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Kia Pro_Cee’d 1.6 CRDI 3-door

Click to view picture galleryReady to go? Then Pro_Cee’d!
  I’m not sure how many more
  peculiar model names Kia plans
  to inflict on its customers, but their
  latest — the Pro_Cee’d (actually
  a sporty-looking three-door) —
  honourably redeems itself once
  you get behind the wheel...”

IT IS NOT ONLY SILLY NAMES but infuriating punctuation for the Kia Cee'ds, all of which are designed and built in Europe Slovakia to be precise although Kia is a South Korean company and part of the giant Hyundai Motor Corporation.

The Cee'd range now comprises of five-door family hatchbacks, SW estates and the new three-door Pro_Cee'd models. Apart from the name the Cee'd range has been highly rated and praised by the motoring media for its practical design, very capable European driving capabilities, low running costs, seemingly good build qualities, high levels of specification, value-for-money pricing — and not forgetting the amazingly confident seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Unusually for the new car industry in the UK, Kia has priced the new three-door Pro_Cee'd models at the same price as the five-door Cee'd versions — that means prices starting from 11,795 and rising to 15,595. Their argument is that three-door models are often seen as poor relations in a model range so they have made the price of three- and five-door versions the same. Kia also says that latest Pro_Cee'd versions feature additional equipment over the equivalent five-door Cee'd models.

My personal view is that volume mass-market three-door C-segment hatchbacks always cost less than their five-door counterparts because they are less practical. And I think Kia's 'one price fits all' policy for the Pro_Cee'd and Cee'd makes the three-door newcomer appear relatively expensive.

Any right-minded family customer or a couple going into a Kia showroom and seeing the similarly-sized five- and three-door models at the same price will go for the more user-friendly five-door version. If for no other reason than it is likely to be worth more in the end when it comes round to trade-in time. I admit that some younger couples or singles will be attracted to the sporty looking three-door version but with rear doors for rear seat passengers and ease of getting shopping in and out of a car, five-door models always make more sense.

In the C-segment, five-door models account for over 70 per cent of sales, which is another reason on why it is illogical to sell a three-door car at the same price as a five-door one and as I've already mentioned, it makes the new Pro_Cee'd look expensive. However Kia will argue they know best because for the first four months of this year their UK new car sales are rocketing forward and are nearly 30 per cent up on the same period last year. And it is the Cee'd family that is driving those registrations because they offer such good value for money — and not at the expense of quality or driving refinement, both of which generally are first rate.

The Pro_Cee'd, like its other Cee'd family members, has a relatively long (2,650mm) wheelbase giving excellent front and rear legroom. The new three-door model has a 30mm reduction in overall height, giving the hatchback a long coupe-like side profile. The styling is quite sporty with its rising waistline giving it a wedge shape although this limits visibility at the rear sides and rear quarters. The lower height also reduces headroom. The bodyshell has gained curvy styling lines and a wide stance which accentuate the Pro_Cee'd's sporty theme.

The Pro_Cee'd line up features seven models based on five engine options and three trim levels. There is the choice of 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol engines, two 1.6-litre turbodiesel units and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel powerplant. Automatic transmission is available for the 124bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine.

The three trim and equipment levels are '2', '3' and Sport. Even the standard level 2 is exceptionally high for the price and includes air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, RDS radio-CD player (compatible with MP3 players/iPods), height-and-reach adjustable steering wheel, active front seat head restraints, front electric windows, electrically-operated door mirrors, remote central locking, six airbags, tinted glass and a trip computer. Split folding rear seats are standard as well, although the seat backs do not fold completely flat.

Level 3 adds 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control, rear side electric windows, cloth and leather trim and interior alloy finishing. Sport level adds full leather trim, privacy glass and electronic stability control plus a few other bits and bobs.

In all honesty, level 2 specification is the one to go for most people but I would have liked to see the electronic stability programme fitted as standard on all models. It will soon have to be under EU law, so it might as well be introduced by all manufacturers sooner rather than later.

The most sensible engine to choose is the 113bhp 1.6-litre CRDi turbodiesel unit. I know it costs a 1,000 more than the 1.6-litre petrol engine, but it is worth it for better and more flexible driving performance and much better fuel economy. My test car with this unit returned 48mpg (officially, it should return as much as 58.9mpg), and with CO2 emissions of a respectable 126g/km so the annual road tax bill is currently 120 but this reduces from April next year to 90.

My 1.6-litre CRDi test car was specc'd to the mid-range level 3 costing 14,395. This 113bhp turbodiesel unit is impressively quiet and refined and it is a strong and flexible performer with 166lb ft of torque from 1,900rpm and as such it makes light work of all driving conditions, whether on a motorway or in heavy town traffic. Unfortunately it is mated with a clumsy five-speed manual transmission: the clutch and power take-up actions are fine; it is just the gearchange action that isn't as slick as most in its class.

The handling and grip are also good although the ride comfort is very firm and the steering, although precise, passes on very little feedback to the driver. Neither is the stiff suspension helped by the larger 17-inch wheels which come as part of the level 3 specification.

Inside the car, all the controls are logical and easy to use. Space is fine for both passengers and luggage (340 litres). Apart from the firm ride, notchy gearchange and restricted rear-quarter visibility the car seems well built. It also has stylish sporty looks backed up by competent handling, has a strong engine and is well equipped and roomy. And the seven-year warranty provides genuine real-world peace-of-mind. But for the same price why settle for three doors when you can have five with the Cee'd? — David Miles

Kia Pro_Cee
'd 1.6 CRDi 3-door | 14,395
Maximum speed: 117mph | 0-62mph: 11.4 seconds
Overall test MPG: 48mpg | Power: 113bhp | Torque: 166lb ft
CO2 126g/km | VED Band C 120 | Insurance group 6E