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Trying to lift ourselves in the Kia XCeed European hatchback

Trying to lift ourselves in the Kia XCeed European hatchback

A falling market usually forces automakers to reduce a model range in order not to lose money on marketing and certification of unpopular models. I am pleased with the fact that KIA is still optimistic – well, or just has far-reaching plans to gain a foothold in countries such as Russia as the most popular foreign brand. Therefore, such exotics as the ProCeed sports wagon are still supplied there, although no more than 30-50 people buy it per month. Most likely, the quasi-off-road hatchback XCeed from the same family is waiting for an equally cool reception.

On the other hand, the XCeed has no direct competitors. This is a golf-class five-door car with a slightly increased ground clearance, roof-racks and a body kit made of unpainted plastic. Similar options are available in both more affordable and premium segments. But the Mercedes GLA, the BMW X2, or the Audi Q3 Sportback are more expensive and already available with all-wheel drive. And in the range of its price, the two-wheel drive XCeed actually competes with crossovers a la the Kia Seltos of similar length.

However, it looks more modest. Although the Ceed’s body is redrawn beyond recognition, the XCeed is perceived more as a stylish youth car with some sporty notes in the design. No crossover brutality. The ground clearance actually doesn’t exceed 165 mm (6.5 inches). The interior is also familiar to us from the Ceed. This is rather a plus, because the plastic is softer and of higher quality than in the Seltos. The premium level hasn’t been reached, although ingenious solutions have been applied in some places to improve the perceived quality at no great cost.

Front passengers sit about 1.38 inches higher above the ground than in a conventional hatchback with a suspension adapted for local roads. There is no feeling of crossover behind the wheel: the fit is low like in passenger cars. Nice seats hold you tightly, but gently. And you regret the lack of lumbar support adjustment in the test car with the Prestige package only on 120-185 miles. Visibility is normal, except for the windshield “pockmarked” due to heating wires. Ergonomics, devices, and the media system caused no big questions. You step into the car and just drive. Or even rush!

The duo of the 1.4 T-GDI turbo engine and the seven-gear preselective semi-automatic gearbox seems to have improved after our meeting two years ago in the regular Ceed. The power unit starts, takes off, reacts to the accelerator almost a 10 out of 10. If you put it next to a good hydromechanical automatic transmission, the shifts will still be noticeable; there are also jerks during alternating “pedaling”. But it is not comparable with the Volkswagen duo 1.4 TSI and DSG, familiar from many models. The Kia is much more accommodating, and the dynamics are good. The available 140 hp has never caused regret about the top 200-horsepower engine.

Moreover, 18-inch wheels come with the 1.6 T-GDI engine. While questions about the ride smoothness also arose for the basic version on 16-inch Michelin Energy Saver+ eco tires. The XCeed suspension is slightly different from the usual hatch: the springs are a few percent softer, and the rebound bumpers of the front shock absorbers are hydraulic. While you drive around the city, the European-like elastic gait pleases you. The fuel distance when passing speed bumps makes you feel power capacity.

But on a highway, the Kia seems to suddenly remember its Korean genes, starting to typically jump on smooth asphalt, as if it is dotted with short waves. High speeds don’t “smooth out” the coating. Low ones too. For example, on a dirt road, the car counts all the pebbles in some detail and repeats the profile of the pits. It is handable, but if you have to drive on country roads often, it’s better to look at crossovers. Moreover, no off-road modes or assistants are offered.

In terms of steerability, the XCeed wins against many crossovers. The steering wheel is quite sensitive: two and a half turns between end positions. A reactive action is fine both in normal and in barely loaded sport modes. The car properly keeps a straight line and adequately steers into a turn, if you don’t get impudent with speed. Otherwise, eco-Michelin will squeak quite early even if there is a grip, and the XCeed itself will reinforce the dissatisfaction with a noticeable roll. Although, even here, the hatch rolls interestingly, fully leaning on both the front and rear axles.

It’s a pity only that it’s noisy in the cabin. Most of the sounds are dampened well, but the hum from the road stands out against this background. Although the XCeed is quieter than the Rio/Solaris, the low-frequency droning is tiring. You expect more from a car created for the European market. And it’s hardly just about the tires: it seems that all the hub bearings are howling at once.

Practicality? The rear seats are average: a tall passenger behind a tall driver will rest his knees on the soft backrest. There are almost no amenities, except for the central armrest and heated seat cushions. No deflectors on the tunnel, no charging sockets.. At the same time, there is an audible alarm about the unfastened seat belts of the rear passengers for the sake of the Euro NCAP rating. But for once, Kia’s glove compartment is illuminated. However, it is devoid of trim, like most other places for storing small belongings (however, quite spacious).

The trunk pleases with a solid floor which can be installed on one of two levels with a difference of nine centimeters. In the lower one, the declared 113 gallons of volume are fully felt, in the upper one, when folding the backs, you get an almost flat floor. But it is not very convenient to load, despite the electric drive of the door: the sill is at a height of 29 inches from the ground. And there is a spare tire space saver wheel in empty underfloor space: a full-size spare wheel, as for the mentioned Seltos, is not offered.

At current prices, you have to fall in love with the XCeed very much to prefer it to a full-fledged crossover. For the same money, you can already buy not only the Seltos, but already the 150-horsepower Sportage with all-wheel drive! And the quasi-off-road hatchback hasn’t grown up to compare it with the “premium”: it is noisy, economical in many details, although it rides briskly. If KIA starts to reduce the list of models at dealers, I can guess which one they can start with. 

This is a translation. You can read the original here: https://www.drive.ru/test-drive/kia/5f04c35fec05c4b30f0001ba.html

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