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Driven: Kia Cee’d Sportswagon 1.6 CRDi DCT. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia Cee’d Sportswagon 1.6 CRDi DCT
Does the dual-clutch automatic suit Kia’s Cee’d Sportswagon?

 



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Kia Cee'd Sportswagon 1.6 CRDi DCT

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: Space, refinement, 1.6 diesel engine's punch, smooth gearshifts, seven-year warranty

Not so good: Transmission very sensitive to hills, middling real-world economy

Key Facts

Model tested: Kia Cee'd Sportswagon 1.6 CRDi GT-Line 7-speed DCT
Price: Cee'd Sportswagon range from £16,895; 1.6 CRDi 2 DCT from £20,430
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 109g/km (£140 VED)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Power: 136hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 300Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

Since the turn of the decade, Kia has elbowed its way into the mainstream in every class it competes in, thanks to the hugely improved engineering, decent interiors and mega seven-year warranty that all of its cars offer. But one area where the Korean firm has remained behind the competition in recent times is with its automatic gearboxes. Slow to react and unrefined in comparison to the best self-shifters going, these units have let down what were otherwise fine Kia cars.

A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, though, developed in conjunction with parent company Hyundai and launched in 2015, promises to improve matters no end. It can only be fitted to the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine, itself uprated to 136hp as part of the Kia's midlife 2015 facelift, with the whole drivetrain mounted in the handsome Sportswagon variant. We like the look of the estate Cee'd more than the hatch and it comes with a simply ginormous, 528-litre boot, so the premium for picking one over a five-door is well worth stumping up - although that figure varies from £1,000 to nearly £2,500 spec-for-spec.

The DCT brings a further £1,435 to the list price and it's available in '2' trim and up. So would we recommend it over the manual? Hmm. We're not sure. Compared to those clunky old automatics, the DCT is a quantum leap forward in terms of its general refinement. It slurs through gears in a slick, unobtrusive fashion, so much so that you never really notice the gearbox at work on the flat. Furthermore, it's pretty responsive to hefty throttle inputs, meaning it quickly shifts down if you ask for plenty of acceleration - and the Cee'd 1.6 CRDi is quick. Even minimal flexes of your right foot see the Sportswagon surging forward strongly. This updated diesel is a sweet, punchy motor, thanks to 300Nm of torque spread over a decent rev range. This is one area the auto beats the manual, by the way, as the six-speed has to make do with 280Nm, albeit that twist is delivered over a wider rev range than the DCT's muscle.

The only flies in the ointment come in the form of the 'box's strange behaviour on hills and the car's mediocre economy. Driven reasonably gently, the Cee'd DCT returned 46.8mpg across 297 miles at an average 32mph. It would have been worse than that, save for a longer trip which saw the car's 44.3mpg hike up to 47.3mpg. A good job too, because that former figure was actually less than we were getting from a manual version of the heavier, taller Hyundai Tucson with the less powerful 1.7-litre diesel.

But it's the bizarre way the transmission drops by up to three cogs on either inclines or descents which puts us off the most. Living, as we do, in Nottinghamshire, even those with the most basic grasp of English geography will know Robin Hood's county is hardly what you'd call hilly. Two roads leading out of our village go over some of the tallest, steepest hills in the area, but if you showed a Yorkshireman or a Scot or a Welshman said topography and dared to called it steep, they'd laugh in your face. Yet even travelling at a mere 40mph down one of these roads, the Cee'd dropped from sixth to third... every single time. This causes the engine to rev out suddenly, making you look like a right amateur behind the wheel.

It's the same story on the uphills, where a constant throttle sees the DCT shuffling wildly through its cogs for no good reason. Oh, all right, we know the reason - the software is trying to provide engine braking on the way down slopes and comfortably maintain pace on the way up them, but for our money it's just too intrusive in the way it works. It's even harder to comprehend in light of the CRDi's excellent torque characteristics. Heaven forfend you buy this gearbox if you live in the Cotswolds, the Peak District or Devon; maybe it'll sell better in East Anglia.

Despite this odd foible, it's a good transmission all told and it might make more sense on a smaller capacity petrol; perhaps the 1.0-litre GDi triple, should Kia ever pair the two together. But on this diesel wagon? We'd still say stick with the six-speed manual and save yourself £1,400. Kia's three-pedal cars are always pleasant to drive and the Sportswagon would be a hugely spacious, supremely comfortable and rapid family motor thus equipped.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus Estate: Right, all three cars we're offering as rivals don't have seven-year warranties. Still reading? OK. The Focus is the dynamic delight in this segment, even if it is not quite as sharp as it once was.

Peugeot 308 SW: We love the Peugeot's looks and its refinement, although the EAT6 automatic option is no masterpiece, so if you want a self-shifter pick the Kia.

SEAT Leon ST: Sharp SEAT wagon can be had with DSG, the dual-clutch originator. Spanish estate is a brilliant all-rounder and - warranty deficit aside - our preferred choice up against the Cee'd.


Matt Robinson - 8 Feb 2016









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