The Kia Xceed is our first guest of 2020. And I must say we start very well, with a very trendy, very cosmopolitan type of car.
The Ceed family is an important one in Kia’s line-up. It’s also quite a big one. There’s the five-door hatchback, the station wagon, the Proceed (a kind of shooting-brake) and this, the Xceed.
Knowing I am probably repeating myself, as I have written it many times over on these pages, I cannot believe how far Kia have come in terms of creating a brand image strong enough to position themselves against Europe’s best.
Unlike some big traditional names who seem to be looking for their long lost identity (yes, I am talking to you, BMW and Audi), Kia doesn’t seem to put a foot wrong when it comes to churning out appealing looking cars that have an aesthetic coherence fairly easy to acknowledge.
I am still not sure which is the best looking Ceed, but it comes down to a contest between the Proceed and the Xceed. They are the two most lifestyle-oriented models and the kind of cars you look twice at when you see them go by. Whereas the Proceed is a coupé-ish kind of wagon, the Xceed is a coupé-ish kind of SUV.
Kia say it’s a CUV, or a Crossover Utility Vehicle, which is auto-speak for an SUV with a swooping roof line that is mostly used around town. Fundamentally, it’s a crossover between a hatchback and an SUV that focuses on looking good without neglecting the practical aspects of everyday use.
In this regard, the Xceed may seem just a jacked-up Ceed hatchback, but, in fact, only the front doors are carried-over; all the other panels are model-specific, showing some important depth of engineering. And that’s not all. Kia have added hydraulic bump stops for the front suspension in order to improve ride comfort and handling, whereas at the rear suspension crossmember there’s a new dynamic damper.
Too technical? Sorry. Basically, it means the Koreans have tried to make the Xceed rewarding to drive by spending a lot of money in real mechanical changes instead of just giving it a nice Sunday suit.
The result is a car that is actually quite surprising. I drove the smaller engine available, a three-cylinder 1000cc turbo petrol unit with 120 horsepower. It exists to lower the entry price of the Xceed in a market where petrol is gaining market share on diesel every single day. The other two petrol options are a 1.4 with 140 ponies and a 1.6 producing a healthy 204 horsepower. On the diesel side, the 1600cc can make 115 or 136hp.
In Portugal, because Kia have launched the Xceed with an aggressive commercial campaign, the Xceed has an entry list price of €21,990. That is a lot of car for very little money. The 1.0 litre Xceed is not the fastest car out there, of course, but make good use of the slick six-speed manual gearbox and you won’t feel short-changed. In fact, the problem I see is that when you start savouring the way the Xceed goes around corners, you start pushing that little 1 litre and the one-time excellent fuel efficiency goes right out the window. Still, I guess that is a good problem to have.
The interior is the same you will find in all other Ceed models, which is no bad thing. Fit and finish are European-level, materials feel nice to the touch and if you go for the Tech version (starting from €24,490), well, the tech is high-level. The 12.3in TFT screen houses an advanced instrument cluster and a 10.25in touchscreen encompasses an intuitive infotainment system.
The driving position is really rather good and offers ample choice. You can sit low and give the Xceed more of a driver’s car vibe, or get it as high as possible and enjoy its SUV credentials. Anyway, because the Xceed has no off-roading pretensions whatsoever, it drives better than most in its class. When engineers get a briefing that makes sense, they usually get the final product right. That is exactly what happened here.
Kia knew what the Xceed had to be to succeed (have I just given away the best possible name for another derivative?). They knew how to position it inside the range and against key rivals and what mattered most in a car like this.
I shall now end with a suggestion: go for the Quantum Yellow. It’s not, well, discreet, but it sure is the best colour for the car.