Kia Cee'd first drive

* Face-lifted Cee'd driven * Price from 11,500 (est) * On sale from October...

Kia Cee'd first drive

Kia Cee'd: what is it?
This is the face-lifted version of Kia's rival to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

It gets restyled lights and a more angular front-end that incorporates Kia's new 'tiger nose' family grille. However, the most significant changes are under the skin - the suspension has been retuned and there's a new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine that meets the latest Euro V emissions standards.

Initially, these changes are limited to the five-door hatch and SW estate, but they'll be extended to the three-door Pro-Cee'd late next year.

What's it like to drive?
The new diesel engine generates the same 113bhp and 188lb ft of torque as the one it replaces, but you'll rarely want for more because it's punchy, flexible and happy to rev. Refinement also impresses whether you're working it hard or not, but the new six-speed manual gearbox (the old 1.6 diesel had a five-speeder) is a bit notchy.

Three other engines will be offered alongside the 1.6 diesel: 1.4- and 1.6-litre petrols and a 2.0-litre diesel. These are all carried over from the old car, but they've been tweaked and combined with low-viscosity lubricants and low-friction tyres to improve efficiency.

The retuned suspension is another change for the better, smoothing out the jiggles and thumps that blighted the old car, although the UK's patchy roads will provide a sterner test than the Austrian ones we tested the car on. Kia has traded some body control for this more supple ride, but the Cee'd doesn't lean excessively in corners. Shame the steering is rather remote.

What's it like inside?
The Cee'd's cabin was previously let down by a few cheap-looking materials and some lightweight switchgear. However, the face-lifted car gets classier controls and detailing.

The hardwearing plastics in the lower reaches of the cabin are still missing the appealing rubberised finish that you'll find in a Golf, but they're similar to the materials in other rivals.

Otherwise it's a case of as you were, which means there's plenty of space for four adults and enough for a fifth if those in the back breathe in a bit. The boot is large and well shaped, too.

How much will it cost?
Prices are expected to rise by between 200 and 250, but the face-lifted Cee'd will be cheaper to run thanks to its more efficient engines. For example, the 1.6-litre diesel averages 64.2mpg and qualifies for the 13% company car tax band, whereas its predecessor could manage only 60.1mpg and an 18% rating.

A new system called Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) reduces CO2 emissions and improves fuel economy further by automatically turning off and restarting the engine in traffic. This will be available only with the 1.6 diesel at launch, but will later be offered with other engines.

Small improvements make a sizeable difference.