THEY claim racing improves the breed, and that technology developed at the top level of motor sport filters down to those of us with slightly less ability behind the wheel.
And you’ve got to admit they’ve got a point. Just take a look at the average steering wheel these days and you’re likely to find more buttons than a big girl’s blouse on it.
How Seb, Mark, Jenson and the boys learn to cope with all the permutations on an F1 wheel is cap-doffing stuff, and the reason they’re paid millions and you and I, well, aren’t.
Take the wheel of the subject of this particular test, Kia’s exceptionally good cee’d, in Sportswagon guise. You might not be able to control your engine mapping (we’ll leave that one to Audi) but there’s not a lot else that goes on in the confines of a car cabin that you can’t influence at the touch of one of the many buttons.
Radio too loud or on the wrong channel? Not a problem. Want to make a hands-free phone call? Dial away. On the motorway and want a constant speed? Cruise buttons are top right of the cluster. And you can also access the trip computer info for good measure.
All a bit daunting at first but actually surprisingly easy to get used to. And a big hint at the sort of equipment you get when you buy into a Kia these days.
You wouldn’t look at a cee’d and think ‘that’s a big car’. It’s in the decent sized family bracket along with the Focus and the Astra – but open the door and there’s a whole lot of space for the occupants.
I’ve got to say that for a 20 grand mid range estate (still my chosen descriptive words rather than Avant or Sportswagon) it ranks as just about the most comfortable machine I’ve driven in many a week. The seats are ideally placed to accommodate tall drivers and offer plenty of back and thigh support. And the interior of this model, bathed in a beigey/fawn hue, was a refreshing change from the usual diet of black/dark grey/darker grey.
It gave the cabin a much airier and thus less boring overall feel and the way the window line outside is picked out by the chrome trim running round it helps accentuate the cee’d’s sporty, modern and well styled look.
Popular in the fleet market, the sportswagon should also be a consideration for private buyers too as it’s a very well equipped and practical family car too.
The big boot (bigger than many of its rivals) has a luggage cover, and under the floor there are a number of storage areas to keep your expensive stuff away from prying eyes – not that it’s a good idea to leave it in the car anyway. An added bonus is that the rear seats fold flat for the occasional big load.
The interior has obviously been thought about as pen was being put to paper. Lots of interesting curves to the dashboard, with the speedo dead ahead of you, and important info flagged up in the middle of that. Chrome round the vents and subtle and sparing use of piano black panels give the interior a classy look and feel.
It drives well too. The 1.6 diesel unit is responsive, distinctly a diesel on start up but displaying good pulling power when up and running, so you can tick the boxes for good safe overtaking capabilities and economy – always the right side of 50mpg during the time we had it from a fair mix of urban and motorway use. High torque output and low running costs are the key here.
Stable on the road, it’s as good at taking corners as Ryan Giggs, though whether it’ll last as long as the mercurial Manc man is unknown.
For your money here in ‘3’ trim – others available are 1, 2 and 4 – you get a lot of equipment, and useful equipment too. For instance, the Bluetooth hands free puts your phone info up on the seven inch info screen in the middle of the dash, which houses the sat nav and the view from the rear view camera.
Prices start at £16,895.
Sportswagon is only available with a diesel engine, either a 1.4 or a 1.6. But don’t let that put you off. This is one of the most stylish and accomplished cars in its sector.
FASTFACTS: Kia cee’d Sportswagon 3 1.6 CRDi ISG EcoDynamics; £20,445; 1.6 litre common rail turbocharged diesel; six speed manual gearbox; 126bhp, 260Nm; Top speed 120mph, 0-60 10.8 secs; Fuel – urban 53.3, extra urban 70.6, combined 64.2 (53 litre tank); CO2 116g/km; Will it fit the garage? 4505/1780/1485 (l/w/h); seven year warranty.
© Wheelwrite 2013