New Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi iMT 2021 review

Verdict

This entry-level Kia Ceed diesel is great value, with lots of kit, an efficient engine and a practical interior. It’s also good to drive, comfortable, and the engine is punchy, although the Kia can’t match the Ford Focus for fun, or the Skoda Octavia for practicality. It’s still a decent family car, though, and does everything you need at an affordable price – if you can get over the slightly dull image.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the most appealing versions of family hatchbacks like the Kia Ceed were the diesels. Tax rules and high fuel prices pushed buyers into these more efficient models, and although times have changed and diesel doesn’t have the same appeal now, there’s still a place for it.

This version of the Ceed proves as much, because it’s a really well rounded vehicle in diesel form – and modern technology is at the heart of that. This car uses a 1.6-litre diesel engine, assisted by a 48V mild-hybrid set-up that gives a small boost to efficiency by recuperating energy that would otherwise be lost when you’re slowing down, then redeploying it with a small hit of torque to assist when pulling away again.

Another innovation at work here is the new ‘iMT’ intelligent manual transmission six-speed gearbox. Instead of using a hydraulic clutch like most manual cars, this has an electronic connection between the pedal and the mechanical parts, which helps to give even greater efficiency.

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The computer-controlled electronic clutch means the engine can be shut off when coasting, and sooner when coming to a stop, which also helps refinement.

You do occasionally notice the system at work, because you can feel the clutch engage just after you’ve lifted your clutch foot. However, most of the time it feels the same as driving a normal manual car. The gearshift is slick and enjoyable to use, while the torquey diesel engine is a highlight as well. Okay, it sounds rather gruff and rattly, but thanks to 280Nm from just 1,500rpm, it feels quicker than its 0-60mph time of 9.8 seconds suggests. You can easily accelerate without having to change down a gear, because there’s plenty of pulling power low down in the rev range.

The engine is also really economical. Official figures say 62.8mpg is possible and we found that the diesel Ceed returned over 60mpg easily. It’s not likely to be a great solution for company car drivers, because ultra-low tax on petrol-electric hybrids and full-EVs means they’re cheaper to run – but for a private buyer who does a lot of motorway miles, a small diesel like this is still incredibly efficient.

Even this entry-level Ceed comes with multi-link rear suspension – most cheap hatchbacks have to make do with a torsion beam – and that helps to ensure it rides and handles well. There’s a good amount of grip and composure in bends, and the suspension does a fair job of smoothing over any bumps in the road.

The steering doesn’t have much feel, and although you can adjust the weight by switching between the various driving modes, it just isn’t as pleasant as the steering in rivals like the Ford Focus. In fact, although the Ceed is a good car to drive, it can’t match the Ford when it comes to driver involvement.

Yet with a list price of £21,875, the Ceed ‘2’ is cheaper than any diesel Focus – and the Ceed even looks like a good buy next to the soon-to-be-replaced but still-great-value Vauxhall Astra.

This Ceed is really well equipped given that it’s an entry-level model, too. It comes with an eight-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so we don’t mind the lack of sat-nav – an £800 upgrade to 2 NAV trim as shown in our pictures. It also has 16-inch alloys, cruise control, air-con and a reversing camera, while safety kit is great too, including lane-keep assist, driver-attention warning, high-beam assist, AEB and hill-start assist all as standard.

The Kia’s interior is functional, and although the hard plastics and cloth trim aren’t exactly upmarket, it’s a pleasant cabin with lots of room for passengers, and we wouldn’t expect a lot more at this price. In the rear, there’s enough head and legroom for adults in the outer seats.

There are 397 litres of space in the boot, which means it’s bigger than a Ford Focus (375 litres), but not as roomy as a Skoda Octavia (huge, at 600 litres). Under the boot floor you’ll find the battery for the mild-hybrid set-up, so there’s no extra storage.

In cash and on finance the Ceed is cheaper than entry-level versions of the Octavia and Focus. And although it is less practical than the Skoda, and not as good to drive as the Ford, it’s right in the mix with those great cars, because it’s really economical and well equipped.

Model: Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi 48V 2
Price: £21,875
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl diesel MHEV
Power/torque: 134bhp/280Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
0-60mph: 9.8 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 62.8mpg
CO2: 120g/km
On sale: Now