Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-charged diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual gearbox
Power: 126 PS at 4,000 rpm
Torque: 260 Nm between 1,900 and 2,750 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 64.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 116 g/km
Top speed: 120 mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 10.8 seconds
Price: £21,095 (cee’d Sportswagons start at £16,895)
Kia’s giant leap forward from budget badge also-ran to serious player in the European car market was cemented earlier this year when the company replaced its first breakthrough car, the 2007 cee’d hatchback, with a second-generation model. It had seemed unlikely that Kia could sustain its previous rapid pace of progress but the new car still managed to show significant advances over the old. The emphasis, though, shifted away from areas such as performance, power, economy, handling and space, where the original cee’d was already fully competitive, towards the harder-to-measure subjective stuff that shapes a car’s desirability - more sophisticated and far more distinctive exterior styling, better trim materials and so on - which meant that the later model just felt that bit more polished and grown up.
Now the second-generation hatch is joined by an estate version, and there’s a new badge to get used to as well. The first-generation cee’d estate was known just by its initials, SW, leaving customers to guess at its true name but its successor gets it spelt out in full – Sportswagon. The new car is just as handsome as the latest hatch, but then all Kias have been decent lookers since the company’s design head, ex-Audi man Peter Schreyer developed a bold, sporty modern look that has been rolled out across the entire range.
One unusual move; Kia has decided to go for an all-diesel engine line-up, at least for the time being, a decision that actually makes a lot of sense. Economy- and CO2-conscious fleet customers are expected to account for a big proportion of the Sportswagon’s sales and Kia’s diesel engines are a lot more competitive than its petrols, which are perfectly pleasant but don’t offer the torque and economy of downsized turbocharged gasoline engines from other manufacturers such as Ford’s three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost, Volkswagen’s 1.2 TSI or General Motors’ 1.4 turbo, which in some markets is offered in the Chevrolet Cruze, newly available in estate form and an obvious competitor for the cee’d Sportswagon.
Kia’s diesels, by contrast, are excellent – much more refined, in fact, than some of those to be found under the bonnets of cars with far grander badges. Two are offered in the cee’d Sportswagon – a 1.4 that delivers 67.3 mpg and 109 g/km in official tests, and a 1.6 that achieves 64.2 mpg and 116 g/km. I drove the 1.6, a familiar friend from several of Kia’s other models, including the second-generation cee’d hatch introduced earlier this year; it’s just as good here as it is in those other applications; smooth, quiet and strong, especially by the standards of this class of car.
For the most part the rest of the cee’d Sportswagon follows the pattern set by the second-generation hatch as well. It builds on the solid, capable and sensible performance of the first-generation car, but adds that strong extra dose of flair that the original cee’d lacked. Curvier bodywork, with a much stronger Kia family look, and a more stylish interior with more imaginative use of colours and materials than before are the main points. On the car I drive, which had mid-range “3” trim, there were plenty of well-judged chrome effect and “piano black” surfaces to give the interior quite a bit of a lift. Equipment levels are generous too, with even the entry-level “1” model getting air conditioning, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
The estate-specific aspects of the Sportswagon’s design are well thought through. There are 528 litres of load space (measured up to the base of the rear side windows) in normal use and 1642 litres if the full height of the load area is used and the rear seats are folded down. As well as a handy 12V socket fitted to all models, the upper trim levels get a system of sliding aluminium rails that hold luggage in place.
Today’s cee’d lives up to the promise of the 2007 original, the car that made everyone sit up and take notice of Kia, even if the pricing is no longer quite as keen as it was. Add the company’s attractive seven year warranty to the cee’d Sportswagon’s stylish practicality and you end up with a car that should still get plenty of takers.