Kia Cee'd SW

When it comes to shouldering the expectations of an entire company, the new Kia Cee'd range carries a much heavier burden than most.

Whichever you go for, the Cee'd offers precise steering and handling that's secure, but a little uninspired.

Not only is it charged with raising the brand's image, it's also got to take on the family car market. So, in an effort to help lighten the load, the ambitious Korean manufacturer is adding an estate to the line-up.

Called the SW, it arrives in the UK in September. But Auto Express got exclusive access to one of the first examples to see whether or not it has what it takes to succeed.

Walk around the car and you'll find that the designers have created a striking shape. The estate rear has been neatly integrated beyond the C-pillars, and adds 235mm to the newcomer's overall length. And while the distinctive 'Z'-shape rear windows are virtually the same as those on the similarly named Peugeot 207 estate, it is an attractive effort.

The rest of the exterior, from the nose to the back of the rear doors, is identical to the five-door hatchback. In an effort to help further aid load-carrying ability, all SW models come with full-length roof bars.

Open the large tailgate and you'll immediately see that a lot of thought has gone into its design. The top of the bootlid is actually set back into the roof, so the opening is huge.

And it reveals an impressive 534-litre luggage area, access to which is further enhanced by a low load lip and minimal wheelarch intrusion. Fold the 60/40-split rear seat flat, and the capacity increases to a class-leading 1,664 litres. Neat storage trays underneath the boot floor, a 12V power socket and plenty of load securing hooks and netting all help to ensure the estate offers superb practicality.

Elsewhere, the layout remains unchanged from the existing models. This means a comfortable, well laid-out cabin with generous levels of kit and decent-quality materials.

Under the bonnet, the 1.6-litre diesel delivers 113bhp, and provides torquey and refined performance. It promises to return nearly 60mpg, and is linked to a sweet-shifting five-speed manual transmission.

On top of the economy, however, buyers are likely to be swayed by the engine's 130g/km CO2 emissions - together, they make the newcomer a cheap alternative in this competitive niche of the saturated family car market. Meanwhile, for those who want petrol power, a 1.6-litre motor with 120bhp will also be available.

Whichever you go for, the Cee'd offers precise steering and handling that's secure, but a little uninspired. Biggest complaint is the stiffened rear suspension, which doesn't help the already firm and crashy ride.

Nevertheless, on the open road, the Kia makes light work of more demanding journeys. Tyre and wind noise are both kept reasonably under control, and if you're willing to put up with the stiff ride, the seats are actually quite supportive.

But will all of this be enough to attract customers into Kia's smart-looking new showrooms? Only time will tell. However, the Koreans hope that around 10 per cent of Cee'ds sold in the UK will be SW versions, all of which will initially be in higher-spec LS and GS trims.

With generous standard kit, plus lots of space, attractive styling and an excellent aftersales package, the firm shouldn't struggle to match this figure. It just has to hope all these positives are enough to tempt buyers away from the compact MPV class.

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