The Kia cee'd Sportswagon for MY13 is a significant improvement over the former SW and a real match for more expensive wagons from German premium brands.
The entry-level 89bhp 1.4 CRDi engine develops 220Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm, while the 126bhp 1.6 CRDi raises the torque output to 260Nm from only 1,900rpm.
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Both transmissions, including the automatic offered with the 1.6-litre engine, are six-speed units, while manual-gearbox models are fitted with Kia's Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG) fuel-saving, emissions-reducing engine stop/start technology.
As a result the 1.4-litre cee'd Sportswagon is capable of 67.3mpg and has CO2 emissions as low as 109g/km, which means a Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) taxation rate of 15 per cent in 2012-13.
Manual 1.6-litre versions, with CO2 emissions of 116g/km, fall into the 17 per cent BIK band, and are almost as sparing in their use of fuel, with official combined economy of 64.2mpg.
At just over 4.5 metres long the cee'd Sportswagon is more compact than its major European rivals, and just 15mm longer than the previous cee'd SW.
Yet it offers greater luggage capacity than the majority of the competition - 528-litres up to the load cover with all seats upright and 1,642- litres up to the roof when they are folded flat.
Kia Cee'd Sportwagon equipment
Every version of the cee'd Sportswagon has an under-floor storage compartment and side load areas, a retractable luggage cover, load-securing net hooks, a boot light and a 12-volt boot-mounted power socket.
Higher-specification models also have sliding aluminium luggage area rails and straps plus a high-level luggage barrier net to secure objects and prevent them from falling into the passenger compartment.
Roof rails are standard on every model so that extra cargo can be carried outside the car. The cee'd Sportswagon has a payload of up to 500kg and can tow a braked trailer of 1,500kg in manual versions.
With prices starting at £16,895 and rising to £24,795, and low maintenance and insurance costs, the new Kia cee'd Sportswagon will be an inexpensive car to run for business motorists and fleet operators, as well as private customers.
I tried a 1.6 diesel in the T3 specification which overall averaged 54.6mpg and coped very well with a variety of road surfaces and a 1.4 T1 trimmed version which attained a best of 70mpg and ended up recording 63.6mpg.
The T3 is a very good and attractive equipment spec including a large central console housing air conditioning and entertainment system, and there is a more basic layout in the T1 trim which noticeably less brightwork and contrasting trim colours.
The bigger engine developed its power from about 1,900rpm and there was a slight lag as a result on getaway and sometimes in a higher gear. Changes were direct, steering very sharp and ride was particularly good.
I thought the ride in the 1.4 was slightly more jiggly than its 1.6 stablemate and while the trim level is lower it's still perfectly acceptable. It was a reasonably smooth unit too and the gearbox, also six speed, was positive in action with a nicely balanced feel to the clutch.
Room is good for both front and back seat users and particularly in the back for a wagon. It's very easy to load the rear and it has a useful cover, while the back seats fold down flat in a 60/ 40 split for greatest practicality.
Handling was safe, surefooted with some body roll, but little pitching or dipping under acceleration and braking.
With good looks, practical and refined interior, good economy and satisfying driving dynamics, the Kia cee'd Sportswagon will be satisfying for each of its seven years' warranty, and then some.
Kia cee'd Sportswagon 1.6 CRDi T3
1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine, 126bhp, 260Nm of torque from 1,900rpm, six speed manual gearbox, powered rack and pinion steering, ventilated/ solid anti-locking and brake assist discs, front struts and rear multi-link suspension.
120mph, 0-60mph 10.8 seconds, 54.6mpg on test (claimed 64.2mpg).
116gkm/ VED road tax band C £0 First Year rate then £30 per annum, BIK company car tax 17 per cent.
Luggage/braked towing weight:
Max 1,642-litres, 1,500kg.
7yrs/ 100,000 miles mechanical/12years anti-rust.
Room, refinement, economy, warranty
Road rumbles, turbo-lag, firm ride.