Kia products have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years, and can no longer be seen as cheap-and-cheerful underdeveloped offerings. Trim and quality levels are now at least as good as the mainstream manufacturers, and edging towards comparison with the premium brands.
One area where they have been lagging though is in their power units, which have until very recently been less than market leading in terms of economy and emissions, increasingly important in these days of ‘dieselgate’. All this is about to change however, as Kia have just developed a range of new petrol and diesel engines which on paper take economy and emissions to highly competitive levels.
The new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, direct-injection T-GDi (ecoTurbo) unit was announced at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year and was designed to meet Kia’s stringent internal targets for reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Kia intends to follow a similar path in downsizing 70 per cent of its internal combustion engines in the next few years. The T-GDi units are eventually destined to be used in a number of models, but make their debuts in the cee’d family.
There are two versions, delivering 98 or 118bhp, for the cee’d and pro_cee’d, while the Sportswagon is available with the higher-powered unit. Both develop 172Nm of torque over a wide range from 1,500rpm to 4,000rpm, ensuring outstanding driving flexibility
They are 998cc engines developed in-house at Kia’s Namyang research and development facility in Korea, and have been engineered to require 10 to 15 per cent less fuel than Kia’s outgoing 1.4-litre multi-point injection or 1.6-litre GDi petrol direct-injection units, with similar reductions in emissions. Depending on model, fuel economy is up to 57.6mpg, with CO2 emissions as low as 113g/km.
The lesser-powered version accelerates the cee’d and pro_ceed from 0-60mph in less than 12.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 114mph. The high-power unit reduces the 0-60 time by two seconds and raises the maximum speed by 4mph, depending on body variant.
The new petrol engines are technically advanced, with features such as an electrically-driven turbocharger wastegate, aimed at quicker response and better fuel economy. Integrated exhaust manifolds should ensure that the catalytic converter temperature is kept as high as possible to improve emissions, whilst a dual-thermostat split cooling system is fitted which allows the block and cylinder heads to be cooled independently. The main thermostat controls the flow of coolant to the cylinder heads above 88º C to reduce knocking, while the engine block thermostat shuts off coolant flow above 105º C to reduce friction and improve efficiency.
With such an impressive technical specification, we were therefore keen to try a cee’d with the higher-powered version of the new 1.0 litre petrol engine to see if it was as good as the manufacturers claim.
From the outside the car – a 3-door version of the cee’d, confusingly called a pro_cee’d – looks good, with almost understated styling lines almost akin to a Golf, and far removed from the over-fussy lines of, say, the latest Honda Civic range. As has been noted before in these pages, the Kia “tiger-nose” grille is becoming steadily recognisable and attractive, unlike the frontal treatment of certain other manufacturers who seem to have run out of ideas to keep their trademark grille stylish (you know who you are, BMW……………). The new GT-Line exterior trim level adds a number of external adornments such as LED daytime running lights, which thankfully blend fairly well into the overall style of the cee’d rather than appearing to be aftermarket add-ons.
First impressions of the cabin of the latest cee’d/pro_cee’d confirmed that it was well put together, feeling solid and robust. Interior trim quality was impressive, with plenty of soft-touch materials around the cabin, the only slight let-down was a few sharp edges on a couple of the steering wheel switches, although in truth you had to rummage around quite hard to find them!
The cabin offered plenty of storage space for a family, with one nice touch being front door bins wide enough to take a big drinks bottle, a feature thankfully becoming increasingly common.
Instrumentation is fairly traditional, with a 3-dial arrangement easily visible in front of the driver. Interestingly, the main centre instrument was fully digital, although mimicking a standard analogue speedo in normal setting. This changes to a digital readout when the “GT” button on the steering wheel is pressed, activating also a sound-generator for added aural spice. A small digital display atop the centre of the facia provides time and external temperature information. This was angled towards the driver and less easy to see for the passenger who would, presumably, be equally interested in information of this nature!
At idle, a small amount of vibration was evident from the three-cylinder engine, although this soon disappeared as the revs increased. Indeed, the engine was otherwise remarkably smooth & unobtrusive out on the road, only making its presence briefly felt again when the standard-fit start/stop system operated.
Once under way, acceleration, despite the small capacity of the engine, was quite respectable. Kia quote a 0-60mph time of 10.7 seconds, which seemed quite believable, as the little 998cc engine produces that respectable 172Nm of torque which is available from an impressively low 1,500 rpm. Kia’s engineers have clearly put a great deal of work into matching transmission ratios, which were well-spaced to make the most of the available performance and allowing the cee’d to accelerate nimbly with little indication of the small capacity of the engine. Lack of cubic capacity did, however, become more obvious in sixth gear, which was very much for cruising, needing to drop one or even two gears for overtaking or hill climbing. Not unexpected, definitely not unacceptable, and a small price to pay for the claimed 57.6 mpg and 115gm/km of the 1.0 T-GDI engine!
Whilst Kia’s engine and drivetrain engineers can be congratulated for doing a fine job, their ride & handling guys could benefit from a few lessons from VW or Ford, for the ride comfort was a little harder and bouncier than the best of the competition. The trade-off to this was pretty tidy and predictable handling, taking corners neutrally and with little body roll.
Noise levels were impressively quiet, with little wind noise and a cabin entirely free from squeaks & rattles.
Overall impressions? A serious competitor in the mid-range family saloon sector, particularly with the famed Kia 7-year warranty behind it. 2016 cee’d models are even better equipped than before, with a raft of new & improved features & options available, such as Blind Spot Detection, DAB radio, Tom Tom-based navigation systems, and LED rear lights.
Downsides? Not a lot, although the little musical riff when the ignition is switched off could grate after a while! If you are in the market for a sleek, high quality, & economical family hatch, then the latest cee’d/pro_cee’d range is well worth a look.
The GT-Line 1.0 T-GDI as tested retails at £20,220 OTR.
Interested? Find out more here: http://www.kia.co.uk/new-cars/range/mid-sized-cars/new-ceed/