The hotly contested C-segment is a tough nut to crack, even when you have roots in Europe.
Not only is Kia’s new Cee’d up against the Ford Focus, Citroën C3, Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 307 and Renault Mégane, but it’s being launched on the same day as Toyota’s new Corolla replacement, the Auris.
The Cee’d (pronounced seed, it stands for Community of Europe European Design) is Kia’s first car completely designed, as the name suggests, for the European customer. Engineers at Kia’s design centre in Russelsheim, Germany, have weeded out every last bit of Asia from the car.
Out go cheap plastics and aftermarket stereo; in come higher seating position and solid build quality. This is Kia’s first real contender to help establish it as a mainstream brand in the UK.
Kia is so confident about the quality control of Cee’d production at its Zilina plant in Slovakia, that it is offering Europe’s first seven-year/ 93,000-mile, fully transferable warranty (five years on the whole car, additional two years on powertrain).
This offer will form part of the nationwide television and print campaign, which started on January 18.
UK customers choose from five engines: 1.4-, 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol units and 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesels. There are five- and six-speed manual transmissions and a four-speed automatic option for an extra £1,000.
There will be three trim levels from launch (LX, EX and TX), making a 20-strong model range. Kia plans to offer test drives to 200,000 potential buyers throughout Europe over the next few months.
All models come with six airbags – two front, two front side and two full-length curtain airbags – as standard, plus ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution.
In addition, the top trim level (TX) comes with ESP as standard, which is an option elsewhere in the range.
Other safety features include active headrests (standard across the range), Isofix fixture points, a tyre pressure monitor (optional) and parking assistance.
An estate will be added in September, with a hot-hatch model, equivalent to Ford’s ST and Vauxhall’s VRX range, in December.
Kia also doesn’t rule out jumping aboard the coupé/cabriolet bandwagon so favoured by its rivals.
All of these models give customers a similar level of choice as they would get with Kia Cee’d’s rivals. However, the way Kia pushes the Cee’d’s brand awareness through the media could still make or break the car. The ad campaign is crucial.
Kia isn’t setting its goals too high for 2007. It expects to sell 10,000 units this year, with the 1.6 petrol GS as its most popular model.
Stephen Kitson, director of press and PR at Kia Motors UK, says: “We will be happy with 10th place in the C-segment this year. The main thing for us is to get the UK public familiar with the Cee’d and our brand.”
Behind the wheel
The Cee’d has a quality feel inside; fittings are screwed down tightly and the high seating position is still comfortable after a hard day’s driving.
Kia’s engineers have benchmarked Golf for steering and Focus for ride. The Cee’d doesn’t quite manage either, but it comes pretty close.
The electric power steering makes the car feel very light to handle, which is great for negotiating twisting roads, but it causes a loss of connection with the road.
The 113bhp 1.6-litre petrol felt slightly underpowered when revving up through the gears, but for motorway driving it’s adequate. The switch-over to the 115bhp 1.6-litre diesel results in a much smoother ride and gives the car the little extra boost of power it needs.
Engine: Petrol (P) 1.4-litre dohc CVVT, 1.6-litre dohc CVVT, 2.0-litre dohc CVVT
Diesel (D): 1.6-litre CRDi VGT, 2.0-litre CRDi VGT
Performance: P 0-60mph 11.6sec (1.4) to 10.4sec (2.0); top speed 116mph (1.4) to 127mph (2.0). D 0-60mph 1.6: 11.5sec (2.0 tbc); top speed 117mph (1.6) to 123mph (2.0)
Efficiency: P 30.1-40.4mpg comb, 145-170g/km CO2 D 40.9-57.6mpg, 125-145g/km CO2
Rivals: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 307, Citroën C3
Strength: Solidly built, reliable car
Weakness: Confusing name
Opportunity: Kia’s first genuine shot at the mainstream
Threat: C-segment over-saturation
USP: Transferable seven-year warranty