It would be easy to brand the new Kia XCeed as little more than a regular Ceed hatchback with a suspension lift.

That would rather miss the point, however, and as a measure of how seriously Kia takes this latest edition to its range, consider this: with the exception of the front doors, every single body panel is new.

Measured against a regular Ceed, it’s 85mm longer with increased overhangs front and rear, while the body is 26mm wider.  Ground clearance is up to a useful 184mm, making it 48mm taller than a Ceed – but it’s still 150mm shorter than a Sportage.

That gives the first clue as to why Kia thinks this niche is important; the practicality of an SUV, but with none of the bulk.  They’ve even coined a new term for it: CUV, or Crossover Utility Vehicle.

Visually, it bears many hallmarks: the black sill and wheel-arch extensions of an SUV, the compact dimensions of a hatchback, but the rakish, swept-back lines of a coupe.

Thankfully, Kia’s designers have given the XCeed the detailing it needs to marry this all together, with its own bumper and grille designs, re-profiled headlights and unique tail-lights, both with funky LED illumination.

That same jazzing-up of the details makes its way into the cabin, too.  The structure may be familiar, but opt for the range-topping First Edition in Quantum Yellow, and there’s a liberal sprinkling of yellow trim highlights and contrast stitching across the seats and doors.

Even more noticeable is Kia’s use of tech.  Climb aboard and the XCeed shows off its new 12.3-inch ‘Supervision’ digital instrument cluster with a swishy-swoopy animation that’s actually quite good fun to watch.

The cluster itself is typically clear and easy to read, although there’s no rolling map, nor the ability to retain the digital speedo while viewing, say, navigation instructions.  It’s a little over-bright, too, with very little difference between max and min brightness settings.

Top-spec models pair this with a new 10.25-inch touch-screen for the infotainment system.  Its split-screen functionality comes in handy, allowing passengers to fiddle with your playlist without hiding the navigation display, although I particularly appreciated the wide-screen map view.  It makes navigating on unfamiliar roads a doddle, while the highlighting of traffic flows makes it easy to plan ahead.

There’s impressive tech elsewhere, too.  All models have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry, LED headlights with high-beam assist, LED tail-lights, reversing camera, cruise control, lane keep assist and collision avoidance, while the range-topping First Edition adds a panoramic sunroof, JBL sound system, wireless phone charger, smart cruise control on DCT models, blind spot warning, parking assistance, and a smart power tailgate.

The latter opens to reveal a 426-litre boot (up by 31 litres on the regular Ceed) that grows to 1,378 litres with the rear seats folded, which they do in a convenient 40:20:40 split.  There’s a dual-level boot floor with a handy compartment underneath, too.

Three engines are available to begin with: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 118hp that punches well above its weight; a 1.6-litre diesel with 114hp and CO2 emissions as low as 109 g/km; and a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with 138hp, optionally available with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

A plug-in hybrid XCeed with a 37-mile electric-only range will follow later, as will a mild-hybrid diesel option.

The 1.4 is impressively quiet – in fact, at idle it’s barely audible at all – and with peak torque of 242Nm arriving at 1,500rpm it feels far more urgent and responsive than its 9.2-second 0-60mph time would suggest.

We tested it behind Kia’s seven-speed DCT which did an admirable job of ratcheting its way through the ratios, while in Sport mode it showed a healthy willingness to drop down a cog or two to execute a swift overtake.  There is still a curious reluctance to get moving at first, though, and that can make edging out at blind junctions a little tricky.

Out on the open road, the CUV premise begins to pay dividends.  With a lower centre of gravity than most SUVs, the XCeed turns in quickly and corners flatter than you might be expecting, and although the steering lacks much in the way of feedback, Kia have optimised its responsiveness while reducing steering effort at low speeds.

The suspension has been softened slightly to increase bump absorption, while new hydraulic bump-stops cushion their impact should you run out of travel.  Interestingly, Kia say they specify different spring rates for each engine, suggesting each is the result of fairly extensive testing and optimisation.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying the new XCeed drives much like you’d hope it would: nowhere near as roly as a full-fat SUV, but with a blend of hatchback agility and long-legged bump-absorption that’s really quite useful on today’s roads.

Foibles are limited to just two that we noticed: the 1.4 takes a good few revolutions before the start/stop system fires it back up, and on each cold start, the lane keep assist turned itself back on, even if we’d disabled it in the vehicle settings.  Hardly show-stoppers, either of them.

Prices for the Kia XCeed start at £20,795 for the entry-level ‘2’, a mid-range ‘3’ will cost you £23,295, while our 1.4 DCT First Edition tipped in at £29,195.

Something smaller?  Try the Kia Stonic.  If only an SUV will do, that’ll be the Kia Sportage.

Tester’s Notes

  • Engine very quiet at idle
  • Digital cluster and wide touch-screen both appealing to use; cluster a little over-bright; brightness settings have little effect
  • Lane keep assist keeps turning on
  • DCT makes edging out at blind junctions difficult
  • Engine slow to restart after stop/start activation
  • 44mpg on test
Entry-level Price£20,795Price as tested£29,195
Engine1353cc 4-cyl petrol turboTransmission7-speed DCT
Power138hp @ 6,000rpmTorque242Nm @ 1,500-3,200rpm
0-609.2 secsTop speed124 mph
Economy40.4 mpg (WLTP)CO2134 g/km
Dimensions4395 x 1826 x 1495 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1375 kg