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The Ceed falls into the wildly competitive lower-medium sector, with the ubiquitous Ford Focus and VW Golf taking prime position. Nonetheless, its original incarnation, launched in 2007, was described by Kia as "a landmark and game-changing", and quietly won fans impressed by its value for money and driveability.
This summer heralds the arrival of its all-new version, claimed to be improved in the predictable ways: better quality interior, emissions and fuel consumption. CO2 for the predicted highest seller, a 1.6-litre 128hp diesel, will start at 97g/km CO2 for the Ecodynamics iteration, rising to 100g/km for the standard version, making it competitive against the likes of the Golf Bluemotion or Focus Econetic alongside similar-value models such as the Hyundai i30 (at 97g/km) or the Mazda 3 (at 115g/km). There's also the same 1.6 petrol and entry-level 1.4 diesel and petrols as in the current range, but with tweaked gear ratios to improve efficiency. The new model premieres Kia's dual clutch transmission on the 1.6 petrol, which further helps.
With 70% of sales set for fleets, there's no doubt that the Ceed is extremely important for Kia in the business car market. As the South Korean marque attempts to position itself as a credible alternative, the Ceed will also be the first model to bear the firm's new badge, which Kia describes as "simpler, sleeker and with a more modern appearance".
According to the carmaker, it's also been benchmarked against "class-leading competitor vehicles from near-premium brands" for ride and handling. Indeed, there's little to criticise on this front: it's a comfortable ride with a good six-speed manual gearbox. The only downside is the steering, which lacks feedback for petrolheads but for the average driver it will be perfectly satisfactory.
This is an excellent all-rounder that is hard to fault and remains excellent value for money. Prices haven't been announced, but based on its all-round improved quality, it is expected to start at around £14,500, £1000 more than the outgoing model, going up to the mid-£20,000s.
Built on a new platform, the Ceed is longer and lower than its predecessor, intended to give it a more sporty profile, and aesthetically it is a Smart-looking car. Legroom for front seat occupants is also increased, and interior quality is impressive, while the extensive steering wheel controls and optional satnav are certainly comparable with volume players Ford and Vauxhall.
Trims are unconfirmed but are expected to echo the existing line-up of 1, 2, 3 and 4 plus a new top-range 4-Tech. Possible new features include park assist and a panoramic sunroof.
Kia is hoping residual values will land around 40%, a 3-5% uplift on the outgoing car, while Benefit-in-Kind will be 14% for the standard version compared with 13% for the green-friendly 97g/km option.
This is definitely a car to watch and is now an extremely credible alternative to volume brands. While whole-life costs are not yet available and brands such as Kia often still struggle to beat WLCs against trusty marques such as VW (thanks to stronger RVs etc.), it's likely this car will be the most competitive yet. It's fast rising up the ranks, and fleets should take note.