Well, this week I have been running around in the bizarrely named Kia Cee'd. What is the missing letter? Who knows. This is the beastie:
The styling is generic far-eastern hatchback: take the badges off and it could be a Toyota, Hyundai or Chevrolaewoo. The one I had was a GS,lower-spec than the picture with plainer wheels and no front fogs. It was painted in a horrid shade of metallic dark beige that Kia call "English Pewter." A colleague called it "baby poo."
Inside was a fest of unrelieved blackness, a bit like Golfs used to be a couple of years ago. Most of the dash - and oddly the steering wheel boss - was clad in a soft-feel vinyl material uncannily like that used in, er, the Golf. So far so good then - except that where the soft vinyl was broken by instrument and switchgear pods, these were made from the cheapest possible Airfix-grade plastic, in various shades of off-black. This cheap plastic was also used on the door pulls and centre console. Nasty.
What about the touchy-feely bits? The wheel was small, fat and bound in leather. Looked sporty then! Just an illusion, as we will see... The seats were hard, unyeilding and clad in a scratchy black nylon fabric. Again, the Mk IV Golf came vividly to mind. Do you see a pattern emerging here? The gear knob was a hard, poorly-shaped device made of silver and black plastics; minor switchgear had a cheap action and was poorly labelled and difficult to find. I never did work out the trip computer... Overall: see'dy.
So, how was it to drive? I had the "standard power" 1.6 turbodiesel in mine, with 90 bhp. The next model up has a 110 bhp version of the same, and the top of the range Sport a 2.0 litre turbodiesel. Petrol engines are available for OAPs, as is automatic transmission.
The 90 bhp diesel was fairly typical of old-school small diesels. Noisy at tickover, no power at all below 1500 rpm, then a little bit of turbo boost up to 3000 rpm where it hits the diesel "brick wall" and just gasps breathlessly until you change up. 3000 rpm is about 90 mph in top (5th) so that is effectively the top speed. Acceleration is fair, although you have to get the gearchanges just so to keep it in the powerband. The red line was at 5000 rpm, I don't think you'd get there unless you were being towed! On the whole: wee'dy.
Handling? Ride? Hmm. At low speeds it felt quite responsive to the wheel, although apart from a slight rubberiness around the mid-point, the wheel was as dead and numb as a computer driving game. This seems to be how modern drivers want it; maybe it's the playstation generation. Did someone say Golf? So no indication to the driver of lateral movements of the tyres .... vertical movements are different matter, the hard and under-damped suspension faithfully transmitting every ripple through the hard seats to your bum. Lovely.
All very German, yet again. In some German cars (BMW), this hard suspension is the price you pay for quick turn-in and precise control through the twisty bits. Sadly Kia have followed the VAG path, and any attempt to press on reveals calamitous understeer and lots of jerky bouncing around.
Space was OK for the class, although the boot had a typically far-eastern high loading lip. The stereo was adequate. Economy seemed fine, using no more or less fuel than all the other diesels I regularly thrash up to Wigan and back.
For: cheap Korean copy of Mk IV Golf
Against: cheap Korean copy of Mk IV Golf
Summary: basic transport for the nee'dy.