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Click to view picture gallery“Kia’s all-new 5-door
  family car, the cee’d,
  has a lot going for it.
  It’s roomy, smart
  looking and majors
  on value for money.
  Plus it comes with a
  seven-year bumper-
  to-bumper warranty.
  Top that — if you can!

KIA IS ONE of a number of relatively new brands that are all trying to increase their sales in Europe at a time when new car sales are falling. In the UK, Kia has come a long way. Last year it sold nearly 36,000 cars here — a shade down on 2005 — and again, for the first quarter of 2007 sales have slipped by 25 per cent.

In fairness, much of this has to do with Kia Motors (UK) Limited taking a different sales and marketing stance from two or three years ago when their policy was to stack them high and sell them cheap — you might remember being able to buy a Kia with a 1 deposit. It devalued an emerging brand, led to distress selling and silly fleet deals, all to achieve market share.

Now Kia has a factory in Europe — Zilina in Slovakia, to be precise — where it manufactures European designed and engineered cars for Europe. Their programme is to now build quality vehicles at sensible prices with less loss-making fleet registration and daily rental activities.

Kia's avowed intent is to achieve 100,000 sales annually — equivalent to a three per cent share of the UK's new car market. When this will
be achieved they do not say, but they are trying hard by offering well-priced, modern vehicles with customer-friendly warranties. As to the all-new cee'd, Kia expects to sell in the region of 10,000 a year in the UK.

The cee'd (pronounced 'seed') is Kia's latest and most important new model. And yes, it is spelt that way — although personally I find it
a rather tricky one for the pub. Because whether people are car en-thusiasts or not, they do talk about their cars be it in the pub, the gym, with friends or out shopping. It is a fact of life, and I would be intrigued to watch the reaction owners will get when mentioning that they drive a cee'd.

Whatever, there is a logical explanation. Kia says the name came about because the emphasis is that cee'd isn't just a Korean car adapted for Europe. Indeed, it is a European car that just happens to come from
a Korean manufacturer. Jean-Charles Lievens, Senior Vice President of Kia Motors Europe, explains: "cee'd is a short, dynamic and innovative name. It's unconventional, a name which breaks the automotive rules. A surprising name for a car destined to surprise our rivals and delight our customers. I'm sure the name will get people talking about Kia and also be easy to remember. "The 'ce' symbolises that this model is made in the European Community and the 'ed' indicates this car is a European Design created especially with European consumers in mind."

All this could be a bit of a red herring because the cee'd is really quite a good five-door hatchback. Estate and three-door versions will follow. The cee'd sells in what we call the C-segment — Ford Focus, VW Golf and Vauxhall Astra size. And it looks not dissimilar to a Focus five-door.

Having a relatively long wheelbase and wide track, the cee'd is very roomy for a five-door, mid-sized family hatchback and it has a spacious 340-litre boot as well. With the 60:40 split rear seats folded, cargo space increases to a useful 1,300-litres.

Prices are very competitive, ranging from 10,995 to 14,245 for the current 10-model line-up. There are three trim levels and four engine options: 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol units and two versions of Kia's new European-designed and built 1.6-litre turbodiesel unit offering 89 and 113bhp power outputs. A 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit will follow. All manual cars use a five-speed manual gearbox, although the 1.6-litre petrol model can also be ordered with an automatic transmission that adds 1,000 to the price.

In addition to roomy accommodation, smart looks and very competitive prices, another reason to put owners in seventh heaven is the cee'd's SEVEN-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Everything, says Kia, is covered — from the headlights to the exhaust tailpipe. This selling feature will be very attractive to retail and fleet buyers: No worries
for seven years' of motoring has to be a powerful reason to buy.

Safety features are comprehensive as well, with twin front and side airbags and full-length curtain airbags all standard across the range. Two Isofix child-seat mounting points are fitted in the rear. Intelligent active head restraints to minimise the effects of a rear-end collision and possible whiplash neck injuries are also fitted on all models; and the front seat belts are height adjustable. Brakes are discs all round with ABS and EBD. An Electronic Stability Programme is optional on
the range-topping LS trim models, and costs £350.

The standard level of specification, even on the entry-level S-grade models, is good value for money and includes air conditioning, an air-cooled glovebox, stereo radio and CD player with MP3 compatibility, steering wheel mounted audio controls, steering column and driver's seat height adjustment, front on-shot electric windows and central door locking.

GS models have alloy road wheels instead of steel rims, remote central locking, powered and heated door mirrors, a metallic finish to the centre facia and an upgraded sound system.

Top-of-the-range LS versions gain fully-automatic climate control, on-shot rear electric windows, front fog lights and leather upholstery.

It perhaps does not have the overall refinement of some competitors — but only by a very small amount. Road noise intrusion on some surfaces is quite high, but it drives well and corners and handles predictably.

The common-rail turbodiesel engine of my 1.6-litre CRDi LS test car produced 188lb ft of torque from 1,900-2,750rpm and pulled strongly, proving to be very responsive and ideally suited to the UK's roads and traffic. Generally, the engine noise was low and Kia reckon this cee'd will return 60.1mpg on the combined cycle, 49.6 around town and 67.3mpg touring. My test car returned 45.5mpg overall and it costs an attractive 14,245.

So the cee'd adds up to a pretty good deal: the sum of all the parts — price, unrivalled seven-year warranty, style, space, specification and driveability — makes it a strong proposition for private and business customers alike. Most families, in particular, will appreciate the good interior space and high equipment levels at a very competitive price; and that is precisely what this type of car is all about. Apart from the model name (and yes, Kia is right: I am talking about the name!), I am impressed. Well done Kia. — David Miles

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Kia cee'd 1.6 CRDi LS 5-door | 14,245
Maximum speed: 117mph | 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 45.5mpg | Power: 113bhp | Torque: 188lb ft

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