Kia XCeed: XCeedingly good
The XCeed 'crossover utility vehicle' is another eye-catching and thoroughly accomplished car from Kia, says William Scholes
WHEN it first arrived on my driveway, I fancied that the Kia XCeed looked a bit like a gigantic if slightly squished bauble from a Christmas tree, writes William Scholes.
Perhaps it had become detached from a Norway Spruce while it was being brought to the tip, I thought.
The Kia’s gold paintwork had a lot to do with this initial impression.
Upholding the motor industry’s distinguished tradition of hyperbole when it comes to colour charts, Kia calls this particular shade ‘quantum yellow’.
It might be bright and unusual, but it is certainly attractive as well as eye-catching, in the best sense of the word.
When monochromatic grey, white and black are the most popular shades for new cars, a splash of goldy-yellow, quantum or otherwise, goes a long way to adding a splash of colour to the roads.
But there’s enough sparkle elsewhere to make the XCeed stand out no matter how you paint it.
Smartly detailed headlamps and taillights and a set of tasty alloy wheels add shimmer, but the Kia’s basic design - sleek, well proportioned and with a great stance - puts it among the best-looking cars in its class.
Actually defining what that class is depends on where you stand. Kia calls the XCeed a ‘CUV’, a ‘crossover utility vehicle’, to distinguish it from the SUVs, or sport utility vehicles, with which we’ve become all too familiar in recent years.
However, you’ll probably call it a ‘slightly jacked-up family hatchback’.
There’s a gap in the market, Kia reasons, for people who don’t want to go full-SUV and drive something as large and elevated as its own Sportage, but who also want something a bit different - more ‘lifestyle’, more ‘sporty’ - from a regular family hatch.
The XCeed is the Ceed's brother after a course of protein shakes and a few months at the gym with a personal trainer
Kia isn’t the only car-maker to spot this trend. Ford, for example, markets ‘Active’ versions of the Fiesta and Focus.
Each of these gets some very mild pseudo-off-road plastic body trim and a gentle lift in ride height.
Kia, to its credit, has gone considerably further than Ford. The XCeed might be based on the Ceed, but it wears a very different set of clothes.
Indeed, the only body panels that the XCeed shares with the five-door Ceed hatchback are the front doors.
So, while the Ceed is a fine looking car in its own right - and one of Drive’s favourite family cars - the XCeed is its brother after a course of protein shakes and a few months at the gym with a personal trainer.
The XCeed is the fourth different member of the Ceed family, joining the hatch, Sportswagon estate and the sleek Porsche-Panamera-for-the-people Proceed.
Though it must be expensive to engineer and manufacture cars like the Proceed and XCeed, it isn’t hard to understand why Kia thinks it is worth the time and money.
As with the sporty Stinger, cars like the XCeed are part of the drive to make its products desirable - to hold an appeal beyond the merely rational that the brand’s seven-year warranty and value-for-money proposition already speak to.
This approach does help to build image. The last time I drove a Stinger, a stranger in a BMW 4 Series coupe followed me.
They collared me when I stopped for fuel. It turned out they figured it might have been a new Aston Martin, and they were pleasantly surprised to find out the large, low-slung GT was in fact a large sporty hatchback from South Korea.
I don’t know if they took their interest any further, but the episode does show that strong design does have the power to change people’s opinion about a car-maker.
The XCeed isn’t quite as gorgeous and head-swivelling as the Stinger - it has to perform a more prosaic set of duties, after all - but it does emphasise the scale of Kia’s ambition to be considered among the front-rank of mainstream manufacturers by European punters.
As you might expect, under the skin the XCeed is essentially the same as the Ceed.
My notes after that night-time cross-country trip across Fermanagh and Tyrone flagged up the powerful headlights, strong brakes, idiot-proof controls, comfortable ride and quiet, refined engine
The cars share a wheelbase, but the XCeed has bigger overhangs front and rear and, at 4.395 metres long, measures 8.5cm longer overall; for further context, it is 9cm shorter than the Sportage SUV.
Ground clearance is up to 4.4cm greater than you’ll find on a comparable Ceed, which contributes to the XCeed being taller by around 5cm.
Again, for context against a conventional SUV, that makes the XCeed 15cm lower than a Sportage.
The extra bodywork behind the back seats means the Xceed’s boot volume of 426 litres is 31 litres greater than the Ceed’s.
Space for passengers is generous and there is an appealing ease of use to the car’s switches and controls.
Many car-makers are guilty of over-complication when it comes to operating functions such as the heat, radio, phone and sat-nav but Kia, with its big buttons, broad touchscreen and simple graphics, still takes a praiseworthily intuitive approach.
Not only is everything easy to work, but the various buttons, switches and dials all feel of high quality.
Indeed, the XCeed feels robust and well put together, with a solidity that we’ve come to expect from Kia’s cars these days.
To take advantage of its elevated ride height, Kia has fitted the XCeed with softer suspension and expensive front dampers.
Engines are shared with elsewhere in the Ceed family - that means 118bhp 1.0-litre and 138bhp 1.4-litre petrols and a 1.6-litre diesel with either 114bhp or 134bhp. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, though a seven-speed double-clutch transmission can be had on the 1.4-litre cars.
A petrol plug-in hybrid, said to be good for around 35 miles of EV-only range, soon joins the range.
Any impression that the XCeed might be off-road-ready is misleading, however.
It is resolutely front-wheel-drive, nor is it available with a trick traction control system such as you can find on a Peugeot.
It is a well equipped car. The entry grade ‘2’ trim level comes with cruise control, air conditioning, LED headlamps, DAB radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Grade ‘3’ models gain 18-inch alloys, 10.25-inch touchscreen sat-nav screen, electrically-folding door mirrors, a USB fast-charger and a keyless entry system.
There is also a kitchen sink ‘First Edition’ model, as tested, which adds automatic parallel and perpendicular parking, yellow stitching on the seats, panoramic sunroof and a battery of safety kit.
By the time you get here, prices feel steep - the First Edition starts at £28,095 - but the ‘2’, from £20,795, and ‘3’, from £23,295, are better value.
However, it’s worth taking careful note that model-for-model, these prices are around £2k more than a Ceed.
The Ceed is a fine car and you would be right to consider whether the XCeed justifies the extra outlay.
During my time with the car, I had cause to do more than 300 miles in one dirty winter day, with the gloom of a rain-lashed afternoon disappearing into the pitch-black emptiness of middle-of-nowhere Fermanagh and Tyrone night.
It was the sort of journey that really lets you get to know a car - not only how it drives, but also how effective the headlamps and wipers are and whether you can change the radio station or make a phone call without having to avert your eyes from the road.
The XCeed shrugged off the challenge with a really impressive sense of calm assurance.
My notes afterwards flagged up the powerful headlights, strong brakes, idiot-proof controls, comfortable ride and quiet, refined engine.
A journey that might otherwise have been a chore became something close to a pleasure on that grimy night.
Impressive as it was, I couldn't help but wonder if a Ceed would have handled the trip just as well.
But the XCeed's riposte is that it looks the more special car. Whether it's worth £2k is one of those questions that only you can answer, as it ultimately settles on how much you value the XCeed's burlier bodywork, more robust image and its marginally greater practicality.
But on the cross-country odyssey on which it accompanied me, it felt worth every penny, a car greater than the sum of its parts.
AT A GLANCE
Kia XCeed 1.4 First Edition automatic
Engine and transmission: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive; 138bhp, 179lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 124mph, 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 40.4mpg (WLTP combined), 32.4mpg (real world), 134g/km
Car tax: £210 in first year, then £145 annually
Benefit in kind: 30 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Not yet tested, but in 2019 Kia Ceed was awarded four stars (88/85/52/68) and five stars (88/85/68/73) with optional safety pack