations of its products in the UK - including the Cee’d in 2006 - may have been praised for their low prices, but there was little else of real merit to ensure them of class honours.

With each passing generation, though, most of these models have become better to drive, cheaper to run and nicer to sit in. The Cee’d is the very definition of this progress, and with 1,000,000 of them now sold, it’s clear that the Korean firm is on to something.

2015 marks the current Cee’d’s midlife facelift, but there’s more to it than simple styling revisions. Sure, there’s the usual new look front and back and some classier cabin materials, but Kia has also been busy experimenting with ball joints and stabiliser bars to ensure not only keener handling but also better comfort and refinement.

Kia has also introduced a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine for the first time, while a sleek new GT Line trim promises range-topping looks and dynamics without the extra performance the standalone GT badge brings. But here we're driving yet another of the Cee'd's revisions: a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, now available with the now more powerful range-topping diesel engine.

What's it like?

A better proposition than the old six-speed gearbox in terms of performance. This most powerful 1.6 diesel gets a new turbocharger and is now more sprightly than before, trading in its previous 126bhp and 195lb ft outputs for 134bhp and 221lb ft. The more useful pull begins from around 1500rpm, too. 

Thankfully, the new dual-clutch automatic transmission - developed from scratch by Kia, not borrowed from Mercedes - allows you access to the performance. It gives you the right number of down changes on kickdown, but flicks down just once or not at all when pressing down on the throttle to rest just above it, thus using the torque at the engine’s disposal rather than immediately flaring the revs.

It's a reasonably quiet unit, too, this 1.6 - certainly quieter than the Volkswagen Group's efforts with its oil-burners of the same capacity. There's distant engine boom and slight vibration felt through the pedals at very high revs, but the majority of the time you'll enjoy smooth, settled progress. A new cylinder block cover, enhanced diesel particulate filter and sturdier dashboard insulation and carpet are the reasons for that. 

The Cee'd's ride and handling still lag behind those of its rivals, though. Our Slovakian test route threw up some UK-like broken surfaces, the most high-frequency of which the Cee’d’s dampers struggled to cope with. The soft set-up does, however, mean that lower-speed bumps are dealt with quite comfortably.

That said, the softness also means noticeable body lean when you feel the urge to push on. The Cee’d’s steering has never been its strong point, and that continues even with revisions for 2015. There's very little feedback in any of its three modes - Normal, Comfort and Sport - and its straight-ahead vagueness and inconsistent weighting fail to inspire fun like a Ford FSeat ocus or Leon can. And this is despite a newly introduced torque-vectoring system that brakes the inside wheel during vigorous cornering. 

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The Cee'd can at least compete on space. It's not as generous with its rear legroom as the class best Skoda Octavia or Nissan Pulsar, but there's room for four adults to sit comfortably. The driver gets enough manual steering wheel adjustment to suit a range of heights and our 4 Tech model's electric seat adjustment was wide-ranging. At 380 litres and with a low loading lip, the Cee'd's boot is more spacious and more practical than may of its rivals'.

Fine, so the perceived quality of the Kia's cabin can't match a that of a Leon or a Volkswagen Golf, but it holds its own against a Focus or Pulsar and feels solidly constructed with switchgear that's substantial to the touch. This year’s added chrome accents are also more convincing than in Kias of old, and our car's TFT screen between the instruments was easy to cycle through and impressive to look at.

All Cee'ds with sat-nav now come with a new level of online connectivity provided via TomTom, giving live information such as speed cameras, weather and traffic, but overall the Cee'd's infotainment remains behind its rivals'. Its 7.0in screen is responsive, its shortcut buttons clear and menus simple enough, but its smartphone integration and functionality is in need of a new generation rather than a facelift. 

Should I buy one?

Back in 2006, buying a Cee'd was a decision made more with the head than the heart. These days, it's easy to be seduced by the Cee’d’s styling next to the less aggressive lines of its closest rivals, and this facelift only enhances its appeal in that respect. The head is kept happy, too, with the same generous equipment, space and seven-year warranty, but now with improved running costs and refinement.

Kia is yet to release prices and specific trim level equipment, but it's safe to assume that this range-topping 4 Tech 1.6 diesel with new seven-speed gearbox will come in at around £24,000. Okay, so there's better value in opting for the (traditionally) still brilliantly equipped lower trims, but even at this lofty level the Kia looks competitively priced versus rivals considering its huge kit list. 

Even with CO2 emissions for this model now down to 109g/km (with stop-start added )from 145g/km, it still isn't the cleanest 1.6 automatic diesel of the class, but it's a darn sight more competitive than it was. True, there's still work to be done on the car's dynamics, but ultimately there are now even more reason to have the Cee'd on your list of family car test drives. 

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Kia Cee'd 1.6 CRDi 136 DCT 4 Tech 5dr

Location Zilina, Slovakia; On sale Now; Price £24,000 (est); Engine 4 cyls, 1582cc, diesel; Power 134bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1316kg; 0-62mph 10.6sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 64.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 115g/km, 21%

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highfidelity 17 January 2016

Facelift Ceed

Having owned the previous model crdi with excellent 6 speed TC auto ,I am very disappointed with certain aspects of the new model. despite reports of improved ride & steering, I find the steering exactly the same on both fitted with Goodyear Efficient Grip tyres which improves steering over the original Hankooks. However the ride is simply not good enough, very thumpy over poor London road surfaces despite reducing tyre pressures to 30 psi..Whilst the 7 speed dct box is very good it can not be used for engine braking like the previous TC auto and is subject to slight unwanted surges. Best features are improved appearance & zero road tax. Kia need to match Golf instrumentation & provide a much better ride .
275not599 5 September 2015

The text doesn't add up to

The text doesn't add up to four stars.
Overdrive 5 September 2015

275not599 wrote: The text

275not599 wrote:

The text doesn't add up to four stars.

Indeed, and also $24k for a 1.6 ltr Kia hatch, with 134bhp and 0-60 over 10 secs sounds a bit steep to me.

marj 5 September 2015

Overdrive wrote: 275not599

Overdrive wrote:
275not599 wrote:

The text doesn't add up to four stars.

Indeed, and also $24k for a 1.6 ltr Kia hatch, with 134bhp and 0-60 over 10 secs sounds a bit steep to me.

Especially as the Talisman was praised by AC and got 3 stars!!

xxxx 2 September 2015

Sat Nav. clock swap

A lot more thought should have gone into the position of the sat nav, it's probably the lowest mounted OEM unit I've seen. Bordering on dangerous as your eyes have to glance off the road ahead. Still at least the clock is up high (where the sat nav should be)
Adrian987 2 September 2015

Sat nav no worries

My experience of the Golf sat nav, which is in almost identical position, is that it is fine. Voice commands can of course be heard irrespective of where it is.