From £23,8157

The latest Ceed has been well received, but Kia expects the Xceed to do even better

Find Kia Xceed deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
New car deals
From £23,815
Nearly-new car deals
From £18,599
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

If the design, ergonomics and credible dynamics of the most recent Kia Ceed demonstrate that Kia should now be considered alongside any other European maker of mass-market hatchbacks, then the Xceed is the derivative perfectly tailored to the current tastes of European buyers.

And if that sounds like an exaggerated claim, consider this: half of car sales in the mammoth compact segment are now accounted for by crossovers of some description.

Top-spec First Edition Xceed sports punchy 18in twin-spoke alloys and low-profile rubber. Despite the wheel-arch cladding and raised ride height, this car is built for the road.

The Xceed is therefore the car Kia would clearly be foolish to leave on the drawing board, and it duly ticks the boxes buyers in this class are looking for. Namely, the raised ride height and toughened-up styling cues but with C-segment dimensions, which remain manageable compared with mid-size SUVs such as Kia’s own Kia Sportage.

Shortly, we’ll assess whether the Xceed has character to match strong credentials on paper, but it’s also important to appreciate how important this model is for Kia’s European business. The Korean brand is still a growing force over here, with its own factory in Slovakia and a design centre in Frankfurt that better allows it to tap into the specific tastes of local markets.

Like so many rivals, however, in the coming years Kia will need to electrify its line-up with battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models, and at a time when buyers remain sceptical of the benefits such technologies can bring them.

Advertisement
Back to top

In this respect, the Xceed is not only expected to bolster Kia’s bottom line by becoming one of the strongest sellers in the Ceed range. It is also hoped that a familiar-feeling plug-in hybrid version introduced later this year will expedite the take-up of battery-equipped models in the Kia range and help the brand hit brutally strict CO2 targets for 2020.

Of course, if the basic product isn’t up to snuff, an electrified version may prove academic.

The Kia Xceed range at a glance

The Xceed’s trim walk is easy enough to understand, starting at ‘2’ in the UK before moving up through ‘3’ and First Edition models. Standard equipment is very good even at the entry level, though our test car’s 1.4-litre engine only becomes available on 3 models. There are three engines to choose from: two petrols and one diesel. All of these units come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, though the 1.4-litre petrol can also be specified with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Price £29,195 Power 138bhp Torque 179lb ft 0-60mph 9.3sec 30-70mph in fourth 8.7sec Fuel economy 35.1mpg CO2 emissions 134g/km 70-0mph 59.0m

What car new buying red 414

DESIGN & STYLING

Kia Xceed 2019 road test review - hero side

Kia describes the Xceed as a ‘crossover utility vehicle’, which is a term that has a vagueness to it bordering on tautology and hints that the increase in ground clearance over the standard Kia Ceed hatchback is at best modest. In fact, the difference is only around 40mm, but because only the front door skins are carried over from the Ceed and even the headlights are new, the Xceed feels like an entirely fresh product.

Which, of course, it isn’t. More generous body proportions beyond the rear axle mean the Xceed is 85mm longer than the Ceed and has a larger boot, but both cars are underpinned by Kia’s recently developed K2 platform. The Xceed therefore benefits from independent rear suspension, albeit with a new ‘dynamic damper’ for the crossmember said to improve rolling refinement. The front struts are now also fitted with hydraulic bump-stops, which have allowed the spring rates to be lowered for further improvements in ride comfort. And in the same vein, Kia has increased the assisted level of the electric power steering, with the aim of making the Xceed easier to drive in town.

Dual exhaust tips sit within the new silver rear valance. Why any 1.4-litre crossover needs such aggressive pipes is a matter for debate, but SUV buyer trends encourage extra visual impact.

The powertrain line-up is also recognisable from that of the Ceed. In the UK, the Xceed will be offered with 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre turbocharged T-GDi petrol engines. For long-distance drivers, a 1.6-litre ‘Smartstream’ turbodiesel with a combined fuel economy of 57.4mpg is available, and engines will be paired with either Kia’s in-house seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or six-speed manual transmissions. Meanwhile, the Xceed plug-in hybrid will use an 8.9kWh lithium ion battery and 44.5kW electric motor alongside Kia’s 1.6-litre naturally aspirated Kappa engine.

Predictably, the driveline is somewhat more ordinary than the Xceed’s wider body, chunky roof rails and utilitarian cladding for wheel arches and sills purport. There is no option for four-wheel drive, power and torque being delivered only to the summer-tyre-shod front wheels via an open differential. And while the Xceed has a drive-mode selector that can adjust steering weight, throttle response and gearshift characteristics, it goes without the electronics-based traction-enhancing systems found in some rivals.

INTERIOR

Kia Xceed 2019 road test review - front seats

In only 15 years, Kia has transformed its exterior design culture from one of often reprehensibly dull conformity to one that must, on occasion, draw envious glances from far more established European players. Quite the same cannot be said for the brand’s interiors but, borrowing heavily from the Kia Ceed, the Xceed’s cabin still shows remarkable improvement, with a standard of perceived quality that must be a source of pride.

Even with some brightly coloured inserts on top-level models, this is a cabin that prizes robustness and sound ergonomics above feeling inviting or lavish. In the front, passenger space is generous and, adhering to the family-car brief, there are good storage options dotted around fittings made from a variety of plastics, some of which are soft to the touch, though many are not.

Rear space is just okay. Taller adults will find their scalps in close proximity to the roof lining but should be comfortable enough.

So far, so Ceed – though the Xceed does come with the option of a new 12.3in TFT instrument binnacle which does its bit to lift the ambience. Uppermost 3 and First Edition specification Xceeds also get Kia’s new 10.25in touchscreen infotainment system as standard, while lower-rung models make do with the 8in unit that appears elsewhere in the Kia range.

Despite the new screen, the software itself will be immediately recognisable to those already familiar with Kia’s products. The graphics are largely the same, if a touch sharper, while the operating system itself remains as intuitive and easy to use as ever. Generally, it operates in a slick, seamless manner, though it can take a while to properly boot up when you first turn the car on.

Standard equipment is typically comprehensive. Satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto preparation, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity are all present and correct, while First Edition cars also gain an uprated JBL sound system and a new 12.3in digital instrument cluster.

Space along the rear bench is less impressive, and the difference in leg room between the Xceed and the class’s larger hatchbacks, such as the Skoda Scala, is observable long before any road test tape measure need be deployed. The Kia’s strength is that rear head room isn’t noticeably compromised by the coupé-esque roofline and middle-seat passengers with longer legs will benefit from the almost perfectly flat floor. Boot space is also increased by 31 litres over that of the Ceed, to 426 litres – good if not exceptional by the standards of the class, and made better by the split-level floor and wide aperture.

Finally, while keen drivers are unlikely to queue up for the Xceed, it offers a decently adjustable driving position that’s largely without vice, and the seats are generously bolstered.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Kia Xceed 2019 road test review - engine

The Xceed’s 1.4-litre T-GDi engine seems to major more on refinement and civility than any outright performance ability or charm. In low-stress environments, the motor is impressively demure, picking up from low revs and getting the car moving with little more than a barely audible four-cylinder drone. A useful spread of torque through the low and mid range is there to ensure progress is smooth and reasonably swift, while throttle response is suitably keen too. However, stray from this preferred means of operation and the powertrain’s shortcomings begin to present themselves.

Chiefly, this is not an engine that enjoys being revved out – venture past 4500rpm and it runs out of puff at a fairly severe rate. Even so, on full-throttle acceleration runs, the dual-clutch transmission seems hesitant to change up, instead preferring to allow the tachometer to spin up to near the redline before selecting the next gear. This prolongs those instances of breathlessness, and the nasal, droning noise the four-pot motor makes at these operating speeds isn’t particularly endearing either.

The top-spec Kia Xceed, around £10,000 more expensive than the Ceed we road tested last year, was also 0.6sec quicker from 0-60mph and 0.9sec faster from 30-70mph

The transmission reveals itself as something of a ponderous weak link during overtakes too. Put your foot down and it will change down in a reasonably snappy fashion, but it often seems to need to rifle through a few ratios before making a decision and allowing you to accelerate in earnest.

Speaking of which, with our timing gear rigged up, the Xceed managed to accelerate from 30-70mph (our indicator of real-world performance) in 8.7sec, and from 0-60mph in 9.3sec on a damp track. While the 0-60mph time is in step with Kia’s 9.2sec claim, the 30-70mph time highlights something of a performance deficiency next to its more conventional hatchback rivals. The marginally more powerful Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo we road tested in 2017 (an engine also available in the Volkswagen T-Roc) covered the same increment in 8.1sec, while the run from 0-60mph was half a second quicker than that of the Kia. Finally, a brake pedal that doesn’t always feel entirely consistent in its response comes as another – albeit minor – cause of frustration.

It can feel vague and poorly defined before all of a sudden becoming a touch too grabby – though this is more of an issue at low speed than on the open road.

RIDE & HANDLING

Kia Xceed 2019 road test review - cornering front

With its jacked-up ride height and more robust soft-roader aesthetic, any expectations of inherent sporting prowess aren’t quite as pointed in the Xceed as they might be in the Kia Ceed or Kia Proceed. Nevertheless, while the Xceed might not be as immediately engaging or quick to react as its siblings, there remains a reassuring sense of sure-footedness and handling security about its dynamic character that puts it in good stead as a trustworthy family hatch – if not as a particularly exciting one.

With 2.5 turns between locks, its medium-paced steering makes for a front end that’s responsive enough to inputs without feeling overly nervous or skittish, though the slightly contrived sense of weight common across the Ceed range still doesn’t quite represent a convincing substitute for genuine contact-patch feel. That said, the consistency of its gearing allows you to guide the Xceed’s nose through bends with plenty in the way of confidence and accuracy, though mid-corner bumps or uneven surfaces do result in a mild amount of jostling being transmitted back through the wheel.

Brake pedal calibration at low speed is a bit odd, and you need to apply a bit more pressure than is ideally comfortable to stop yourself inadvertently rolling forwards. Auto hold has never been more welcome.

As for front-end grip, the Xceed’s 235/45 section ContiSportContact 5 tyres provide good bite, though you don’t need to be driving particularly enthusiastically to approach the limit of their sticking power. That said, when that point arrives, the manner in which the Kia’s nose begins to push wide is predictably gentle, while a lift of the throttle quickly returns the Xceed to its correct line.

Body control is generally good, too, if not quite as closely marshalled as in the Ceed hatch. On faster, flowing roads, the Xceed feels fluid and stable, staying tidy over undulations and through gentler corners. However, the lateral weight transfer that accompanies quicker directional changes isn’t always quite as progressive or tidily controlled as you’d ideally like – though it’s still far from confidence-sapping.

In a similar vein to Mazda, though not quite to the same extent, Kia is building a reputation for developing cars that handle with a little more verve than the class average. The Xceed is a case in point, and while it is still no Ford Focus Active in its sense of flow, there is a neatness to its body movements on the Hill Route at Millbrook that’s underscored by good balance and accurate steering. In short, it is a surprisingly intuitive crossover to drive.

There is, of course, more body roll to contend with than you would expect to find in a low-riding hatchback like the Ceed, but the rear axle in particular feels well supported through compressions and quicker corners, and grip levels are good but not outstanding. In fact, it seems as though Kia has calibrated the car’s electronic safety system to intervene earlier than necessary – an understandable strategy given the raised centre of gravity, but not actually needed.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

The Xceed’s ability to deal with challenging road surfaces doesn’t always have the same level of polish as showcased by the best crossover hatchbacks in the class. Its elevated ride height does bring with it a good level of pliancy when moving at speed, which in turn affords the Xceed a controlled gait on faster, undulating country roads.

However, slow things down and things aren’t quite as convincing. At town speeds, it can feel a bit too stiffly sprung, and the malleability present when travelling at pace begins to fade. While it would be a stretch to say it feels unsophisticated, a degree more grace here wouldn’t go amiss. That said, the dampers’ tuning seems pretty smart, and they work well to round off the sharpest impacts – although there’s always a bit of thumping suspension noise on battered road surfaces. Particularly large ruts and bumps do test the limits of the Xceed’s absorptive ability, however, and can often transmit a degree of kickback through the steering wheel.

Cabin isolation is more encouraging, although this seems to be more to do with an impressively demure engine than any uncanny immunity to wind and road noise – both of which make their presence known at open-road speeds. At idle, our microphone recorded a noise level of just 37dB, a reading that moved up to 67dB at a 70mph cruise.

By comparison, the Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo showed respective readings of 41dB and 69dB. However, at max revs in third, things level out – with both cars flashing up 74dB outputs.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Kia Xceed 2019 road test review - hero front

At just shy of £30,000, our top-spec First Edition test car is extremely well equipped but simply too expensive to recommend. The entry-level 2 model fitted with the less powerful 1.0-litre T-GDi engine and six-speed manual is a better option if the bottom line is your chief concern. It costs almost £10,000 less but still comes equipped with automatic lights, air conditioning and an impressive suite of safety technology.

Mid-range 3 adds the new infotainment system, 18in wheels, heated seats and privacy glass, though the more spacious Skoda Karoq would be our preference at the price Kia asks for this trim level. It’s also worth noting that the basic Kia Ceed, though very nearly as versatile as the Xceed, also costs considerably less than its range-mate.

Kia performs averagely in terms of residuals, outperforming the Ford Focus Active but losing out to the Toyota C-HR by some margin

Elsewhere, the case for ownership isn’t as strong as we had hoped. As discovered, the 1.4-litre engine tested here is impressively refined under low load but fails to deliver strong fuel economy, managing 47mpg at a cruise and falling to the mid-30s with a mix of everyday driving.

It is also disappointing that only top trim levels get a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Standard versions without a safety pack have four stars owing to poor occupant protection in certain crash scenarios.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Kia Xceed

VERDICT

Kia Xceed 2019 road test review - static

In a similar fashion to its Kia Proceed sibling, the Xceed arrives as a bold signal of Kia’s continued mission to be perceived as a bona fide upmarket brand. In many ways, this new compact utility vehicle hits that brief: its Kia Stinger-esque front end and sharp creases give it the looks; it’s incredibly well equipped; and cabin design and quality have gone from strength to strength. It’s tough not to admire the once humble marque’s lofty ambition and determination in this respect - but it’s not quite there yet.

That’s because the Xceed is still stumbling over pitfalls that have tripped its relations up in the past, and that you’d hope a near £30,000 car would simply skip over. The 1.4-litre T-GDi engine is quiet and refined during low-stress running but can’t quite conjure the meaningful performance and outright flexibility you’d ideally like. Meanwhile, its handling is secure and flowing but fails to really engage meaningfully. And while it rides with reasonable fluidity at pace, it can struggle at lower speeds and on poorer surfaces.

Looks good and drives well but lacks some practicality and polish

But for these few niggles, the Xceed remains a likeable, recommendable crossover hatchback - if not an outstanding one.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Kia Xceed

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017 and like all road testers is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests and performance benchmarking, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found presenting on Autocar's YouTube channel.

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Kia Xceed First drives