“I have always fancied an Aston Martin,” said a friend who has recently come into a bit of money. “You’d be better off with a Kia Ceed,” I immediately answered.
At that point, some time ago, I was talking in purely theoretical terms. Having come very close to buying an Aston Martin 30 years ago and having known many Aston owners, I am painfully aware that having “a bit of money” is nothing like enough to keep one of those highest of all high-maintenance cars. You need an oil well or three not to be troubled over the cost of upkeep and spares for an Aston. An ordinary Joe who happens to have a little more boodle than usual would be so much better advised to buy a car that will start reliably every morning, won’t go wrong and – in case of misfortune – is covered for seven years by an all-in warranty.
Then a Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi ‘2’ was delivered to my house for a week’s loan and my analysis proved to have been correct in every detail. In fact, the Ceed turned out to be such a sensible buy in every way that I ended up recommending one to my adult son. Having been impressed by the sterling qualities of this car at the launch event last year, I found that daily use over a week merely deepened and cemented my admiration.
Whichever way you look at it, however, there’s no getting over the fact that this car’s appearance does nothing to lift your spirits and that experience does not improve with closer acquaintance. When Kia introduced the Cee’d in 2006 they gave it an apostrophe in the name as if to acknowledge that this dreary-looking family hatchback needed something – anything – by way of a little added interest to liven it up. Now they have dropped that ludicrous apostrophe, as if in unapologetic recognition that “Yes, this is a dull car and there’s no hiding the truth.”
The interior is not much better. The unbroken expanse of black plastic on the dashboard makes no concessions to contemporary stylishness but looks as if it was lifted, unmodified, from a mid-1990s Daewoo. Though this car is manufactured in Slovakia and is aimed at the European market, it’s hard to believe that Peter Schreyer, Kia’s head of design in Europe and the team of trendies who work with him had much input in this Ceed.
From the launch, I had already fully grasped the virtues of the Ceed in offering value for money; but the all-in price of £19545 for our test car was a bit of a knock-out compared with a Ford Focus when you add up the comparative cost of all the standard kit. Take a look at that list. It’s endless. I was particularly impressed with the cornering lights on this Kia which light up the way into a junction when you are turning the wheel. That indulgence – which you might expect in a Volvo that costs tens of thousands more – was particularly welcome on our dark country road in the Scottish hills.
I also knew about the Ceed’s fantastic fuel economy, which is very close to the manufacturer’s claimed 58.9 mpg. During my week with this car, the needle moved so little on the fuel gauge that it felt as you’d have to tow a tank to see any difference.
What was entirely unexpected, however, was how much of a pleasure our Ceed was to drive. It changes direction at speed with such composure and aplomb that it reminded me of a dressage horse seamlessly changing stride and tempi in the ring. The late Ian Dury’s song “There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards” came to mind when powering this Ceed through a succession of twisty corners on my usual test route. Whoever was responsible for devising the chassis on this car deserves a medal.
In fact, you might almost go so far as to say it’s not far short of an Aston Martin. Close enough, certainly, to give you the satisfaction of keeping a couple of hundred thousand quid in your pocket.