It seems barely a day goes by without a car manufacturer launching another jacked-up hatchback to suit its customers’ ‘active’ lifestyles and cash in on the trend for mini-SUV styling. So, you would be forgiven for being more than a little sceptical when you first set eyes on the Kia XCeed, the Korean company’s newest attempt at tapping into the lucrative crossover market.
A member of the Ceed model family, the XCeed risked offering neither the practicality of the estate nor the handling of the traditional hatchback. Instead, it is a car that in many ways surpasses (I’ll resist the temptation to say ‘XCeeds’) expectations and lives up to the high standards set by the rest of the Ceed range.
Part of what makes the XCeed stand out from the crowd of competing crossovers is its distinctive design, especially when painted in Quantum Yellow, an exclusive colour for the First Edition model. The styling has been re-worked to such an extent that the only body panels it carries over from the Ceed hatchback are the front doors. The XCeed also has larger overhangs, contributing to an overall length of 4395mm, 85mm up on the standard Ceed. The car still feels relatively compact on the road, although it is 26mm wider than the hatch, a small but noticeable difference that means you have to proceed with a little more caution on tight country lanes. Ground clearance is increased by up to 44mm, and height by 48mm, which helps to further visually differentiate the XCeed from its hatchback cousin.
Inside, things are more familiar, with the main difference being an updated infotainment system and, on the First Edition model only, a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. I found the digital readouts to be less clear and harder to focus on when glancing down at them from the road than the traditional dials found in lower-spec variants.
The ‘3’ and First Edition models feature a 10.25-inch touchscreen, which incorporates Kia’s UVO Connect telematics system. This provides automatic updates on traffic, weather, points of interest and parking availability during a journey. Adding to the list of connected features, owners can use their smartphone to send navigation instructions to the car before they set off, as well as check the location of their vehicle. Impressive as this may be, even the entry-level ‘2’ features an eight-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Car Play as standard, ensuring plenty of infotainment possibilities regardless of specification.
Three different engines are available on the XCeed: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with 118bhp, a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with 114 or 134bhp, and a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo with 138bhp. All come fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox; a seven-speed double-clutch automatic is optional on the 1.4 only. A plug-in hybrid with approximately 37 miles of all-electric range will be launched in early 2020.
Surprisingly, the 1.0 three-cylinder engine provides the most driving enjoyment. It belies its relative lack of power with an energetic delivery and is much more refined than you might anticipate. Except under hard acceleration, you wouldn’t know it was ‘missing’ a cylinder, and even then, it produces a pleasing exhaust note that adds to the character of the car. Only when faced with a steep incline or when trying to accelerate in a high gear does the engine’s low torque output (126lb ft) mean it begins to struggle. In these situations, the 1.6-litre diesel provided greater flexibility, as well as returning an impressive 60mpg on test, compared to the mid-40s offered by the 1.0 litre petrol. The 1.4-litre offers the best performance, taking the XCeed from 0-60mph in 9.1 seconds when fitted with the six-speed manual, but the worst official fuel economy.
The XCeed’s ride and handling benefit from the addition of hydraulic rebound stoppers. These rubber bump-stops are housed in hydraulic fluid within the dampers and help the car remain composed over bumpy surfaces, as well as providing a more compliant ride. They appear to deliver on their promise, the XCeed absorbing everything that our test route threw at it with ease. The hydraulic rebound stoppers also help to keep the car’s body in check, with considerably less roll than you would expect given the XCeed’s increased height. If it weren’t for the elevated driving position, you could almost forget you’re driving anything other than a normal hatchback.
Kia have made some subtle changes to the steering for their latest addition to the Ceed line-up. The ECU controlling the power steering motor has been retuned, resulting in a faster steering response that adds to the XCeed’s sense of agility. The amount of assistance provided by the motor has also been increased, giving the car’s steering a lighter feel. If anything, the steering is now slightly too light; some extra weight would give the driver greater confidence when placing the car in corners.
The Kia XCeed’s biggest achievement is that it confounds your expectations of what you think a crossover will drive like. It may look more like an SUV than a hatchback, but it drives like the latter. Ultimately, whether the styling wins you over depends on your attitude to cars of this type, but if crossovers are your thing, the XCeed is worth considering. Prices start from £20,795 for the 1.0 litre three-cylinder turbo in ‘2’ spec, rising to £29,195 for the 1.4 litre First Edition with a DCT gearbox. Whichever version you go for, the XCeed distinguishes itself as not just another jacked-up hatchback, but a car of genuine quality that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the Ceed range.
Kia XCeed ‘3’ 1.0 T-GDi 6 speed manual
Power: 118bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque: 126lb ft @ 4000rpm
Kerb weight: 1332kg
0-60mph: 10.9 seconds
Top speed: 115mph
MPG (claimed): 44.1