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We’ve heard it before about urban crossovers that mix SUV practicality and hatchback handling.

Only it is a bit different with KIA’s new XCeed CUV (urban crossover utility vehicle). I’d add strikingly good coupé looks too. It caught my eye immediately in the sun-baked Marseille parking lot.

It goes on sale mid-month from €26,245. While based on the popular 5dr Ceed hatch, the only body panels carried over are the front doors.

They see it as a ‘sporty alternative’ to more conventional SUVs and claim it has comparable cabin and luggage space to several but within a more compact, less muscular frame.

That means it’s in the same zone as the likes of the Seat Ateca, Toyota C-HR, Nissan Qashqai, Merc GLA, BMW X2 etc. They expect 1,100 to buy one in 2020, with 500 of those opting for the plug-in hybrid version due late January.

There will initially be three trim levels (K2, K3, K4) and two engines for Ireland: a 1-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel. Other engines (1.4 petrol) may follow.

As I say, I instantly liked the look of it. The shape, front design and clever rear packaging work exceptionally well.

Inside was smartly decked – though rear-seat room wasn’t great. It’s a typical Ceed cabin but the driving position is better than its siblings.

The drive was sprightly; handling, ride were well above average and the suspension had a pliant feel – they fine-tuned the hatch’s setup for that. It works.

They are convinced this sort of motor will take off big time. And buyer research shows styling is a top priority. The XCeed has that in abundance while wheel arch/side-sill cladding and silver roof rails provide ‘SUV looks’.

Standard K2 spec (1-litre petrol, €26,245) includes 16ins alloys, LED lights, 8ins t/screen, Android Auto, Apple Car Play, forward collision avoidance, high beam/speed limit assist.

K3 (1-litre, €28,145) adds 18ins alloys, 10.25ins t/screen with TomTom, rear view camera; half leather upholstery, and wireless phone charger.

This trim has the option of the 115PS diesel (around €31,000; I drove it – nothing spectacular).

The K4 1-litre ( €30,045) adds heated front seats, 12.3ins instrument cluster, climate control, blind spot detection.

Wheelbase is the same (2,650mm) but front (25mm) and rear overhangs (60mm) make it 85mm longer than the 5dr but 90mm shorter than the Sportage. It’s 48mm taller than the hatch but 150mm lower than the Sportage. Ground clearance is up 44mm (172 mm on 16ins wheels; 184mm on 18ins).

Luggage capacity is decent at 426 litres (31 litres up on 5dr). The K4 trim has the brand’s first fully digital 12.3ins Supervision instrument cluster.

It replaces the conventional speedometer and tachometer dials with digital dials.

Verdict: An appealing car to look at and drive.

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