by Seán Creedon

Korean company Kia had a great end to 2019 when their e-Soul was voted Continental Irish Car of the Year, the first time that an electric car won this prestigious award.

Kia’s e-Niro also did very well in the voting to make it a great year for the company, who have done really well in the Irish market over the past 20 years.

But the arrival of the dreaded Coronavirus has made this a bad year for new car sales. Most car companies were closed for at least four months, but thankfully we are now seeing the arrival in Ireland of several new models.

Last week I drove the plug-in hybrid version of the Kia Xceed. While we wait for the installation of hundreds more charging points for electric cars, I think hybrid is the clever way to go.

Plug-In Hybrid delivers the driving range and freedom offered by a traditional combustion engine alongside the efficiency and refinement of an electric power train.

With the Xceed you can get up to 54km in pure electric mode. There is no ‘range anxiety’ as the engine automatically switches to petrol when the electric runs out.

New car sales are down across Europe where there has been a big uptake up in electric cars, especially in Germany and France. But while the Irish figures for EV cars are up slightly for the first eight months compared to 2019,  they are still very small compared to diesel and petrol.

According to official figures from SIMI from January to August last year 2,859 EV cars were sold here, while this year the figure is up to 2,956. Overall the percentage of EV cars sold from January to August was 3.75% of the total sales figure and PHEV’s are even lower at 2.7%.

At first glance the Xceed looks almost as a big as a station wagon, but the boot is compromised as the normal space for a spare wheel is used for the electrics. It’s really a Ceed hatch that has been raised by 44mm to create an almost-crossover look.

Kia already sells the Sportage as a crossover and the Sorento as a full-size SUV. It’s smaller than the Sportage, but bigger than the Ceed hatch, although the wheelbase is the same.

Naturally the plug-in version has a few extras like: 18-inch alloys, LED headlamps, push-button start, android auto and Apple Car play and wireless phone charger.

A few years ago Kia wisely decided to drop the apostrophe from the name and now we get the Xceed, which is officially described as an urban cross-over.

Inside it’s very comfortable with plenty of leg and red room. A touch of grey on the seats brightens the decor and the white roof also helped make the interior a bright place to be.

I liked the description of the XCeed as the Kia’s family hatch with a light sprinkling of the brand’s SUV gold dust.

Prices for the regular Xceed start at €25,290, while the plug-in starts at €28,350. Road tax is €170. This time last year everybody was worried about Brexit, now it’s the coronavirus. Hopefully life can get better.

Anybody thinking about buying a new Kia should know about their famous seven-year warranty.