The engine range isn’t as wide as those of some rivals and if it’s scintillating performance you’re after, you should look elsewhere. The entry-level 1.4-litre petrol is willing and surprisingly flexible; it’s more appealing than the 1.6-litre petrol, which provides stronger performance outright but feels wheezy. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre needs to be pushed hard, but it doesn’t mind it when you do.
The cheapest diesel versions have a 1.4-litre engine that has decent punch at low revs but performance is as leisurely as a 0-60mph time of around 13.0 seconds suggests. Our favourite engine is the higher-powered 1.6-litre CRDi diesel. It provides enough pace to satisfy most drivers, if not those used to the more powerful 2.0- and 2.2-litre diesel engines available in many of the Ceed’s rivals.
Kia calls the range-topping GT a ‘sporting hatch’ rather than a hot hatch. That’s just as well, because although performance is strong, its turbocharged 1.6-litre engine isn’t as gutsy as that of cars such as the Ford Focus ST.
Kia Ceed ride comfort
Comfortable ride, even on sporty version
While some of its rivals are overtly sporty, the Ceed feels like it’s been engineered with an emphasis on comfort. It delivers on its promise for the most part, and is pretty forgiving over most surfaces. Versions with larger alloy wheels thud more noticeably over sharper bumps, but passenger comfort is largely unaffected.
GT models have sportier suspension and larger wheels, but still provide a generally smooth ride, but the experience is noticeably firmer at lower speeds.
Kia Ceed handling
Assured and stable, but not much fun
The Ceed’s underpinnings are as sophisticated as those of the best European hatches, with independent rear suspension that helps to make it feels composed and stable at all speeds. There’s plenty of grip, but the comparatively soft suspension means that it doesn’t feels as well controlled as cars such as the Audi A3 or Ford Focus on undulating or twisty roads.
The steering is slow to react and feels frustratingly synthetic. All but the two cheapest trim levels come with a ‘Flex Steer’ system that offers the choice of Normal, Sport and Comfort steering modes that alter the steering’s weight, but there’s little difference between the three settings and no improvement in feedback through the wheel.
The GT does without the Flex Steer system and has different suspension and steering settings to make it more fun. It works up to a point, but there’s more lean through corners than you might expect for what’s meant to be a sporty car and the Ceed GT isn’t as rewarding to drive as cars such as the Ford Focus ST and Seat Leon Cupra.
Kia Ceed refinement
Generally smooth and quiet, especially in diesel form
All of the major controls work harmoniously and make the Ceed easy to drive. Wind noise is minimal at speed and road noise is well muted, although there’s more on versions with larger wheels.
The 1.0 petrol stays remarkably quiet and vibration-free – it’s one of the best of its type. The 1.4-litre petrol engine is smooth right the way through the rev range, but the 1.6 gets boomy when worked. The turbocharged 1.6 petrol unit in the GT gets noisy at higher revs and the note isn’t as sonorous as a sporty hatch’s should be.
The 1.6 CRDi diesel engine sounds rather gruff at high revs but it’s the most relaxed performer and is quiet on the motorway.
The cleanest petrol of the range. Has to be worked hard but doesn’t mind being pushed, and it’s not hardship, as it stays nicely refined aside from a hushed thrum. Worth a look for private and company buyers doing low, mainly urban miles.
Offers slightly more pace and flexibility for B-road overtaking and motorway slip road dashes, but isn’t as quick at the 1.6 diesel. If you’re doing lots of miles, the diesels are a better however you’re buying, but private buyers covering mainly urban low mileages should have a test drive.
This entry-level 1.4-litre petrol (which is available only with a six-speed manual gearbox) is refined and reasonably flexible. It’s more appealing than – if not as efficient as – the pricier 1.6-litre petrol model, but many rivals’ three-cylinder petrol engines are much more fuel-efficient. The Ceed’s 1.6-litre diesel engine is a better bet all-round.
This turbocharged engine powers the sporty GT model. Performance is reasonably strong, but this is more of a warm hatch than a hot one. You need to work it hard, too, and it sounds unpleasantly thrashy at high revs. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard; fuel economy and CO2 emissions are very poor compared with those of a VW Golf GTi.
1.4 CRDi 89bhp
This is the entry-level diesel in the Ceed range and is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Decent low-rev grunt means that it’s reasonably flexible, but it’s neither as gutsy nor as easygoing as the 1.6-litre diesel and, crucially, it uses more fuel and emits more CO2. It’s worth paying the extra for the larger unit, we reckon.
Our pick 1.6CRDi 134bhp
This is the best engine in the Ceed range, and not just because of average fuel consumption of nearly 80mpg and CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km; it’s also usefully flexible and refined at speed. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but a conventional six-speed auto is an option, albeit with a negative impact on economy and CO2 emissions.
This is the pick of the Ceed engine range, but bear in mind that many rival cars offer diesel engines with more power and even lower emissions.