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Kia cee’d Sportswagon 1 1.4 CRDi ISG

Click to view picture gallery“Kia has recently upped its game
  with its all-new, family-sized, estate

  the ceed Sportswagon. Smarter
  looking in a more accomplished
  second-generation body, it makes
  an enticing case for your money

MAJOR SELLING POINTS are underlined by the decent fuel economy and low emissions that together make up that always-good-to-hear phrase low running costs. The icing on the cake is, of course, Kia's industry-best transferable seven year / 100,000 mile warranty.

These latest, second-gen mid-sized cee'd estate cars aren't just smarter on the outside — beneath the new sporty-looking skin with tight shutlines and quality paintwork is a stronger bodyshell: torsional body strength is up by 51% over the previous model. Plus the improved rigidity features — such as the bonded-in windscreen — have further improved the cee'd's refinement.

In the same way that the quality of a restaurant's house wine tells you a great deal about eating there, the entry-level model of a range says a lot about the rest of the line-up. Which is why, despite the obvious appeal of testing a fully-specified, all-the-bells-and-whistles model, we've been driving the cheapest version of the new Sportswagon — the 1.4 CRDi.

“The turbodiesel engine
is gutsy so its
1.4 litres, despite
sounding small for a
five-door estate,
is enough for
laid-back driving.
The acid test for a 'starter' model is how much it gets in the way of those essential but unseen active and passive safety features such as airbags and electronic stability and traction control systems — tellingly, the range-starter Sportswagon scores very well here with its class-leading safety which includes Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Hill-start Assist, six airbags, and emergency Stop signalling (this flashes the rear brake lamps during an emergency stop to alert following drivers).

Jumping the gun a bit, Were we disappointed driving the 'cheapest' model? Not in the least. Read on and you'll find out why... Engine choices are pretty straightforward: 1.4 and 1.6 CRDi turbodiesel units. The base model alone gets the 1.4, which despite sounding small kicks out 89bhp and 162lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm.

The turbodiesel engine is gutsy so its 1.4 litres is enough for laid-back driving; but equally, it's eager to rev — for instance, when joining motorways it zips up to 70mph briskly enough. Once there, it's flexible, picking-up cleanly in sixth to pass slower traffic.

Gearchanging is unfussed; the fluent-changing manual six-speed gearbox ensures cog-swapping is never a hardship. A shift reminder is there to help the driver do their bit to maximise fuel consumption but it's not intrusive and quickly goes away. Ignore it if you choose. And the same goes for the stop-start: simply switch it off whenever it suits you.

Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and benefiting from Kia's Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG), this 1.4-litre engine is officially capable of 67.3mpg in the Combined Cycle while emitting a low 109g/km of CO2.

In real-life driving conditions, most owners, even driving as hard as we do, should match our 53.9mpg average consumption figure. With 50mpg today offering the satisfaction that 'The Ton' once did for Sixties drivers, few will complain. And, of course, you won't be paying road tax for the first year and after that it's only £20 per year. Tesco is right: every little helps.

“Gearchanging is
unfussed; the fluent-
changing manual
six-speed gearbox
ensures cog-swapping
is never a hardship.
A shift reminder helps
drivers maximise fuel
Sportswagon prices begin at £16,895 for the 1.4 and then run, all with 1.6-litre power, through five trim grades that follow Kia's standard numbering system: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 4 Tech) to £24, 795.

While the wedge-shaped all-new cee'd models are pretty smart on the outside (you can't miss the distinctive front lights, more cab-forward design and rakish, coupe-like roofline), thanks to being longer — at just over 4.5 metres long — and having one of the longest wheelbases it in the class, they're even 'smarter' space-wise on the inside.

Open and close one of the wide-opening, easy-shut doors and settle in one of the comfy front seats and you'll be impressed by the cabin ambience; soft-touch plastics, well-considered brightwork and a crisply styled fascia with big, easy-on-the-eye dials and a driver-centric console all make for a soothing environment which, despite the all-black theme, is refreshingly airy. Long windows help; they also contribute to the A1 visibility.

Entry-level doesn't mean you go short on essential kit — even the base '1' spec cee'd comes with AirCon, power-operated heated door mirrors, power front windows (auto one-shot up/down), tinted glass, chilled glovebox, daytime running lights, speed-sensitive auto door locking, iPod-compatible audio system with radio and CD player, USB port and Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming as well as tailored mats and a sunglasses case.

Drivers can quickly set a driving position that suits them perfectly thanks to height adjustment on the seat as well as a decent range of adjustment for both height and reach of the steering wheel. The wheel is a multifunction item with handy controls for voice, phone, audio and trip; and all the switchgear works with a pleasing damped-yet-decisive action.

Most importantly, the heater does a nice line in hot for the winter months; a large cooled glovebox keeps your refreshments fresh and appetising in the summer. Incidentally, the footwells are knee- and shin-friendly and there's a proper rest for your clutch foot.

“The heater does a nice
line in hot for
the winter months;
a large cooled glovebox
keeps refreshments
in the summer.
Oh yes; the seatbelts are height-adjustable too. Also, many drivers will be pleased to find a foolproof traditional pull-up handbrake instead of an electric parking brake.

The cee'd's fabric-covered seats are pleasantly firm and accommodating — the bolstering is soft but effective — and proved to be particularly comfortable on long motorway trips. Rear passengers won't find much to complain about either; they'll enjoy legroom that's better than most in this sector and all those aboard are guaranteed plenty of shoulder- and head-room (there's masses in the front). Ample cubbies for storage are fitted throughout the cabin.

Wind-up windows are standard in the rear cabin but they're fine in use. Apart from that cost-cutter everything else is as for better trim level versions. Entry and exit is easy and once in you feel as though you're sitting high. Lean back against the nicely-angled backrests, enjoy the generous foot room and, if you're an average-sized adult, you'll have several inches of clear air between your head and the roof-lining. Three grown-ups can amicably get from A to B seated side-by-side on the rear bench — and the minimal centre tunnel ensures the often pinched-out middle pair of feet have plenty of room to move.

Even with five riding in the Sportswagon you'll have 528 litres for baggage — no Ryanair compromises here. And easy access too, thanks to the high-opening tailgate and a low, knee-height loading sill.

If you need more room for cargo, simply drop the 60:40 split-fold rear seats. The seat bases pull up first, then tumble, which ensures a flat loadbay floor. Do that and you'll have 1,642 litres to play with, which betters rivals from Ford and Vauxhall. For the record, we fitted in a very large fridge-freezer with the tailgate properly closed.

Still want more? No problem — there's a handy multi-section tray beneath the boot floor plus there are standard-fit roof rails. And if you need to tow, you'll be pleased to know that the Sportswagon's braked towing capacity is a practical 1,500kg. And for the record, height-adjustable headlights ensure you won't be dazzling oncoming cars at night however much you're carrying or pulling.

“The brakes are very
smooth and powerful —
an unplanned and pretty
hard stop from 60mph
into a lay-by (triggered by
an angry trapped wasp)
proved just how effective
they are.
Good to know too, in a family car, that the brakes are very smooth and powerful. An unplanned and pretty hard stop from 60mph into a lay-by (triggered by an angry trapped wasp — one of our passengers was allergic to wasp stings) proved just how effective they are.

The cee'd also steers fine and is easy to place. Talking of which, although you don't get parking sensors on the entry-level model we tested, the deep rear screen and rear headrests that sit flush to the seatback when not in use means parking is hitch-free.

While the Sportswagon name doesn't, literally, confer sports car handling, the typical cee'd customer will be more than satisfied with its reliable dynamics and particularly smooth ride: the suspension set-up certainly takes the sting out of bumps and potholes. So while it holds the road well, consider the 'sports' in Sportswagon in a lifestyle sense — bigger, roomier more stylish family estate or 'wagon' — and you'll have got the Sportswagon's raison d'Ítre in one.

In keeping with its mission in life, the Sportswagon does it all with easygoing but can-do diesel power. Top speed is a perfectly usable 106mph and motorway driving is a relaxed, and quiet, experience at the legal limit. Getting up there is quick enough — from standstill to the benchmark 62mph is taken care of in 13.4 seconds.

There's no such thing as a free lunch: Kia offers a seven-year / 100,000-mile warranty because they're confident nothing will go wrong. Which is great news for owners with the nous to keep their cee'd for a number of years to maximise their outlay — but should you need to sell on early then the outstanding warranty will add to your cee'd's sales appeal. Overall a very nice car. And welcome on my drive any day of the week! —

Kia cee'd Sportswagon 1.4 CRDi 1 ISG
| £16,895
Top speed: 106mph | 0-62mph: 13.4 seconds | Average Test MPG: 53.9mpg
Power: 89bhp | Torque: 162lb ft | CO2 109g/km