What is it?
Just remember, whatever else you take from this, that one of the primary purposes of this new Kia Xceed 1.6 GDi PHEV is to save fuel and curb CO2. With its combined fuel consumption of more than 200mpg, an electric-only range of 36 miles and a carbon output of just 32g/km, you could hardly miss the fact.
What’s unusual is that all this energy-saving stuff is wrapped into the body of a so-called sports crossover, the fourth member of the weirdly named Ceed family whose rakish profile (that’s the sports bit) rides higher than other coupés (that’s the crossover) and thus provides you with both a sporty driving position and an elevated eye line at the same time. It’s an interesting combination.
What's it like?
Designed in Europe for European showrooms, the Xceed plug-in hybrid (PHEV) comes instantly as compact, good looking and well put together, with all of the panel fit and paint quality we’ve become used to from Kia, plus the interior attention to detail that befits a company that employs hi-fi designers for its switchgear and can afford to cover its cars with a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
Mind you, this is a conventional Ceed in most ways, with a 4.4m overall length sitting on the 'family' 2.65m wheelbase, and its transverse front-drive powertrain consisting of a 104bhp petrol 1.6-litre four-pot engine. However, this engine is assisted by a 29bhp transmission-mounted electric motor that is claimed to be able to propel the car for 36 miles in the city on power alone, driving (promisingly for keen drivers) through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission instead of the CVT that’s often used in cars like these.
There’s an 8.9kWh traction battery accommodated beside the fuel tank (Kia makes play of the fact that the Xceed’s mechanical design took electrification into account from the very beginning) to help propel the car or store regenerated energy.
There are three assistance modes: 'EV', which cuts out the petrol engine while the battery lasts; 'Automatic', which chooses the power mode that best suits the circumstances; and 'Hybrid', which takes over when battery power is depleted, finding opportunities to harvest power when the car is braking or slowing down. There’s also an adjacent 'Sport' button that sharpens throttle response and runs the engine at all times to recharge the battery.
Frankly, though, the performance is disappointing. The stopwatch figures look reasonable for a car of this size and shape: a 107mph top speed and a 0-60mph time of 10.4sec. And the car glides around town smoothly enough on its battery, provided you’re not in too much of a hurry. But if you want to get going – just to stay with the traffic – you need to engage both means of power, whipping the Xceed’s inert accelerator into action with the Sport button. Which rather blows a hole in the economy driving experience: the car feels so underpowered that you have to forget about stroking it about to save energy in favour of whipping it along just to encourage some action. Even at a motorway cruise, you’re aware of the need to keep it percolating to overcome the 1600kg mass; it dominates the driving.