Kia cee'd Sportswagon review
by Tom Stewart (17 September 2012)
The traditional estate car has become something of a rarity on the showroom floor. Most in the market for a new car who need to hump large loads around will necessarily have turned toward an MPV or an all-wheel drive SUV as, apart from a few exceptions, (eg. the Mondeo Estate plus a couple of Mercedes and Volvos), boxy estate cars have in the main transmogrified into undoubtedly sleeker but usually less capacious "Tourers" or "Sportwagons".
The latest example is the new Sportswagon version of the all-new Kia cee'd, which I reported on here in late May of this year. Essentially the Sportswagon is a cee'd five-door hatch with the same 2650mm wheelbase and 1780mm overall width, but with a 195mm longer body, 15mm greater height, a wider track (by 17mm front, 27mm rear), revised suspension geometry, redesigned rear doors and yes, more boot space: 528 litres with 60/40 split rear seats up and 1642 litres with rear seats tumbled and folded flat. This compares with the 380/1318 litres of the five-door.
Close scrutiny of the two six-speed manual 1.6-litre CRDi models' spec sheets also reveals that the Sportswagon version is unsurprisingly a little heavier (by 45-48kg), but that it has the same 0.30 drag coefficient. The SW's ample 120mph top speed is marginally slower (by 2mph), while its CO2 emissions are 16g/km higher at 116g/km (on 16" wheels) along with a corresponding drop in fuel economy: 64.2mpg combined (cee'd SW), 74.3mpg (cee'd hatch).
Quite why there's such a substantial difference in emissions and consumption between two so similar models is hard to fathom, but Kia also appears to still be in something of a muddle with its 0-60 times. The manual 1.6 diesel SW has a quoted figure of 10.8 seconds, although having carefully scrutinized the times of all the 2012 cee'd variants, a fraction under 12 seconds is probably more accurate.
Unlike the new cee'd hatch, which offers the options of two petrol and two diesel engines, the Sportswagon is available with either an 89bhp 1.4-litre CRDi six-speed manual in grade 1 spec (£16,895), or a 126bhp 1.6-litre CRDi manual in grades 1, 2 (manual or auto), 3, 4 and 4 Tech, with prices ranging from £17,695 to £24,795.
Two variants were available to drive on the launch: the entry level 1.4 CRDi and the £21,095 grade 3 1.6 CRDi. I started out in the 1.6 and, due to minor dynamic differences between the new Sportswagon and the existing hatchback models, allow me to repeat some words from my cee'd hatch report in May, which hold true here.
For example, "the dash design and interior ambience are now much closer to those of 'premium sector' models than was previously the case" and "with a generous 192lb/ft of torque the 1.6 CRDI manual is a lively and willing performer. Depress the throttle and it responds with some enthusiasm, and it hustles along the motorway with adequate verve".
Also, "the smooth surfaces of the Swiss launch road routes put most UK roads to shame, but the consensus is that the new cee'd will still ride pretty comfortably in the UK. No grumbles concerning its braking, steering, grip or handling either which, though not exactly fun from a die-hard enthusiast's perspective, are all utterly safe and predictable."
The same applies to the Sportswagon, and indeed most of the Slovakian road routes of the launch event were also billiard-table smooth. However, there were some that were particularly uneven and the cee'd SW’s well-sorted chassis and suspension helped the car maintain its ride with impressive composure.
You don't need to be particularly observant to notice the changes when transferring from a grade 3 1.6 CRDi to a grade 1 1.4 CRDi. Gone is the fancy seat cloth, the 7" satnav screen, the glossy piano black interior finish, the dual-zone climate control and more, but the grade 1 cee'd nonetheless boasts air-conditioning, an iPod compatible audio system with CD player, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, six airbags and so the list goes on.
On the road the 1.4 feels every bit as smooth, refined and quiet as the 1.6, but being less powerful – 84bhp with 162lb/ft – the motor and gearbox obviously need to be worked that bit harder on hills or while overtaking. The smaller CRDi's 0-62mph in 13.4 seconds and 106mph max performance figures aren't exactly dazzling, but there was more than enough oomph for the 1.4 to cruise in relaxed fashion at Slovakia's 130km/h (81mph) motorway limit.
Kia describes its stylish new Sportswagon as an estate car, and, considering its external dimensions, it is indeed pretty roomy with useful loadspace plus generous leg and headroom front and rear. Multiple large suitcases, IKEA flat packs, well fed Labradors or a combination of those might prove too much for it, but for the money, and short of an MPV or small van, you'll be pushed to do better.