Kia Cee'd Sportswagon review: can it beat the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer?

Kia Cee'd Sportwagen driving, side

Having clawed its way out of the bargain bin, Korean manufacturer Kia is now a strong contender in the family car market. It builds an unusually large range of models, from the pocket-sized Picanto to the seven-seat Sorento, and has recently added a handful of viable hybrid cars to its ever-growing stable.

But with the overall increase in product quality comes commensurate increase in price. And with Kia cars offering little more than their rivals beyond a seven-year warranty, cars like the Cee’d Sportswagon – the estate derivative of the Cee’d hatchback - are up against some very stiff competition. The Ford Focus estate, Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, and blood relative Hyundai i30 Tourer are all similarly priced and very highly regarded.

Space – 7/10

Par for the course

The Kia's boot space is comparable to that of rivals

The front seats of the Cee’d Sportswagon are well proportioned and the interior feels generous, with ample leg, head and elbow room for the driver and their favourite passenger. The rear seats are a little more cramped, and compromises will have to be made all round when taller adults sit in the back. While this is in keeping with other cars in the segment, the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer is more spacious in the second row.

Boot space in the Sportswagon beats most rivals. The Skoda Octavia estate offers about 100 litres more – that’s a large compost bag – but the Kia beats the Focus estate and Astra Sports Tourer quite convincingly. Straightforward features in the boot itself make it easy to secure loads.

Comfort – 5/10

Soft seats but a rattly ride

The interior of the Cee’d Sportswagon is very comfortable for front seat passengers and adequate for shorter riders in the back. High levels of adjustability mean that long-distance cruising becomes less of a strain than in some rivals, and the general ease of driving – namely the light steering and good visibility – make this a strong commuter car. The back rests are noticeably flat, though, so take one for a thorough test drive before purchasing if you prefer a more sculpted seat.

Progress in the Cee’d Sportswagon (and indeed any Cee’d) can be noisy depending on which engine you choose. The ride can be a bit rattly over pockmarked city streets, and in the countryside larger blemishes in the road surface are let into the car. Combined with those noisy engines, the Cee’d Sportswagon falls slightly behind more refined competitors from Skoda and Vauxhall.

Dashboard layout – 8/10

Well-built and easy to use

The dashboard is conventional and well-built

The Cee’d Sportswagon has a pleasing interior with only a few patches of visible cost-cutting. The main physical controls – the gear stick and the steering wheel – feel very robust, and even the less important buttons are tactile and solid-feeling. Entry-level models get a chunky conventional radio while more upmarket ones have a responsive, straightforward sat nav. On our test it tried to send us the wrong way down a one-way street, but apart from that was intuitive and reliable.

Easy to drive – 6/10

Some engines are sluggish

The Cee’d Sportswagon comes with an enormous list of engines to pick from. Most offer a 0-62mph time of around ten seconds or more but the slowest is 13.4 seconds, which can feel frustrating in modern traffic. The pick of the bunch is the 1.6-litre CRDI, which delivers an adequate 10.1 second 0-62mph time. Apart from acceleration, though, all models are very easy to drive. The steering is light and all-round visibility is excellent. You can actually adjust the weight of the steering to suit your personal preference – each setting feels artificial but quite direct.

Fun to drive – 6/10

The emphasis is elsewhere 

That lack of steering feedback means that the Cee’d Sportswagon is relatively unappealing to people who enjoy driving. Rivals such as the Ford Focus offer a much more engaging experience behind the wheel, thanks to the well-sorted steering. Also holding the Kia back is the lacklustre engine range - none of the ones available break the 10-second 0-62mph time.

Reliability – 10/10

Fantastic warranty and a great reputation

One of Kia’s biggest selling points is its warranty, which is for seven years. In the first three years, its mileage is unlimited, while in the final four it’s capped at 100,000 miles. That shapes up as one of the best warranties out there, though if you’re a high-mileage driver, you might prefer Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-mileage offering instead. Kia also has a great reputation for reliability. The company finished third out of 24 marques featured in the 2016 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study.

Fuel consumption – 7/10

Neither the best or the worst

The Kia’s engine range is neither the most powerful or the most efficient. Petrol engines lag slightly behind those of the Ford Focus estate in terms of outright fuel economy, while the Peugeot 308 SW is a little more impressive with a diesel motor.

But at the kinds of figures the 1.6 CRDI can achieve, there’s very little real-world difference for most drivers – buyers are unlikely to be significantly out of pocket. 

Affordability – 6/10

Not as reasonably priced as first appears

What was once famed for being a ‘reasonably-priced car’ is now a more expensive choice. The headline prices are cheap, but you get a very basic car for that money, as well as a slow engine. There’s a large financial leap away from the base-spec model – by the time you’ve picked a Cee’d Sportswagon you actually want, you may end up spending almost as much as if you’d bought a Volkswagen Golf estate, and potentially more than if you’d configured a comparable Ford Focus estate.

Leasing deals aren’t much more persuasive. The very basic Cee’d Sportswagon models can be found at low prices, but not always low enough to justify the poor specification. Better value (and residuals) can be found elsewhere. Servicing and repair costs should be cheaper than those of more upmarket brands, though, and that colossal warranty should bring peace of mind.

Lease a Kia Cee’d Sportswagon with Telegraph Car Leasing

Safety – 7/10

Five outdated stars

The Cee’d Sportswagon hasn’t undergone Euro NCAP testing, but when the hatchback version was put through its paces in 2012 it earned five stars. This is an outdated test now, though, so the Cee’d can’t be compared favourably with five-star cars tested more recently.

One key omission is autonomous emergency braking, a system which can apply the brake if it detects a crash about to take place. This has been shown to either prevent or reduce the severity of crashes – an odd thing to leave out.

Standard spec – 7/10

Lower models feel a bit Spartan

The entry-level Cee’d Sportwagon gets DAB radio, air conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity for voice and music streaming. That puts it on a par with rivals, though it feels overall like quite a spartan car. The SR7 spec gets alloy wheels, automatic headlights and electric rear windows, while the 2 model gets cruise control and an arm rest.

It’s not until you reach the 3 model that you find the mod cons that modern buyers should be expecting, though. And the 3 model doesn’t come cheap, coming in at slightly more than you’d pay for a Ford Focus Estate in comparable Zetec trim with Active City Stop added as an extra (a feature that is not available on the Kia). Prices become even less appealing after that, with the cost of the 4 Tech models exceeding that of a nicely-specced Skoda Superb – a far bigger and better car.

Our favourite version

3 1.6 CRDI, £21,120

Options you should add: Metallic paint (£530)

The verdict – 7/10

The Cee’d Sportswagon is incredibly easy to live with and has arguably the best warranty in the business. It lacks the driving engagement of the Focus estate and the space of the Octavia, but it’s a good buy for families looking for dependable motoring. Where it falters is on price – Kia’s range is expensive, and buyers considering a high-spec Cee’d could be better off spending the same money elsewhere.

Lease a Kia Cee’d Sportswagon with Telegraph Car Leasing