Kia's XCeed PHEV delivers Plug-in Hybrid technology to the mainstream part of the mid-sized SUV segment - and that's still a relatively rare thing in this class. This revised model still features the usual Plug-in model draws - a fantasyland official fuel figure, a tax-efficient CO2 reading and a near-30 mile WLTP electrified driving range. But as usual, there's a premium price to pay for the technology and packaging compromises to make.
Most brands fail to offer any Plug-in hybrid models in the volume part of the 'Qashqai-class' SUV 'C'-segment, but Kia offers two, PHEV versions of the Niro and, as in this case, the XCeed crossover. This XCeed was introduced in PHEV form in 2020, then got a light makeover in late 2022 to create the car we're going to look at here. Unfortunately, this improved version hasn't gained the larger 11.1kWh battery that's allowed the Niro PHEV to go a few miles further between charges, but it does feature a smarter look, a few small cabin updates and decent levels of media connectivity. As before though, if you're comparing against the more conventional version of this XCeed, you've to accept quite a price premium, a weight penalty and compromises in interior packaging. Can the Plug-in drive advantages here compensate? You'll need the usual thorough Car & Driving Road Test to find out.
In practice, a current engineer might think the basic ingredients here to be a touch out-dated. Even back at this variant's original introduction in 2020, this PHEV system's fundamental elements - a 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine mated to a 6-speed version of the brand's DCT auto gearbox - had long been abandoned by more mainstream Kia engines. Back then, the electrified part of the package - a 44.5kW electric motor mated to an 8.9kWh battery pack - looked a bit more cutting-edge, but not now. Only slightly bigger PHEVs than this are now arriving on the market with batteries more than three times that size. All of which explains this XCeed Plug-in's continuing rather below-par EV range figure, which at 29.8 miles still can't quite crack the 30 mile barrier. It's difficult to understand why, as part of this facelift, Kia didn't replace this battery pack with the 11.1kWh one used in the Niro Plug-in Hybrid, which would have pushed that EV range up towards a much more acceptable 40 mile-style figure. Perhaps Kia didn't want to further blunt kerb weight here; at a portly 2,030kgs, it's already 224kgs more than the ordinary 1.5 T-GDi version. Which is why even though the total system power output (139bhp) here isn't much lower than that of the ordinary model, the performance you get is quite a lot slower, 62mph from rest occupying 10.3s en route to just 99mph. You'll need to select the more urgent of the two provided drive settings ('Sport') to replicate that. Next to the button for this on the lower centre console is another 'EV/HEV' one that allows you to switch the powertrain between 'Hybrid', 'Electric' and 'Automatic' drive modes. The effect of which you can view on various provided Energy Monitors. That extra drivetrain weight inevitably tells in terms of drive dynamics too. With a conventional powerplant fitted, the XCeed manages to be the most comfort-orientated member of the sprawling Ceed family of models, but this PHEV version rather clumps through tarmac tears and speed humps. If you can content yourself with the ordinary 1.5 T-GDi variant, the story's significantly different and you'll get the benefit of the damping changes Kia's built in to manage the handling of this SUV body style. A higher-riding body shape like this would usually need firmer springs to counter body roll, but the hydraulic bump stops fitted to the front suspension work so well here that the engineers were actually able to soften the springs - by 7% at the front and by 4% at the back compared to a conventional Ceed hatchback.
You'd have to be fairly familiar with the standard XCeed to recognise this PHEV version as being in any way visually different. The eagle-eyed will notice this plug-in variant's closed 'tiger-nose' grille at the front (which aids aerodynamic efficiency) and the distinct 'eco plug-in' exterior badges. Plus of course there's the addition of a charging port, integrated into the left front wing of the car. As for the changes made to this revised version, well the front grille has been restyled, as have the LED headlamps that flank it, plus there's a restyled front bumper and air intake design. The 18-inch alloy wheels draw attention to the ground clearance - which is 182mm. Otherwise things are much as before. Wheel arch and side sill cladding, along with satin chrome roof rails, lend the car a tough presence. Take a seat up-front and you'll find that hardly anything's changed with this updated model at all apart from a slight lower dashboard redesign, which sees the introduction of touch-sensitive buttons, dials and switches that control the audio volume, heating and ventilation systems. As before, you don't sit especially commandingly but typical Crossover customers should be right at home with Kia's contemporary cabin architecture, which sees this sculptured centre console angled slightly towards the driver. It's not the highest quality cabin you'll find in the class, but the brand has at least now trimmed it a little more jauntily and both the ergonomics and the driving position are difficult to fault. Standard is this excellent 10.25-inch 'Touchscreen Satellite Navigation' centre-dash touchscreen which has an incorporated eSIM chip that retrieves and updates all kinds of data as you drive. Plus it's also integrated with the company's latest 'Kia Connect' telematics technology, which allows you to connect two 'phones via Bluetooth at once. The Korean maker claims that the adoption of the PHEV powertrain has had a 'minimal impact' on packaging, but that's not quite true. Most plug-in models manage not to reduce rear seat space over their conventional counterparts but here, the way that the system's battery is located beneath the rear bench pushes the seats slightly up and forward, fractionally reducing leg room. Like virtually all PHEVs, boot space is reduced too - in this case falling by 135-litres to 291-litres - which is not far off the sort of capacity you might get from a supermini. For bigger items, you'll need to flatten the 60:40 backrest, which frees up 1,243-litres with this PHEV.
The XCeed PHEV comes only with mid-level '3' spec and costs around £33,500. To give you some perspective, that's about £7,000 more than you'd pay for an equivalently-specced conventional 1.5 T-GDi petrol version of this model. For further perspective, we'll tell you that a Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid would cost around £500 more with base trim - but over £3,000 more with an equivalent '3'-level spec of trim. The '3' grade features 18-inch wheels and a sophisticated 10.25-inch central monitor, plus there's privacy glass, heated front seats and dual-zone air conditioning. Black cloth and faux leather upholstery features, as does an automatic defog system and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Also tick off LED bi-function headlights and a 7-speaker sound system, cruise control with a speed limiter and a reversing camera. Plus you get the 'Kia Connect' range of online services so that you can interact with your XCeed via a provided smartphone app. Safety kit includes Lane Keeping Assist, High Beam Assist, Driver Attention Warning, a Speed Limit Information Function and 'Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist - City and Pedestrian' autonomous braking.
Let's start with the WLTP-rated fuel and emissions figures you'll need; 201.7mpg on the combined cycle and 32g/km of CO2. In its EV mode, the Kia XCeed Plug-in Hybrid is capable of travelling up to 29.8 miles (up to 36 miles in the city) and takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to recharge the battery pack to 100 per cent using a 3.3kW AC charger. Sounds good, but those aren't actually particularly good stats for a PHEV. Because the EV range figure of this one can't crack thirty miles and the CO2 reading is over 30g/km of CO2, the Benefit-in-Kind tax rating is 14%, rather than set at the 8% or 12% level that quite a few rival PHEV models offer. The 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system incorporates extra functionality to help owners locate available charging points in their vicinity, or en route to their navigation destination. Owners can also use the touchscreen system to schedule when their vehicle should charge when plugged in at home, enabling owners to take advantage of cheaper off-peak energy tariffs, if available. As usual with Kia, there's a 7 year or 100,000 mile warranty which, since it can be passed from owner to owner, should help the impressively strong residual values. You might want to note that roadside assistance cover is limited to one year, but you do get a long 12 year bodywork warranty.
It made no sense for Kia not to continue to offer XCeed buyers this PHEV powertrain, but we'd like to have seen it updated in the way it has been in the brand's similarly-sized Niro crossover. Because it hasn't been, the potential tax and drive efficiency savings on offer here aren't quite as great as they are with other PHEVs you might consider - but this Kia is a little more affordable than many of those. The looks will continue to sell it, as will the roomy cabin. But you'll need to be aware that the bulky PHEV system significantly reduces boot space and also affects the conventionally-engined version's rather supple standard of ride. Opportunities for improvements in all these areas weren't taken as part of the facelift changes made to this car, but for a certain kind of customer, it still offers an engaging package. Plug-in Hybrids still have their place in the market; and this one deserves its place in the XCeed range.