A trip to Kia’s plant in Zilina, Slovakia this week gave me a chance to poke around the facelifted Cee’d that’s going to be launched at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

The full facelift will be applied to the Cee’d and Cee’d SW, while the Pro_cee’d will only get the interior modifications.

Unfortunately, they took my camera off me as soon as we got near any of the completed models, but the official picture above and in this story shows the most significant exterior changes – the corporate grille and revised bonnet and bumper design.

I also got to see the modified interior, which confirmed that the dash is now tidier and smarter than the current model’s.

The verdict? The styling changes are another small but significant step forward, but on looks alone the Cee’d remains a car that deserves a place on a car-buying shortlist rather than a must-have purchase.

That's not the only good news, though. There’s also a new 124bhp 1.6-litre diesel on the way, and it will probably be on sale in the UK by mid-2010. Chances are it will replace the current 2.0-litre unit thanks to its blend of performance and economy.

More interestingly, a chance encounter at Vienna airport on the way back with a Kia exec also on his way home revealed that the company has been stung by criticism of the current Cee’d’s ride and handling, and that it has been putting in the miles to change this.

Apparently, engineers have spent a lot of time testing in the UK (and around Europe) in a bid to ensure the car performs on our peculiarly bumpy roads, and the set-up of the facelifted car will be significantly different as a result. If true, that certainly could propel the Cee’d further up car buyers’ shortlists.

The over-riding thing that struck me, however, was that the most compelling reason to buy a Cee’d or Sportage derivative will be the same one as ever. In this day and age, financial security is everything, and the seven-year warranty attached to all the cars leaving the Zilina plant is the lengthiest you’ll find anywhere.

I’m aware that a tour round any car production site almost inevitably leaves you amazed, with the high-tech machines, the robots and the shiny cars running from kit form to assembly, via a paint shop, hammering home just how cutting edge these places are.

But there’s unquestionably something special about Zilina – it put me more in mind of a tour around McLaren’s F1 HQ (albeit without the Norman Foster-inspired architecture) than any other facility I’ve visited.

To my eyes it appears that the seven-year warranty is no trick of marketing, and more a statement of confidence. Kia is putting its money where its mouth is – but is it doing enough to convince you to part with your money?

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