Europe's fastest growing car brand – Kia – is finally wading into Europe's biggest market with a serious contender. But with a joke of a name: the Cee'd.
Kia claims the five-door hatchback will be the most spacious car in the C-segment, where it will do battle with the VW Golf, Ford Focus et al. The handsome, contemporary design is also the best-looking Kia yet. And that's a trend that's set to continue, following the Korean company's success in head-hunting the original Audi TT designer, Peter Schreyer, to be its new design boss. The new car arrives in European showrooms in December 2006, wearing the ludicrous Cee'd badge. Don't expect CAR Online to legitimise that rogue apostrophe: here it will be known as the Ceed. Jean-Charles Lievens, Kia Europe boss, tried to show the company's torturous working. Apparently, the CE denotes that the car is built in the European Community (in Slovakia), while ED reminds us that it's a European design. 'Ceed is a short, dynamic and innovative name,' said Lievens. 'It's a name which breaks the automotive rules.' And a grammatical one.
The Ceed is about the same length as a Focus, but its 2650mm wheelbase is the longest in its class. Combined with its tall roof, the Ceed should offer decent cabin space – at a bargain price. Expect the Ceed to cost from around £10,000 in the UK, when sales begin in January. Power comes from four-cylinder engines, mounted across the nose and turning the front wheels. The line up is 1.4-, 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol engines, and a new 1.6-litre diesel. With its sculpted surfaces and eye-catching details, the Ceed shows that Kia design is moving in the right direction. And with Schreyer – who has the VW Golf Mk4, Audi saloon range and Lamborghini Murcielago on his CV – in charge, Kia is about to become an even bigger thorn in the old guard's side. Kia's sales have grown by 45 percent in the past three years, and they show no sign of letting up. 'It's worrying,' Ford's European design director Chris Bird has told CAR Online. 'The big challenge for all of us is to maintain design leadership, now that the Asian brands are producing cars here by European designers.'