The interior overall stands out not just because of the kit but also the quality. This is as close to a Golf as Kia has ever been, with glossy or soft-touch plastic that’s pleasing to the eyes and touch, an attractive design and neat extras, such as the wireless phone charger under the centre stack.
Little touch points also show the effort Kia has made to improve perceived fit and finish, including the sliding cover for the USB and 12V points in the dashboard, which is so nicely damped that it wouldn’t be out of place in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The only thing that’s taking the shine off so far is the passenger’s grab handle, which has started to rattle over bumps. I’ve yet to trouble the Ceed’s rear-seat room or boot space, but both appear generous enough for family life or a light weekend away.
Our Ceed isn’t just fully loaded in terms of trim: it also has the most powerful engine available at launch (before the Ceed GT arrives). The 1.4-litre turbo petrol four-pot pumps out a modest 138bhp but a healthy 178lb ft of torque, and is mated to Kia’s seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
With less than 1000 miles on the clock, it’s barely run in, but performance is little more than adequate. The 0-62mph dash takes 8.9sec, which is unremarkable for a top-flight engine, and that’s how it seems on the road. It feels punchy and smooth after an initial throttle deadness, which eggs you on to start extending it, but above 4000rpm, all you get is a rather coarse engine note without much additional oomph. At least it’s impressively refined when taking it easy, where the dual-clutch ’box is better at timing and dampening its gearshifts.
It’s a pity the engine is merely average because the Ceed is a surprisingly agile and composed steer, based on first impressions. The taut chassis set-up means body control is tight and the steering perfectly balances directness and high-speed stability. One trade-off for this is that the ride is a little firmer around town than it should be, although it’s still an improvement on the outgoing Ceed in that respect.
Minor gripes aside, the initial outlook is positive for our EuroKorean hatch. Even fuel economy is better than expected, as I’m averaging 43mpg on mixed town and motorway work without really trying. We’ll see over the next few months if the Ceed can offer the ownership proposition of the class’s big hitters.
There’s no doubt that the new Ceed is one of the more inspiring hatchbacks to drive, but I still think Kia hasn’t got the ride quite right. There’s a nervous fidget that never really settles – and our car’s 17in alloy wheels aren’t exactly oversized.