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All-new Kia XCeed

We recently got our mitts on the new XCeed range, Kia’s effort to blend a family hatchback with mild off-road capabilities. In fact, the manufacturer describes the model as a ‘sporty compact crossover’—or CUV for short.

A loop around Berkshire provided the opportunity to hit everything from winding A-roads and dual carriageways to fairly beaten up B-roads.

Quantum Yellow: ‘First Edition’ 1.4 T-GDi 7-speed auto DCT – from £28,095

First up is the top spec model in garish Quantum Yellow. I’m still not sure if I love it or hate it. That electric mustard paint is reflected inside, with plastic inserts that surround the built-in navigation system and air vents. The seats and doorcards are also stitched to match.

Initial impressions? It handles like a hatchback, feels like a hatchback and looks like a hatchback. It’s a hatchback—at this point, CUV feels little more than branding. Look past that label and recognise the XCeed as a hatchback, and the experience is more enjoyable. Let’s face it, this car is never going off-road beyond the dirt road on the way to a dog walk or rocky beach-front car park.

Interior quality is top-notch for the price. The switchgear feels metallic and weighty, the 10.25” infotainment screen is responsive and clear—a pre-set navigation route was launched in just three taps—and the steering wheel feels soft to the touch. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make playing music from your phone a tad easier. There is a smattering of scratchy plastic, but overall there is a distinct whiff of the premium about it.

Importantly for a car marauding as a utility vehicle, the cabin feels larger than it is. With two adults in the front, there was no fighting for elbow room on the centre armrest, and rear legroom is ample for children or those less vertically gifted.

The 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol unit feels perfectly fine for pootling along country roads and gets up to motorway speeds without much fuss. Much like the smaller 1.0, there is a pleasing growl that suggests it is slightly larger than it is. On the NVH front, all is quiet. Across nearly two hours of driving, there were no irritating rattles or buzzing in the cabin under hard acceleration, and those engine growls settle down nicely at low revs.

As this is a slightly larger hatchback than the norm, it feels that little bit more solid when travelling at motorway speeds. It was a particularly windy day, but the car did not veer much due to buffeting. It is worth noting that the lane keep assist was eventually disabled once off the dual-carriageway. Aside from the frequent and unnecessary beeping, I found the system to nudge me back toward cyclists even on wider roads that would normally not require the car to veer into the next lane. In fact, the system proved problematic in other variants of the car during the day.

In this trim, the Xceed appears to be remarkable value at around £28,000. The BMW X2—another hatchback looking to attract crossover customers—starts at £29,725, for example. In top M spec, you’re looking north of £44,000.

XCeed ‘2’ 1.0 T-GDi 6-speed manual – from £20,795

Finished in Lunar Silver—which has a subtle blue-grey hue—and with various creases and cut-outs, it certainly stands out from other hatchbacks in this segment. Black plastic around the wheel arches and, in this trim, 16” alloys with chunky sidewalls, hint at its ‘all road’ intentions. Interestingly, the exterior styling is not drastically different to the top spec variant—some £8,000 more expensive.

The engine feels relatively gutless at most speeds, but little more can be expected of a 1.0 litre. Pulling away does provide a nice growl to veil the lack of acceleration, but the car ambles from 0-60 in around 11 seconds. I’m fairly sure I heard the car sigh ‘oh god not again’ at the sight of any vaguely steep incline—with 118bhp it is surprising how severely the car struggles going uphill.

Gear changes are silky smooth, and overall the drive is quite enjoyable through towns and main roads. Once up to motorway speeds, the ride remains impressively composed for what is ultimately a small car. Through the twisties, handling is better than expected for a car with tractor tyres. Body roll is limited, but the front end does drift wide without too much pressing. Again, this is to be expected and actually makes for more of an engaging drive.

Compared to the other two versions of the XCeed available, there is a marked difference in trim level: seats are plain cloth, a bolt-on sat nav is required and the finish is primarily scratchy plastic. Seat adjustment is manual, and there are no coloured inlays on the dash or air vents. I don’t think anyone looking at the poverty-spec XCeed will care too much, as it remains a fairly pleasant place to sit regardless.

Lane keep assist pulled me back into the path of a Q7 that had strayed over the centre line. I disabled it after this incident.

Infra Red: ‘3’ 1.6 CRDi 6-speed manual £23,295

Our final drive of the day was in the ‘3’ trim level, served up in Infra Red. This time, that growl from a diminutive petrol engine was replaced by the Transit-esque rattle of a 1.6 litre diesel.

To my surprise, the XCeed seems to suit a diesel, and the 1.4 petrol found in the top model does not feel too much pokier. In fact, the increase in torque made for the most enjoyable drive of the three engines. The power delivery is simply more convenient; overtakes can be made with confidence and steep inclines no longer take a series of weeks to scale. By comparison, thrashing the guts out of a small petrol engine can get a little tedious.

Importantly, the trim level feels very similar to that of the top-spec First Edition, including the excellent built in sat nav. On the outside, there are also very few visual differences aside from the panoramic electric sunroof on the more expensive model.

Despite carrying an extra 80kg over the 1.0 petrol version, the added weight of that diesel engine doesn’t seem to affect the handling. Fuel economy was around 45mpg over a 30 minute journey through A-roads and town driving, some way off the stated urban fuel consumption figure of 62.8mpg. Admittedly, this is to be expected during a first drive.

In terms of everyday practicality, isolated boot space is more than adequate at 426 litres—40 more than the Mk. 8 Volkswagen Golf. All models bar the First Edition have 60:40 split folding rear seats, and all come with things like luggage hooks, a space-saver spare wheel, and both tilted and telescopic steering wheel adjustment.

This is our pick of the bunch, blending the best elements of interior quality, exterior styling and overall driving performance—all at a reasonable price. We’re still not sold on the whole off-road element for now, but the new XCeed certainly seems to have surpassed my initial expectations.