A KIA car worker beavering away on a busy assembly line at the ilina Plant in Slovakia could
A KIA car worker beavering away on a busy assembly line at the ilina Plant in Slovakia could be forgiven for feeling rather pleased with himself.
In these times of recession, Eurozone crises abound all around him. There is even talk of the Germans — one of the great car-making nations of the world — facing new restrictions on growth.
Yet Kia Motors Corporation of Seoul, Korea, is producing cars at 100 per cent capacity at its ilina plant to meet demand. In fact, this plant produced a record-breaking 292,000 cars and 464,000 engines in 2012, its highest ever output. Kia is in fact seeing the kind of success only experienced by other manufacturers during boom years.
The evidence of this is clear to find in the cars Kia is now turning out. And this week’s drive, the Kia cee’d Sportswagon, was yet more proof positive that the carmaker is very much a Euro-contender and here to stay.
It’s worth detailing here a few Kia facts as they often tell the story on their own and demonstrate the car-maker’s undoubted progress.
Last year Kia announced global sales figures for passenger cars, recreational vehicles (RVs) and commercial vehicles of 205,876 units sold. This figure represented a year-on-year increase of 21.3 per cent. North America and Europe experienced the highest gains in 2012 of 31.8 per cent (88,973 units sold) and 31.8 per cent (74,555 units sold) respectively.
So while others hesitate and falter, Kia seems to be on a roll. As I said, the evidence is plain to see for any motoring journalist by the way the build quality of any Kia model has changed dramatically during the past half dozen years.
Once you get that right and produce good cars at very competitive prices and add in all kinds of goodies — for example, Kia’s seven-year warranty — then it bodes well for new car sales, which, after all is what car-making is all about.
The test car, a cee’d Sportswagon 1.6 CRDI “3” is a good example of Kia models that are proving a success in Europe. It is produced at ilina exclusively for European markets. It was designed and engineered at Kia’s Frankfurt design and technical studios. A small irony here is that this particular Kia has evolved from a German base when it is an obvious competitive threat to indigenous German makes. The German influence is no accident: a main driving force behind Kia’s success has been the German Peter Schreyer, chief design officer since 2006 and president of Kia Motors since December last year.
The cee’d Sportswagon is a lot of car for £21,095 (on the road price). It is interesting that from a driver’s point of view for me one feature stood out: the new cee’d’s steering. This may sound a small part of the car but I found the cabin “comforts” immediately appealing: what the car-maker calls “soft-touch surfaces, high quality materials, subtle red ambient lighting and tactile grab handles”.
The steering “feel” was not only good to handle but something called Motor Driven Power Steering (MDPS) made turning the steering wheel effortless — very handy when parking or making three-point turns.
The cee’d Sportswagon is available in the UK in four trim grades. All models have comprehensive standard equipment including electrically adjusted heated door mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and height-adjustable driver’s seat.
All in all, I found the Kia cee’d Sportswagon an accomplished and comfortable car to be in and drive. Kia can be confident that it will give other European car-makers a run for their money.
What’s new about the cee’d Sportswagon:
*All-diesel engine range
*Introduction of 1.4-litre 89bhp CRDi turbodiesel engine