What’s this, an estate version of the Kia Ceed hatchback?
Yep, but it’s called SW. Sounds a bit more aspirational than plain old estate, you see. The Ceed hatchback isn’t a bad starting point. It was the first Kia to emerge from the company’s new factory in Slovakia, and delivers a surprisingly sharp drive and much improved cabin quality over older Kia models. Just don’t call it a ‘budget’ car. If the product is improved, Kia argues, the market will stand a higher price. So the Ceed is solid value rather than bargain-basement cheap. The SW follows the same pattern, with prices starting from a competitive £12,995.
Will I enjoy driving one?
More than you might think. The SW doesn’t quite match the fluency of a VW Golf or the precision of Ford Focus, but it’s not far off. Fully independent suspension all-round helps control body sway and wobbles over rougher tarmac. The ride is firm but far from uncomfortable, while the steering is weighty and accurate but a little more feel wouldn’t go amiss. It's not going to set your trousers on fire, but then it's a remarkably accomplished drive. Just remember how dire Kias were a decade ago...
What about the engines?
Choose from a 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.6 diesel in two different states of tune. We’ve driven the petrol and the higher-powered diesel on the European launch. What are they like? Well, the petrol pulls cleanly and smoothly from low revs, but it’s a little gutless for load-hauling duties. Surprise, surprise - the diesel makes far more sense, with plenty of low-down punch and good refinement. It’s economical, too. Official figures suggest it should manage 57.6mpg on the combined cycle so you can wave goodbye to your fuel card points prizes.
So the Ceed SW is good to drive, but is it practical?
For an estate based on a small hatch, there’s lots of luggage room: an echoey 534 litres with the seats in place, and 1664 litres with the rear seats folded. That compares with 505 and 1550 litres for the new Golf Estate. The load lip is low to the ground, so lifting heavy objects into the boot won’t be too back-straining. The opening is nice and wide, too. All models come with 60/40 split seats; the bases tip forward so the seat backs can be folded down, but they don’t quite lie flat. The Ceed SW is so sensible - it's the nice cosy, easy-clean cardigan of the automotive world.
What do I get for my money?
Kia hasn’t been stingy with the kit. There’s a choice of two trim levels, GS and LS. Even entry-level cars come with air-conditioning, alloy wheels, a CD player and six airbags. LS versions have extra goodies including front fog lights, full climate control and reversing sensors. Both versions come with an auxiliary jack for your iPod, too. Who says Kias are just for old farts? The seven-year warranty introduced with the Cee’d hatch also applies to the SW. It’s disappointing that ESP is optional rather than standard, though.
Kia’s keeping busy. Next on the agenda is the new Proceed, the sportier three-door version. Longer, lower and lighter than the five-door, this is where Kia’s ambition to be more design-led starts to bear fruit. You can see it in the metal at the Frankfurt show in September and should arrive in showrooms early next year. A Ceed convertible is another possibility, but if sales of the Pro Ceed and SW take off, Kia’s factory in Slovakia could already be bumping on the limit of its capacity. If that’s the case, the site may be expanded to cope with higher volumes and additional models. Looking further ahead, expect to see a production version of the Soul 4x4 concept from last year’s Detroit show and the Sports Coupé Concept, to be unveiled at Frankfurt.
The Ceed SW doesn’t look or feel like a budget car. It drives well – especially the diesel – it’s well built, comes with lots of kit and is keenly priced. The boot is bigger than many rivals’, too. At best, old-school Kias were good value. The SW is just plain good.