When carmakers decide on the outlines of their latest models, writes Iain Robertson, they seldom admit to ‘errors’, yet Kia, a brand that seems almost gleeful to buck trends and alter preconceptions, created a car by virtual happenstance.
It does appear as though the new car scene is bubbling with creative genius at the moment. However, intriguing new models, no matter what their origins are, most especially the latest crop of ‘niche-fillers’, can also smack of desperation, a factor that is worth contemplation, when sales are down by considerable margins across both the UK and Europe.
When the times are bad, it might be expedient to consolidate model ranges, rather than expanding them. New designs add to the costs that are already steep for each new model introduced. Different metal pressings, new materials and even mildly re-engineered hardware all add to the bottom-line and, instead of making cars more affordable, they also add to consumers’ overheads.
No single car manufacturer of the modern era can be said to have put the brakes on their marketing spends, although all of them admit to reducing budgets, which does beg the question, from where are they obtaining the funds? It could be from ‘glean’ budgets, created by reducing excess in other areas, or it might be the inexorable rise in retail prices (although, with discounting being central to most deals, that seems like an unfeasible route).
The latest model to join the Kia Ceed line-up, alongside the new five-door hatchback, the Sportswagon and ProCeed ‘shooting brake’, is the all-new XCeed. In fact, the full story of the Ceed’s three-generation evolution will be revealed in a limited-run book, due to be released later this year, that shows how the all-new Kia XCeed and ProCeed came to life. A cynic might propose that ‘book’ is just a fancy brochure and such a publication might not be necessary at all, were business more vibrant than it is, or if the manufacturer were more confident about niche manufacturing.
Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe, oversaw the design of the recently revised Ceed range, a process in which the brand considered a range of options to replace the previous three-door and awkwardly named pro_cee’d hatchback. He states with disarming pleasantness: “While creating the next ProCeed, we realised that there could be a fourth body type within the Ceed line-up. This became the Kia XCeed. The beauty of the project was that we never originally set out to create a crossover!”
There is no getting over the stylish modernity of its design and the XCeed is a sportier alternative to traditional and loftier SUVs. More athletic in appearance than its taller rivals, according to Kia, the new model offers something different to the other versions of the Ceed family. The only body panels carried over from the five-door hatchback are the front doors, the XCeed also possessing a somewhat different stance to its stablemates.
Its ‘cab-rearward’ silhouette and fastback tailgate lend the design a coupé-like twist that is matched by a relatively long bonnet. While the wheelbase remains the same as other models in the Ceed line-up (at 2,650mm), which is normal practice for vehicles sharing platforms, the Kia XCeed’s front and rear overhangs are extended over the five-door hatchback model by 25mm at the front and 60mm at the rear. It is not a lot but it is enough to differentiate one model from the other. XCeed’s elevated ride height and body also present a similar, robust image that attracts buyers to other Kia SUVs, in a market that is simply heaving with them in all shapes and sizes. Increasing the ride height by up to 42mm over the regular Ceed and adding wheel arch and side sill cladding, as well as silver roof rails, lend the car a more rugged, crossover appeal.
To be fair, I can recall a visit to the Mlada Boleslav headquarters of Skoda a few years ago, when the Felicia model (which preceded the Fabia) was still in production. Attending a meeting with the company boss of the time, Herr Detlef Wittig, I asked him about a most unusual Felicia hatchback parked in front of the office, which had roof rails, bigger alloy wheels, flared arches and a larger diameter exhaust tailpipe. He explained to me that it was a one-off, powered by a 175bhp engine. He also offered it to me (for sale!). Its lack of VIN precluded its importation to the UK but I was very drawn to the car.
The XCeed is elevated but it is not an SUV. It offers a higher seating position but is more coupé-like. In fact, it is a solution for those people not wanting a larger, more imposing SUV, particularly in cities. For an ageing population, this is like manna from car-making heaven. The raised hip entry-point to the seats, while not as elevated as those of a Kia Sportage, makes for easier entry and egress for those people with reducing agility, while also providing a more commanding view of the road ahead and behind. Yet, Kia would not be Kia without factoring-in a sportier driving experience, which drivers of all ages will appreciate. It is a touch disingenuous for Kia to suggest otherwise, especially as its customer age profile is well over 50 years.
Much the same attitude contributed to the development of the XCeed’s cabin. Carrying over the same contemporary architecture of the Ceed, a driver-orientated centre console allied to the application of additional, brighter colours create a more youthful style. The cross-hatched upholstery, which also carries the more vibrant colour scheme, is purposely easy on the eyes. The digital displays and multi-level connectivity, let alone the fresher exterior body colours, add vibrancy and currency to a Kia that should not have been…apparently.
Prices (pre-discount) start from a market-affordable £20,795 and the first deliveries are expected to commence in September this year, with a choice of 1.0, or 1.4 turbo-petrol and a 1.6-litre TDi engines. There are three trim levels, 2, 3 and First Edition, to choose from.