Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Simple engine line-up for the XCeed
  • Petrols the bigger sellers for most
  • Manual and auto available, but only for petrol

Available from launch are a pair of petrols and a diesel – available in two power outputs – with a plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid versions joining the range early in 2020. Kicking off the range is a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol producing 120hp and 172Nm of torque. This will only be available in lower-spec models, and we’ve found the engine to be surprisingly eager in other Kia models. The 0-62mph sprint takes 11.3 seconds, making it one of the slower in the range. However, it’s matched with a slick and easy to use six-speed manual gearbox.

Of more appeal is the 1.4-litre T-GDI with 140hp and a more useful 242Nm of torque. This will be the most popular engine in the XCeed and is compatible with most models and gearbox options. It’s a smooth and refined unit (more so with the DCT auto fitted), and gets up to speed quickly enough with a 0-62mph time of 9.4 and 9.5 seconds for the manual and auto respectively.

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.

It's at its best delivering steady progress, we found, and that's reflected in the gearbox's desire to shift up early - this will partly be to save fuel but also to keep the engine out of its rather coarse and noisy top end. It's more responsive if you select Sport mode but still not the last word in performance and is less refined too.

Helping matters would be a set of shift paddles on the wheel to give you the option to manually drop down the gears as and when it's needed. You don't get these, sadly, just a manual override toggle on the shifter which is a little awkward to use.

If you prefer a diesel (of more appeal to fleet drivers), there are two options, but what you can get is limited to the trim level.

The entry diesel is a 115hp version of the same 1.6-litre CRDi found in other Kia cars, available only in 2 trim. This offers up 280Nm of torque and features a manual gearbox. That higher torque figure compared with the petrols means it feels a little nippier than the 1.4 in situations where you need to pick up speed, but a 0-62mph figure of 11.4 seconds makes it more on a par with the 1.0 T-GDI when getting up to speed in the first place.

If you want extra shove, there’s a 136hp version of this engine available on the 3 trim level, offering a quicker 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds and the same torque figure of 280Nm. It feels surprisingly eager in the XCeed and would make sense for longer journeys thanks to the fuel economy.

Plug-in hybrid also available

Kia offers the xCeed as a plug-in hybrid with 141hp. 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 36 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 gearbox 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.

2020 Kia xCeed PHEV cornering

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.

New manual gearbox en route

A new style of manual gearbox might not sound like a big deal. But it is at least interesting - because Kia has bagged a world first.

Kia claims its iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission) is the first to use a 48V mild-hybrid system with 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. Sailing means the engine is off - which means fewer emissions coming out of the rear and more MPG.

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) the revs stop rising, and that's it. The engine is off. 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.

Handling

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

The XCeed may feature some rufty-tufty wheelarch cladding, some 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.