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Kia Ceed 1.6 T-GDI GT

Kia has been on the ball. The latest Sportage has won a shed tonne of awards, and the Stinger—a favourite here at CC—has shown that the company isn’t afraid to give it a bit of swagger and reach beyond its comfort zone.

Some of this swagger has carried over to the Ceed hatchback. The 2019 model debuted at last year’s Geneva Motor Show in February, and then eight months later, the company showcased the Ceed GT-Line at the Paris Motor Show. The idea was to inject the model with a sporty look and feel in order to strengthen appeal and broaden the target audience, but has it worked? Where better to take a hot hatch than deep into the Cotswolds. And even better, to take it out at 4am just as the sun rises, before any tractors can ruin all enjoyment.

The ride is spot on—the Ceed sticks low to the road as it is drilled into corners, and sweeps across the surface at higher speeds on straight stretches. It is firm but by no means uncomfortable. It even handled a little jaunt across a bumpy field with no complaints at all (my trip in the Cotswolds included some camping).

Somehow the hatchback feels pretty quick on these windy roads. The 1.6-litre turbocharged gasoline direct injection (T-GDI) engine provides 201bhp, and 0-62 takes 7.4 seconds. It’s not particularly quick for a hot hatch—in fact, there are plenty in the segment that will rinse the Ceed and do 0-62 in under five seconds. But if you don’t really care about all that drag race nonsense and are more concerned with the real-world performance and feel of cars on public roads, the Ceed will not disappoint.

Perhaps one of the reasons why it feels faster than it actually is that there are hints of sportiness everywhere. On the outside, the grill is a focal point beneath the lengthy front end, while the rear is characterised by dual exhausts. I didn’t actually check if these are real or fake (stacks of new cars on the market today have fake rear exhausts for aesthetic reasons. I know right). Inside, the bucket-like seats encompass their occupants, and a D-shaped steering wheel comes as standard. Buyers of the double-clutch transmission variant have the choice to change gear with paddles, because, well, why not?

Admittedly, it’s a little boyracer-esque. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, especially as Kia has remembered that the Ceed also needs to be functional. And on a freezing cold night in the middle of the field, my partner and I realised that the hatchback comes up trumps in this area. We abandoned our tent in the middle of the night for the car, which was much warmer and far more comfortable than the cheap blow-up mattress that had obviously decided to deflate. The seats recline right back, and there is no shortage of room.

There’s also a decent amount of tech to help out on your daily drive, such as high beam assist, lane keeping assist and forward collision-avoidance assist. I’m not sold on any of the driver attention warning systems currently installed on new cars, as more often than not they will beep obnoxiously no matter how attentive you are, but Kia’s is not as intrusive as others. Optional systems include smart cruise control, which will work in start-stop traffic, as well as blind spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning and smart parking assist.

As I witnessed the most beautiful sunrise over rolling hills and dodged a couple of deer, I tried to figure out what it is I like about the Ceed. Nothing I have described above is out of the ordinary for a hatch. The model isn’t particularly bold or brash, and it certainly doesn’t have the same practicalities as an SUV. But that’s just it—the Ceed does everything pretty well, without shouting for attention. It looks good and is fun to drive. In an age when carmakers are more concerned with how big their touchscreens are, perhaps this is what matters most.