Kia has changed almost beyond recognition over the last few years, from a low-cost Korean brand to a maker of well-made European-designed cars that can hold their own with the best of them. Now it’s launching a full-scale attack on the advanced environmental technologies too, with plans to launch a hybrid first in the Korean market and later in Europe. Based on the Ceed five-door, it’s a mild hybrid, which means the electric motor can boost power but doesn’t deliver enough grunt to drive the car on its own.
What’s under the bonnet of this Kia Ceed Hybrid?
A 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with a 15kW (20bhp) integrated electric motor mounted inline on the engine’s crankshaft. The 180-volt electric motor is only used to boost power and provide regenerative braking when the car is slowing down. The prototype we drove still retains a conventional starter motor and alternator although the plan is to do away with those by the time the hybrid reaches production.
The power unit drives through a CVT transmission designed in-house and the whole lot is mounted transversely under the bonnet just like a conventional engine. Power is supplied from a 180-volt, 5.3Ah lithium-ion battery back, although the ancillaries work on 12-volts as usual.
Are the controls any different?
Only the instruments give away the fact that you’re driving a hybrid. A pair of LED gauges tell you what’s going on with the hybrid drive system, so as you accelerate a crescent of red lights registers battery drain and as you lift off, it swings anti-clockwise around the clock face registering the regenerative braking in green. There’s also an animated graphic showing the energy flow between the engine, motor, battery and wheels.
Click 'Next' below to read more of our Kia Ceed Hybrid first drive
Does it drive like a normal car?
Accelerate from standstill and you instantly enter the rubber band regime as the CVT allows the engine revs to soar. Interaction between the engine and electric drive is seamless as you would expect it to be, but the wailing of the engine note under even modest acceleration soon begins to grate on the nerves.
The Ceed hybrid also has stop-start like that used on the new Ceed 1.4 ISG (Idle Stop and Go) which goes on sale in the UK next year. This is all due to the CVT transmission which designers of low consumption cars like to use because they can optimise the powertrain’s operating range all the time.
Trouble is, it sounds awful and it would have been good to see an automated manual used instead. It is smooth though, and once underway, refined with the steering, handling and stopping just like the conventional 1.6-litre five-door.
'Yet another hybrid' you may cry and you’d be right. But the Ceed hybrid is an essential piece of Kia’s eco-armoury along with the fuel-cell Sportage, the drive system for which is a shared project with parent company, Hyundai. This hybrid drops the CO2 figures from 152gm/km of the standard 1.6-litre Ceed, to 114gm/km, an improvement of 25 percent. And these days, CO2 is what, rightly or wrongly, is the stick being used to beat manufacturers the hardest.
There are no dates for European introduction yet but the hybrid will see action first in Korea, where it will appear as a dual-fuel hybrid capable of running on either petrol or LPG. First versions will probably wear Hyundai badge before being launched under the Kia banner too, then moving to the US and Europe. There are no prices yet, but with Kia’s value-for-money reputation this could be the one to watch in the hybrid market. Technically, it’s a neat enough package, if still a little rough around the edges, but you’ll need to be CVT-tolerant to live with it.
Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say on the Kia Ceed Hybrid