The Kia cee’d SW is an example of the latest generation of estate cars that measure modestly from bumper to bumper, yet have adopted all sorts of packaging tricks to actually offer decent carrying capacity.
It comes to market with a decent foundation, the improved hatchback cee’d models having been warmly received by both press and public alike.
Small estates used to be rubbish; really, deeply, genuinely, useless vehicles.
Buying an estate is all about having the freedom to haul a whole lot of gear around with you, and buying a small one rather defeated that purpose.
With the boom of utility-style MPV vehicles, the small estate looked as if it was on the endangered list.
Nature had selected against it.
Like all of Darwin’s survivors, however, the small estate adapted. It stole many of the tricks of the MPVs yet retained its low centre of gravity and car-like driving dynamics. The cee’d SW is a good example.
The 1.6-litre 16v direct injection common-rail diesel engine could be the best all-round powerplant. Packing either 89 or 113bhp, it’s a decent unit, in 113bhp form getting to 60mph in 11.1 seconds and then on to a top speed of 117mph.
Alternatively, there’s a 124bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine that will probably net the biggest sales figures.
This requires a bit of right boot to access all of its available performance though, with peak power arriving at a rather raucous 6,200rpm and peak torque of 154Nm not making itself felt until the tacho needle hits 4,200rpm.
This means that the engine doesn’t feel notably punchy off the line in the same way as the excellent diesel does but if you’re prepared to keep it on the boil, it can cross country at a respectable clip.
The steering lacks a little of the polish of some of the very best contenders, although we’re talking about tiny percentage differences here.
There’s certainly very little in it when it comes to ride quality, the Kia adopting much the same MacPherson strut front suspension as the best of its rivals and a clever independent set-up at the rear.
The latest models benefit from tweaks to the clever independent suspension system designed to sharpen steering responses and produce a suppler ride.
Softer springs are compensated for by stiffer shock absorbers and anti-roll bars.
As a result, the cee’d corners effectively, with well-suppressed lateral roll and even when provoked, steadfastly refuses to do anything unexpected.
The long wheelbase helps ride quality with only lumpy B-roads extending the suspension unduly.
Today’s cee’d is a bolder proposition visually thanks to a facelifted front end featuring Kia’s wide chrome-ringed grille and sharp creases running down the bonnet to the angular light clusters.
The tail end has LED lights and a subtle tweaked bumper design. The car still plays it safe in terms of its overall look but the extra character will not go amiss in marking it out from the crowd.
The additional load space in the cee’d SW hasn’t come as a result of extending the hatchback’s wheelbase.
It’s come by lengthening the rear overhang and increasing the roof height to the rear of the car. The total length of the car goes up by 235mm as a result.
The carrying capacity of 534 litres when loaded to the height of the rear windows is almost 200 litres more than the cee’d hatch.
The tailgate is an interesting design, taking with it a huge bite of roof when opened.
This means that you won’t need to stand back when opening the hatch – handy in confined supermarket spaces.
There are storage bins under the boot floor, the rear seats fold completely flat and the load bay is protected by a metal finished cover.
Quality fabrics, doors that ‘thunk’ shut and a thoughtful approach to design have made the cee’d a landmark Korean car.
There are still some improvements that need to be made.
The plastics quality is still a little hit and miss and the orange dash lighting isn’t overly easy on the eye but let’s not be patronising and proclaim the car as ‘a lot of metal for your money’ or any other such bunk. This Kia is a good car, by any measure.
No need for a crash course in Kia trim level nomenclature.
The manufacturer has thoughtfully kept things simple by presenting buyers with a choice of cee’d 2 and cee’d 3 SW models.
Aside from that, there’s the cee’d 2 EcoDynamics which incorporates a variety of features designed to improve efficiency.
As well as the SW estate we’re looking at here, the cee’d also comes as a five-door hatchback. If you want a sporty three-door, there’s the even more elaborately punctuated pro_cee’d.
Crucially, and as any Kia dealer will be at pains to remind you, all cee’ds come with Kia’s excellent 7-year/100,000-mile warranty.
As standard, cee’d buyers get remote central locking, an MP3 compatible CD stereo with AUX/USB port, air-conditioning, a trip computer and airbags of the front, side and curtain varieties.