Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan test drives the 2020 Kia XCeed PHEV, a new 1.6-litre plug-in hybrid with plenty of oomph.

Kia has a fan in this particular quarter. I’ve tested the South Korean manufacturer’s cars before and the mixture of solid value, sharp design and the unfussy, just getting on with it, experience has made it a stand out. Consider the stonking Stinger, the clever e-Niro and quirky e-Soul – that in itself, an Irish Car of the Year winner in 2019.

New to the Irish market is the XCeed plug-in-hybrid (PHEV) for 2020. This latest PHEV sits in a family of CEED’s – the incongruous abbreviation for Community of Europe with European Design in case you wondered if that was a typo.

“While it may say Kia on the external badges this is a coupe-crossover shape that Audi would be proud of”

There is the, deep breath, standard CEED, CEEd Sportswagon, ProCeed, the XCeed and now this – a CEED with a plug-in-hybrid petrol engine and battery located under the rear seats and boot area. You need to pay just over €2,400 more for the XCeed hybrid than the petrol or diesel CEED alternative. Is the additional investment worth it over the already capable XCeed diesel?

Power and performance

According to Kia the XCeed PHEV with a hybrid 1.6 litre petrol engine and an 8.9 kWh battery will crack 1.7 litres/100km or 139mpg on the WLTP test. If you use the old NEDC test Kia claims it’ll eke out over 180mpg. For just €28,350 it appears to be tremendous value.

Except for the fact that those claims are simply a marketing ploy to encourage you to go partially electric. When I tested the car I got substantially less. To prove it I drove the Kia Xceed Phev for about one hour at 100kms on a motorway and squeezed about 48mpg out of it. Why? Because to get anywhere near those claimed WLTP figures the battery needs to be at a full charge for most of the time and only infrequently activate the petrol engine.

Many car manufacturers claim, with a straight face, that these types of figures are possible. Here’s what we have to do – completely ignore them. Kia says the regenerative braking enables it to harvest kinetic energy and recharge the battery while coasting. Again, there is a caveat. The XCeed PHEV is built with no gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel. That means the driver can’t properly activate regenerative braking to suit the variable driving conditions. This limits the effectiveness of regenerative braking.

If you are using your plug-in-hybrid for short commutes like most of us seem to be doing nowadays you may only visit the filling station occasionally. The secret is to keep your XCeed PHEV topped up like your smartphone and then this habit should become second nature and get better economy. Kia claims you can reach around 57km range in electric only driving. But again I ended up getting just under 50kms. But compared with rivals it is still a good result.

Style and substance

The XCeed PHEV is a particularly well proportioned crossover and looks best in one of the more striking colours than my subdued test car. Within the appliance-looking crossovers segment the Kia is up there with the best. The design was overseen by Gregory Guillaume as VP of Kia Design. While it may say Kia on the external badges this is a coupe-crossover shape that Audi would be proud of.

The interior has a clean look and the use of faux chrome bits helps lift the cabin’s appearance. Kia’s has learnt a thing or two in the past decade about interior. The cabin is closer to Mazda’s delicious details than the Hiroshima company would prefer. Many Japanese cabins look fussy and Kia’s XCeed looks mature. I found every button clicked and operated with solid precision and I’d be confident the 7-year warranty would expire long before a number of successive owners may destruct it.

The cabin feels spacious too and I found no limitation in getting four adults in the car comfortably. You will pay for the battery power though as it robs the 426-litre boot of around 135 litres of load space.

On the move it quickly becomes clear that the transition from the 1,580cc petrol to battery is respectably smooth and only momentary judder is felt. It’s the gearbox that proves the bugbear. Using a six-speed DCR automatic the gearbox was lethargic. The changes felt smooth but the typical hybrid responses from a battery PHEV left me searching for lower gears on more than one occasion. Again gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel would have helped.

Kia’s well publicized 7-year warranty is important and something other manufacturers should be offering. If Kia can offer this why can’t they all? The South Korean company does consistently well across a number of annual reliability surveys.

The XCeed PHEV has a good array of standard equipment. It gets a standard immobiliser, 18” alloy wheels, forward collision avoidance, driver attention warning, parking Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, dual zone climate control, cloth and artificial leather upholstery, wireless phone charger and 8” toughscreen that reacts quickly to imputes.

Verdict:

The XCeed PHEV is not a sprightly car. This is borne out by the 0-100km times. The XCeed PHEV takes 11 seconds to reach 100km. The sport button did improve the feeling the car was going quicker but the stopwatch told otherwise.

But that is the only grumble. Crossovers like the XCeed are hot property right now. Many buyers want efficient transport with hybrid or full electric tech and Kia has a reputation for throwing up few mechanical surprises. That is exactly what families want today. Kia sits at 6th place in the Irish sales charts up to the end of September with 5,083 new sales. Even with the 66.27pc spike in sales during September the market for new cars remains depressed by 28.81pc.

The biggest question is the one I asked at the start. Is that €2,400 extra for the XCeed with hybrid power actually worth it? You would need to factor in the number of annual miles you drive to calculate how long it would take to recoup the extra investment. It always depends on your lifestyle demands. Take into account where your family drives to and if you have convenient access to an electric charger at your home.

Another question over the PHEV is the absence of zippy acceleration that is now the expected USP of a hybrid car. On this test the petrol/battery felt off the pace and the 171kg extra weight from the battery made this XCeed feel heavier to drive. A demerit that flies in the face of other Kia’s I’ve driven before.

I’d be more tempted by the Kia XCeed diesel. There are three to choose from – the €25,920 K2, the €27,800 K3 and the full fat €29,600 K3. Faced against the €28,350 PHEV the K3 XCeed at €27,800 would be my pick as it straddles the best standard equipment level that is still a sub €28,000 price. The 1.6 litre diesel with 115hp should manage 48mpg which isn’t far off the more expensive PHEV with comparable real world fuel economy.

Nevertheless, if you are confident you can run on battery power for most of the time the XCeed PHEV is great value and remains a good choice.

You’ll like: Looks, cabin, 7-year warranty, expected reliability.

You’ll grumble: XCeed diesel make more sense. PHEV feels lethargic. Battery robs boot capacity

By Mark Gallivan

Published: 22 October, 2020

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