Big boot, great value, still the silly name: The cee'd has grown into an estate. So has Kia produced a Focus-beater? Over to David Wilkins and our panel of testers

Price: £12,995

Engine: 1.6-litre petrol

Performance: top speed 119mph, 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds, 120bhp at 6,200rpm, 43.5mpg

CO2: 154g/km

Worth considering: Ford Focus, Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra estates

The Kia cee'd's indicator stalk has been moved from the right-hand side of the steering column, where it was on the hatchback version of the car we featured on The Verdict last summer, to the left on the SW estate model that's sampled by our reader-testers this week. That brings the cee'd into line with almost every other car on the road.

In itself, this alteration is trivial. But the migration of the indicator stalk on the cee'd has a greater significance, in that it represents the purging of the last old-school Korean quirk from the model Kia has always presented to the world as its first "European" car.

That's the point about the cee'd. Not only was it designed and built in Europe to meet the leading European cars in its class on equal terms – which, broadly speaking, it does. It also embodies the results of a research programme that explored in immense detail European preferences in matters of car design. Out went the large expanses of beige, light blue and light grey plastics favoured by Asian and American buyers. Out went the fussy detailing and shiny plastics Korean cars used to have. The repositioning of the indicator stalk completes the transformation. Even Kia's busy Department for Slightly Silly Names has played only a limited role where the UK version of the cee'd estate is concerned. Elsewhere, it's called the Sporty Wagon; here it carries the more sober SW tag.

What's left is efficiency, competence and keen pricing. Throw in the extra practicality of the SW, Kia's seven-year warranty and the deals the company often runs, which allow customers to buy the smooth diesel model for the same price as its petrol counterpart, and the value for money offered by the cee'd is hard to beat.

Perhaps Kia's only remaining weakness is that the styling of its cars doesn't quite get your eyes popping out on their stalks – but they've brought in a man from Audi to fix that. Now, that's something to look forward to; Kias that are not just competent, but cool too.


Martin Guppy, 42

Healthcare analyst, Holt, Norfolk

Usual car: Volvo XC90

I kind of feared the worst with this, but I was impressed. It felt like it's built really well, with a more than acceptable interior design and outside looks that are actually not bad at all. Silly me, I stalled it a few times because I'm used to an automatic, but I soon rediscovered the fun of a manual and this car belied its size to give a responsive, almost exhilarating drive along some very bendy Norfolk B-roads. There's plenty of family-friendly boot space, and the MP3-ready radio/CD player is a sweet gadget. So it seems the Kia cee'd is totally up to speed – and at about £12,000 it seems like really good value for money. This estate flips a finger at the credit crunch.

Stefan Spiro, 39

IT director, Higher Walton, Cheshire

Usual Car: BMW M3

It's clear from the pleasing yet average looks that this car has been designed by Europeans for the European market. Fundamentally, this is a good car with two key selling points: the price and the seven-year warranty. I think the car will appeal to certain people who are less brand-focused, looking for a car that will give years of hassle-free motoring. It's well equipped, and competitively priced against the cheapest Vauxhall Astra Estate (£13,765). The fabulous transferable warranty will interest people who want to keep the car for a long time from new, or in terms of resale. The cee'd's competition is likely to be the second-hand market; £12,500 buys a lot of pre-owned car, albeit with the uncertainty.

Phil Ormesher, 59

Company director, Lymm, Cheshire

Usual cars: Audi A6 quattro, Jaguar E-Type

Ignoring its daft name, my first impressions of the cee'd's looks were quite favourable, although the estate bit did seem somewhat of a styling afterthought. Inside, it is just plain boring, cheap but uncheerful. To drive, it was OK but no more. The engine was expectedly gutless but the ride was fine and it seemed well put together, hence the seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. It's in the same sector as the Ford Focus, but I suspect it will take more than an MP3 socket to tempt younger drivers to buy one. This is for those who want a low-cost new car and aren't too bothered about brand image or depreciation. Competition for the Focus? I don't think so.

If you would like to take part in The Verdict, email or write to The Verdict, Save & Spend, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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