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.
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.