I’m writing this in great form. I’ve just come back from a bracing walk in a lovely park on a chilly late afternoon and I have my test-drive notes neatly laid out, all ready to go. And I am sticking with them, regardless.
Why am I telling you all this? Because, before the walk, I was going to shy away from some of my review scribblings and not mention diesel until later. I know you are sick and tired reading about diesel. But sometimes we have to acknowledge facts. Diesels can be excellent.
In my case, with this week’s car – KIA’s new so-called compact urban crossover, the XCeed – that acknowledgement came with a sense of regret at having to leave it back. It was so thrifty and willing.
So maybe you’ll make allowances for me as I report that after an amount of driving hither and thither, this was as easy on fuel as anything I’ve driven in 12 months. And the meanie in me just loved the idea of trying to cover nearly 1,000km on one tank. Well, maybe 900km. I struggled with my driving to get it below 500km on the computer projection. I’d started with nearly double that. I drove a lot of the time in lower gears, grinding out the kilometres in tight traffic. It was that sort of few days.
Responsible for the frugality was the 1.6-litre 115hp diesel engine. It wasn’t the quietest or smoothest, but it somehow seemed to suit not just my penny-wise-pound-foolish perspective, but the car’s overall dynamics too.
I also have a second set of notes before me. They are from the international launch some time back. I note with alarm that I’d hardly given the engine a second thought.
If I am being truthful, I had expected it to be one of the inevitable disappointments that often emerge under Irish driving conditions. I always reserve judgment until I get a car out on our roads and working under our traffic conditions on a regular basis.
Anyway, they call this XCeed a CUV as it is designed to mix the practical nature of a SUV with the handling of a hatchback.
As a result of striving for the latter, it is low enough and carries strong coupé looks. The front and rear designs are visual treats, but I felt cheated with the dullish colour of my test model. A pity. It needs vibrant colours to bring out the best of the design as a sporty alternative to the likes of the SEAT Ateca, Toyota C-HR, Nissan Qashqai, Mercedes GLA, BMW X2 and so on. If it’s sporty you want, get colour to go with the vibe.
The XCeed may be compact of dimension, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much space was available in the cabin, especially at the rear seats. Again, I noticed from my international launch notes that I thought it a bit cramped.
The interior comes alive with brightly coloured insets and outlines around the dash and instrumentation. Where the outside is dull, the inside is vibrant. Brilliantly laid out and conceived, it would lift your mood – like a good walk in the park. That’s important for a car you’re going to be living with for a few years.
I liked driving it too. There was a nice bit of edge to the travel and I’d rate it higher on handling than many – not all – in its general category. I think we forget how well the new Ceed stable of models is underpinned.
This has the same wheelbase as the five-door hatch (2,650mm) but is 85mm longer due to front (25mm) and rear overhangs (60mm). It is 90mm shorter than the Sportage SUV and 150mm lower, but 48mm taller than the hatch. Boot space at 426 litres is up 31 litres on the hatch. Apparently, this sort of car is going to be mega-trendy as styling becomes a key differentiation. Be that as it may, I think the XCeed looks a bit pretentious with its wheel arch/side-sill cladding and roof rails creating a so-called ‘SUV look’.
I have to come back to the engine. Maybe diesel isn’t the right fuel for an urban driver – there is a nice 1-litre petrol. And my car did cost more than €30,000 (albeit well equipped). But there is still something about a diesel when it ‘fits’ a car.
Shortly, there will be a conundrum about having one because there will be a plug-in hybrid powertrain option too. Diesel, petrol or plug-in?
On paper, the plug-in should be easiest on fuel and lowest on CO2 emissions. But will it do 1,000km unaided like the diesel? Probably not. It’s a nice dilemma.
Would I buy the XCeed? Yes. It reminds me of the smaller Volkswagen T-Cross for its all-round appeal. I think it will be one of the cars of this new year.
Diesel or not, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Facts & figures
KIA XCeed urban crossover
1.6-litre, 115hp diesel (tested €30,495); range starts from €26,245.
Standard K2 trim includes forward collision avoidance, 16in alloys, LED lights, 8in touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple Car Play, high beam/speed limit assist.
K3 (on test) adds 18in alloys, half-leather upholstery, wireless phone charger, 10.25in t/screen with TomTom, rear-view camera.