Kia cee'd Sportswagon 1.4 CRDi 1 review
by Mike Grundon (11 October 2012)
Kia's new estate version of the cee'd hatchback is known as the Sportswagon. The Korean manufacturer decided the SW moniker on the previous model wasn't putting across a strong enough message, so they've given the latest incarnation the full name. We can be thankful that the company that's given us cars with names like the pro_cee'd didn’t come up with something more outlandish like the cee'd_store or the CARgo_cee'd.
My test car has the 1.4-litre diesel engine that's got just shy of 90bhp, a torque figure of 162lb/ft and a 0-60mph time of 13.4 seconds, so we could discuss at some length whether the word "sports" is in any way relevant on this occasion. Performance won't get your juices flowing here, but this car has much to enthuse about.
Take fuel economy. Official figures suggest this estate car has an average fuel consumption of 67.3mpg which, combined with a fuel tank of 53 litres, would theoretically give you a working range of over 780 miles. That's more than the distance from Wick to Plymouth.
You may need some patience to make that epic end-to-end journey but you'd do it in comfortable seats with your bags stowed in a cargo-hold that's big enough and flexible enough to make light of the family's weekend luggage. And it's this which will sway your choice of the Sportswagon over the hatchback.
The rear hatch is as wide as the floor of the main load bay and there's no lip to lug things over so there's no problem getting your stuff in or out. The space is as deep as it's wide and there are little alcoves to either side behind the rear suspension, both of which have false floors with extra storage compartments below them.
Under the floor of the main boot area there are more storage spaces. A deep well immediately in front of the rear bumper is big enough to keep things like a warning triangle, a foot pump, a big torch, a set of overalls and maybe a first-aid kit. Under the main floor is a shallow tray divided into sections for less bulky things, then under the tray is the space-saver spare tyre.
Clearly you'd have to be careful what you put under the floor. If its something you're likely to need regularly, you’ll find yourself emptying the boot onto the pavement more often than could realistically be described as Fun.
If you need still more space, the rear seats are split 60/40 and fold absolutely flat in seconds. The squab tumbles forwards out of the way, and the seat back drops into the resulting gap without the need to take the headrests off. Reinstating them takes no longer.
Those back seats are quite comfortable and roomy too. The middle seat is a bit of a firm perch but I still have an inch or two clearance between my head and the roof. The two main seats though are comfortable and supportive. The rising line of the window ledge is approaching your shoulder height as you sit back to survey the passing countryside but the view is still good. Knees are accommodated comfortably by the hollows in the backs of the front seats.
The view of the outside world from the driver's seat is fine to the front and side, but out the back it's really quite restricted. The D pillars either side of the hatch are about a foot thick and the back window is shallow and narrow. The rear-view mirror offers a clear picture of a small oval of light between two substantial columns of bodywork. If ever a car cried out for parking sensors, this one does.
The test car is the £16,895 entry-level model known as the 1, but it's far from being an echoing tin box of base materials. An enthusiastic exploration shows me a well-stocked hamper of features including front foglights, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth connections and a CD and iPod player. It also has heated electric door mirrors, a height-adjustable driver's seat, electric front windows, a cooled glovebox, daytime running lights and a holding brake which makes it easier to avoid rolling backwards in a hill start.
As for driving, I can honestly say that even with this limited amount of power on tap, it is an exceptionally fine experience. The engine is smooth and quiet at most speeds, and on the flat at 70mph it can still accelerate in sixth gear. And while we're about it, the gearshift is faultless, accurate and smooth with a decisive click as it moves in and out of a gate.
The suspension on the cee'd Sportswagon is particularly worthy of mention. Even when the car is chucked about with no small amount of vigour, it shows little sign of rolling or snaking. High mountain roads with a combination of long sweeping curves, tight corners and occasional unexpected dips or potholes have comprehensively failed to un-nerve the car.
But the thing most likely to sell this car is its looks. Even those of us who say we buy cars with our head, know full well we buy them with our hearts as well and this is one seriously attractive estate car from most angles.
Designer Peter Schreyer, famously imported from Audi, has woven his magic around the Sportswagon to create a sleek and slick-looking end product. Considering the work he's done for Kia in the past few years, he must be worshipped as a minor deity in Korea by now.
Anyone who's been close to a cee'd hatchback will recognise much, inside and out. This car shares the rounded and raked front end with its lesser sibling - that so-called "tiger-nose" grille and those long, drawn-out headlights that sweep so far up the wing that they almost finish on a line with the windscreen.
The tail end looks like something from a German manufacturer with clean and tidy lines, a small spoiler over the back window, tastefully sculpted lights and a restrained amount of landscaping in the metalwork.
The profile is perhaps where its utilitarian, load-shifting nature peeks through. Despite the pleasingly tapered line of the windows, the rather puny 15" steel-with-plastic-trim wheels are dwarfed by the acreage of metal on the flank. Don't get me wrong, it's far from the wardrobe-on-wheels we used to associate with estate cars, but it is more slab-sided looking than some of its rivals.
Indoors it's comfortable and generally fairly ergonomically designed, except I found my elbow rubbed annoyingly on the storage box between the front seats when I reached for the handbrake. I suspect my driving jacket would have a polished sleeve after a month.
Kia says the Sportswagon been specced out to meet the needs of its growing business user market, but there's no reason why this shouldn't be a big hit with the rest of us too. The engine may be small but it is practical and it’s economical. The level of equipment and trim is high and it's a nice-looking thing to be seen in. It's comfortable, easy to use and affordable to run, and has a seven-year warranty. It's a car to be proud of.
Second opinion: I've been very critical of the dynamic abilities of several Kias in the past (to the ill-disguised chagrin of the company's UK press office) but this one rides and handles superbly. I covered over 1300 miles in a single week would happily have done the same the following week, which just goes to show that a car doesn't need a powerful engine or large alloy wheels to be good to drive. According to the trip computer I averaged 56.6mpg. According to my calculations it was 54.6mpg, but even the lower figure is impressive for a car large enough to offer 528 litres of luggage room with the rear seats in place. David Finlay.