First Drive Review: Kia Ceed

Independent review by Steve Grant

5-minute read

White Kia Ceed Exterior Front Driving

First Drive: Kia Ceed

Explore the key features of the Kia Ceed in our expert first drive review

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Boasting all-new looks and well-equipped as standard, it's safe to say the new Kia Ceed is a top option in the hatchback segment.


  • Better than expected driving experience
  • Plenty of tech
  • Improved looks
  • High build quality
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The third generation Kia Ceed hit UK shores in 2018, and its interested buyers immediately noticed a big difference.

Yes, it looks different – it drives different too – but, more importantly, the apostrophe has gone.

The Cee’d has officially become the Ceed, which apparently means it’s easier for prospective buyers to check out online.

Ceed also stands for Community of Europe with European Design, as it's designed, developed, engineered, and produced in Europe. It’s also where most of its sales will be.

And in the UK, where Kia has experienced years of success, it’s a vitally important part of the Kia offer, being one of their most popular models.

Customers buy it, according to Kia, because of its sporty exterior design, its high spec, and its industry-beating 7-year warranty. In which case, they’re going to love the new model.

The Kia Ceed received a facelift in 2021, bringing with it a range of updates. A pre-facelift version was tested during this review.

Design and Practicality

Despite being the same length and having the same wheelbase as its predecessor, the new Ceed is slightly lower, wider, and has a longer rear overhang, giving it a more athletic look.

This is added to by the wider ‘tiger nose’ grille and lower front air intake. ‘Ice cube’ LED daytime running lights, previously only available on GT and GT Line models, embedded into the front bumper, are standard but now incorporated into the main headlamp units.

The rear has also had a decisive nip and tuck with new LED daytime running lights for greater visibility.

The range will feature multiple trim lines ranging from the entry-level '2', up to the top-of-the-line GT-Line.

Inside the cabin, the Ceed is the best yet with higher-quality, soft touch materials used throughout. Surfaces are finished with metallic or satin chrome trim, with buyers able to choose from a range of cloth, synthetic leather, or genuine leather upholstery.

The dash is split into an upper area – for the ‘floating’ touchscreen infotainment system – and a lower area, housing controls for audio and heating and ventilation. The layout is also wonderfully driver-centric, the clear and logical centre console angled towards the driver’s seat for ease of use.

This leaves a more minimalist, uncluttered and spacious design for the passenger side. There’s literally nothing to distract from the view ahead.

Though the new Ceed is the same length as its predecessor, it now has best-in-class legroom and rear shoulder room, and boasts a larger – by 15 litres – 395-litre boot. It may not be as big as the Peugeot 308 overall, but it's impressive nonetheless.

Equipment and Technology

The infotainment system is available as either a 7-inch touchscreen audio system or an 8-inch touchscreen navigation system, with navigation and Kia Connected Services powered by TomTom, which enables full smartphone integration.

Bluetooth smartphone integration, as well as automatic lights and keyless entry, are standard.

Engines and Driving Experience

The range is powered by a choice of powertrains, including an updated version of Kia’s popular 3-cylinder 118bhp 1.0-litre T-GDi petrol engine.

With a top speed of 118mph, it officially returns 52.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 122g/km. It’s a sprightly little thing and probably all you need if all your driving is local, though on long and steep hills you'll almost certainly need to work the gearbox.

A new 158bhp 1.5-litre T-GDi power unit replaces the earlier 1.4-litre GDi engine, and it's more powerful.

It has all the revs and torque you need, the manual is slick, and it will go from 0 to 62mph in around 8.5 seconds and on to a top speed of approximately 130mph. It also officially returns around 50mpg.

On release, the Ceed was available with a standard diesel powertrain, but this has since been replaced by a mild hybrid diesel that offers impressive fuel economy.

There's also the choice between a 6-speed manual and an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

What's immediately noticeable is how good the new Ceed is to drive.

Engineered for European roads, it's extremely good – certainly able to prove its credentials on a tight, twisting go-kart track. There’s little body roll under cornering, and it’s remarkably stable at higher speeds.
Steve Grant

It’s an impressive step forward from its predecessor and, dare I say, virtually as good as the current Ford Focus, whose market it's targeted at.

Suffice to say its ride and handling has had a major tweak, including a new fully-independent suspension system, to make it much more sporty, even if there’s still a certain vagueness to feedback from the steering.

As well as seven airbags, standard technologies include High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist with Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist.

The Ceed is available in a range of colours and offers the choice of various wheels and designs.

Kia has dropped the 3-door model of the Ceed, so it will come only as a 5-door and a Station Wagon at launch.


The hatchback segment is a highly competitive one, with plenty of cars that are fantastic all-rounders. However, few can rival the Kia Ceed's proposition, as it's a car that's very well-built, more than decent to drive, and loaded with technology. The latest generation is very practical and safe, and it's a car that will appeal to a wide audience of potential buyers.