Last night, for reasons to numerous and too boring to mention here, I ended up driving home in a 1.4-litre Kia Cee’d S.

Kia The S, in case you don’t know, is the base model in the range of a model designed to major on value, so it’s pretty cheap; five doors, 104bhp, 46.3mpg, 116mph and 0.62mph in a pretty respectable 11.6sec, all for £11,095.

There’s no point trying to pretend that Autocar doesn’t normally end up with the premium end of most manufacturers’ ranges, because that’s what happens; car makers, after all, would rather see a more profitable model in a magazine than one trimmed to a lower bottom line. So I approached Kia’s most humble Focus rival with, let’s say, curious trepidation.

As it turned out, the Cee’d S was a bit of a revelation. I’ve driven at least two other models from the range and this car had the measure of them both – and that’s before you start taking the price into account.

The five-speed gearbox was slick and precise, the motor needed to be worked hard but it was sweet enough at high revs and at real-world motorway speeds (you know what I mean) effective engine-bay sound deadening meant that only a bit of road noise intruded. Sure, the ride was still a little fidgety, but it was no worse than any other Cee’d.