Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1

2020 Kia xCeed PHEV cornering

  • Simple engine line-up for the XCeed
  • Petrols are eager – 1.5, the best option
  • Manual and auto available, but only for petrol

What engine options are there?

Available are a pair of petrols, one diesel and a plug-in hybrid. This sounds plenty, but compared with some rivals, the XCeed is lacking in choice, which is a shame considering the Ceed hatchback has so many more options.

Petrol engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
1.0 T-GDI
118hp, 172Nm
11.1secs
115mph
1.5 T-GDI
158hp, 253Nm 8.7secs
129mph
1.5 T-GDI DCT (auto)
158hp, 253Nm 8.9secs
129mph

View full specs

Kicking off the range is a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol three-cylinder. It's surprisingly eager in other Kia models, and as long as you're not going to be regularly carrying loads or have a large family, it's a perfectly adequate performer – load it up, though, and it does struggle. However, it’s matched with a slick and easy to use six-speed manual gearbox.

Of more appeal is the 1.5-litre T-GDI, which was new to the range in 2021. It’s a smooth and refined unit (more so with the DCT auto fitted), and gets up to speed quickly enough, proving both economical and surprisingly eager if you're prepared to give it plenty of revs.

We’d recommend the DCT automatic with this engine as it makes for a smoother driving experience. It’s easy to make some jerky gearchanges in the manual and feels a more refined fit as an automatic. There doesn’t seem to be much of a penalty in performance, and at all speeds (unless you are really revving it), it remains a quiet and refined engine that picks up well if you want to make any overtaking manoeuvres. Only then does it become a little more vocal.

Diesel engine

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
1.6 CRDi
134hp, 280Nm
10.2secs
121mph

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Since the beginning of 2021, there's been just one diesel engine available. It's a clever 48V mild hybrid combines Kia’s ‘Smartstream’ 1.6-litre diesel engine with its EcoDynamics+ 48V MHEV system. The benefit to you is smoother acceleration, lower emissions and better fuel consumption. 

It features Kia's new IMT (intelligent Manual Transmission), which features an electronic clutch. That might sound complex, but it isn't. Thanks to that electronic clutch, cars fitted with this can 'sail' in neutral under the right circumstances (foot off cruising). Sailing means the engine is off while the car is moving.

Good news: drivers don't need to do a thing. When you lift off the accelerator the car enters into sailing mode, (look out for the boat emblem near the speedo). Press the accelerator or clutch to wake up the engine. It's super easy to use and we guarantee anyone will get the hang of it within minutes of driving. You do need to be in the optimum gear for it to work, though. The gear number is displayed in the driver's display.

Of course, there is a slight delay in it sailing and the car accelerating again because the engine needs to turn back on. This isn't annoying -  but it's worth remembering the engine is off if you're lining up an overtake.

Electric and hybrid engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
1.6 GDI Plug-in hybrid
139hp, 265Nm
10.6secs
99mph

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Kia offers the xCeed as a plug-in hybrid. This pairs up a naturally-aspirated - that's non-turbocharged - 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and battery pack. When fully charged - a process which takes a few hours from a home wallbox - Kia claims it'll return up to 30 miles of pure-electric range.

Unlike most hybrids which use a form of continuously variable transmission, Kia's fitted the XCeed PHEV with a dual-clutch set-up instead. Usually, we'd prefer this, but it doesn't seem to work too well in the XCeed's case - it's sluggish and appears to sap power from the electric motor, losing what most consider to be one of the key benefits of a hybrid car - seamless and peppy acceleration when running on electricity.

It's also rather heavy, which saps away any enjoyment and spoils the ride. There are better plug-in hybrid SUVs around, including Kia's own Niro PHEV or the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid.

2020 Kia xCeed PHEV cornering

Handling

  • Tweaked suspension compared with Ceed
  • Rides well but remains agile and balanced
  • An excellent blend of comfort and handling

The XCeed may feature wheelarch cladding, silver trim and SUV pretentions, but it’s not much higher than a regular hatchback in terms of how high it sits on the road, so it’s not surprising to learn it drives very much like a regular car. In fact, it handles very well for a hatchback, let alone a crossover with higher ground clearance than the larger Sportage.

The Ceed hatch is a good place to start as it manages to blend fine body control with comfortable suspension, but Kia has tweaked and refined the suspension and dampers just for the XCeed in a bid to make it even more comfortable and sporty at the same time.

It’s been a successful exercise too, as the XCeed handles very well indeed, demonstrating a pleasant balance between impressive body control on a twisty road so you don’t feel like it’s rolling around and a chore to keep on top of, while remaining comfortable when road surfaces become a little rougher.

It’s something that many cars aim for and pull off with varying degrees of success, but the XCeed really does impress. It isn’t quite as soft over bumps as an equivalent Renault Kadjar fitted with small wheels, and it can feel just a little fidgety over continuously bumpy surfaces, but even with the largest 18-inch alloys fitted it handles them better than a higher-spec VW T-Roc or a BMW X2.

If you do want to try and have a little more fun on a twisty road, the fine body control means you won’t be flung around too much, although the steering may be a bit vague for some. That’s no bad thing for manoeuvrability around town as it’s very nicely weighted, there just isn’t much feedback when you make the inputs. A Focus Active or an X2 will be more engaging, then, but the XCeed – again – manages to strike a nice balance between the two.

2020 Kia xCeed PHEV cornering