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 Ceed or 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.

Simon Davis

Simon Davis

Road tester
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.

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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 VW 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.

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