Estate cars used to be mere beasts of burden,that you wouldn’t dare take your children to school in, but Kia’s pledge for more stylish and affordable cars continues with the SW addition to the cee’d range. It’s got the looks, but has it got the touch?
Murphy’s Law as regards motoring journalists states that if long journeys are involved, the test car will be either dangerously small for motorways or so big and thirsty you risk running out of fuel in between service areas.
But if you need to transport flat pack furniture or visit the tip, you will be driving a luxurious convertible, while if the weather is set fair, sitting temptingly on the drive will be a double cab Pickup truck, without even a sunroof. These vehicles are extreme ends of the motoring spectrum, but if you want to sell estate cars successfully you need a very good all-rounder in the middle ground. You need a car that can move the family and their bags just as easily as a couple of mountain bikes or a load of slabs for the patio. It can’t have weaknesses, or it will sink without trace except for discount adverts in the local newspaper on the way to oblivion.
Designed in Germany and built in Slovakia, the new Kia cee’d SW (it could stand for station wagon, sporty wagon – nobody seems to know) estate is based on the What Diesel Car? Hatchback of the Year, the Kia cee’d. That gives the newcomer an excellent start in life, in even these shark-infested waters, and somehow it has turned out even better looking overall than the hatchback. There’s a definite zingy Peugeot 207SW and 407SW look to the rear quarters. Practicality certainly hasn’t been neglected. The car’s lines are anything but boxy, despite the space they enclose, but the tailgate’s hinges are located cleverly well inboard, which means that you have a bigger opening to load into while the upward sweep of the tailgate doesn’t extend back so far which is handy in tight spaces. It goes so high that you would need care in a low multistorey car park. A low tailgate lip aids loading and provides somewhere to sit while changing shoes or putting on your wellies.
The interior atmosphere backs up the styling with the cee’d’s already approved modern, easy to follow dashboard. The only thing that diluted the quality product impact of the car, and remember it comes with a seven-year/100,000 mile warranty, was the orange peel look of the paint from an angle in bright sunlight rather than a smooth finish. It comes with cellulite!
Unlike the hatch, there will only be two trim levels, GS and LS, and a reduced engine range because estate models only account for about nine per cent of sales in this category.
The badging policy seems a bit odd to me, with LS specification higher than GS when I expected the reverse, though I have to admit that L is further along in the alphabet than G.
By far the most popular cars in this market have 1.6-litre engines, which means a choice of a 90bhp or 113bhp diesel, which on the test was far better than the petrol engine which was sluggish in comparison. We’re not too surprised, therefore, that Kia expects diesels to account for 65 per cent of sales, but are surprised that it has only set overall sales for the year at 1,000 units.
The 113bhp diesel becomes available with automatic transmission in November this year, and Kia has hinted that it might add a sporty 2-litre turbo diesel to the range if there is sufficient demand. We’ll have to wait and see… At 4.5 metres, the cee’d SW is 235mm longer than the five-door hatchback, with all the extra length added behind the rear seats. Heavily laden, this probably wouldn’t help the car’s handling, but there was no opportunity to test this. The lack of any compensatory self-levelling (as in the C5), would impair the car’s handling under load. And what a lot of load you can get in! Luggage capacity is up considerably on the hatch at 534 litres – nearly 200 litres more. Rear headroom is improved while the already generous legroom remains unchanged, which is impressive as the maximum load space is better than Ford’s Focus or Vauxhall’s Astra. The 60:40 split rear seat folds easily, though I needed to use two hands. You can either pull up the cushion and fold down the back rest for a level floor, or just drop the backrest on to the cushion if you only need extra length. The 113bhp engine with its variable geometry turbocharger starts easily on the key, warms up quickly, and delivers well-balanced power. Controls in the main are well-weighted and at most speeds the SW goes pretty much where you point it. Push the car hard into a corner, turn in under power, or apply a hefty dose, and the front will start to wash wide in a safe, understeer stance, but to the detriment of the outside sidewalls of your tyres. Easing back on the power brings the nose predictably back into line. This is all fun up to a point, but owners are only likely to enter this situation if a bend turns out to be tighter than anticipated.
The five-speed manual gearbox had a light, well measured action that made changing gear second nature. No complaints there.
Over broadly similar routes the car averaged 44.8mpg according to the on-board computer compared to 33.7mpg for a 1.6 petrol, but the car was exceptionally low mileage, having covered just 78 miles before the test drive. Another piece of possible good news for diesel buyers was that the car was quieter than the petrol version, especially in terms of general road noise and tyre roar, but then the diesel was an LS and the petrol a GS.
Overall, my impression was of a pleasant car that was enjoyable to drive, but not quite as alert and agile as the hatchback. The ride is stiff, which I don’t mind, but had there been rear seat passengers they might have objected over the railway lines and cobbles encountered on the Croatian test route. Lightly laden with only the front seats occupied, the SW felt a close match for any of the usual rivals.
There are useful, but shallow, trays under the boot floor, with the space-saver spare wheel the next floor down. You could even hide a laptop in the first section, but if you want to charge it, the power socket is on the side of the boot and the cable would be visible unless you also pulled the retracting cover blind over as well. Fair enough! A deeper trio of bins nearer the bumper was filled with various safety paraphernalia. Producing cars that are styled more attractively is very much a key policy of the Korean company, which now builds more than one million cars a year at 16 factories round the world. Kia has previously sold on a budget/value for money ticket in the UK, offering deals like ‘get a Rio or Sedona for just £1 deposit…and get a £1,000 cashback’.
“The company realised it couldn’t just go on like that with people expecting an even cheaper price the next year, and obviously we are aware of the cars that will come from India and China in the near future,” said Kia’s new sales director, Yaser Shabsogh, who joined recently from Ford. So far, we would say that seems to be working. If you are parting with your own money and plan to give a car a hard life, it’s reassuring to know you have a seven year/100,000 mile warranty that could help sell the car when you decide to buy a new one. And it’s especially sweet if you are paying less than for a Focus or an Astra to start with. As an estate, the car is easily better than any other 1.6 diesel-engined estate, and may even do well against the What Diesel Car? Family estate of the year , the Skoda Octavia Estate. Perhaps we’ll put them head-to-head in a future issue!
On sale: 1 September // Price from £13,745 //
Main rivals: Ford Focus Estate, Peugeot 307 Estate, Renault Mégane Sports Tourer
- Price: £14,995
- Engine: 1,582cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged
- Max Power: 113bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 188lb ft at 1,900rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,400 kg
- Combined Consumption: 57mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 128g/km (C – £115 per year)
- 0-62mph: 11.7 seconds
- Max speed: 116mph
- Insurance group: 6
Standard equipment includes:
16-inch diameter propeller vane alloy wheels, front fog lights, body-coloured door handles, bumpers and door mirrors, silver roof rails, climate control and cooled glovebox, front and rear electric windows, reversing sensors, cloth and leather seats, metal grain centre console, folding ignition key, seat-back pockets. Six-speaker integrated radio and CD player with MP3 player, steering wheel mounted audio controls, driver’s seat height adjustment, front seat lumbar adjustment, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, under floor luggage tray, luggage net and hooks, 12v power socket in boot. Manual tilt and telescope steering wheel, automatic door locking, cruise control, front armrest with storage compartment, tinted glass all round, rear window wash wipe, front map reading light, sunglasses holder, 60:40 split rear seat.
Four function trip computer, exterior temperature gauge, variable speed windscreen wipers, seat belt pre-tensioners with load limiters, two ISOfix child seat anchorages (rear), two front cupholders, childproof rear door locks. Rack and pinion power steering, five-speed manual gearbox, disc brakes front and rear with anti-lock and electronic brake distribution, leather pack of steering wheel, gear knob, parking brake and armrest, twin front, side and full length side curtain airbags,‘active’head restraints to reduce whiplash, remote central door locking with alarm and deadlocks
Metallic paint (£360)
Electronic Stability Program (£350 on LS grade only)
Prices on application for rooftop box, ski and snowboard racks, roof-mounted cycle carriers,dog guard, and various alloy wheel options
A good looker that will stand out in the car park. Not a leaden load-lugger to drive. Well-built and practical with bumper-to-bumper warranty
The badge doesn’t have any prestige yet, but plans for racier models with higher image will help in time. Ride/handling balance could be a bit better