Review by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams and courtesy of Kia Motors

Korean carmaker Kia has been doing great business in Canada – well, everywhere, really – over the past few years. It started, I think, with the introduction of the Soul in 2010 but really picked up once the full impact from chief designer Peter Schreyer’s work made it from the styling studio to the production line beginning the following year.

We get a nice suite of vehicles from Kia but this is a global company and they have different models in other markets. On a recent trip to Portugal my rental car turned out to be a Kia with which I was unfamiliar, namely a Cee’d.

Introduced in 2008, the Cee’d is described as a Europe-only model (although apparently they sell them in Australia). A second generation debuted in 2012, including a hatchback, five-door, GT and wagon.

North American enthusiasts on the lookout for exotic (that is, not available here) hot hatches know all about the Pro_Cee’d GT, but my Cee’d came from rental agency Avis in the more practical form of a wagon, or as it’s elegantly referred to in Europe, an “Estate.”

2014 Kia Cee'd Estate2014 Kia Cee'd Estate2014 Kia Cee'd Estate driver's seat
2014 Kia Cee’d Estate, driver’s seat. Click image to enlarge

And as it was a no-charge upgrade from a Volkswagen Polo (I think because I was civil to the guy behind the counter whose split-shift job largely consisted of being berated by ornery tourists), I was happy to get it. And even happier when I saw that it was half-again as big as a Polo and it had a diesel engine, six-speed manual transmission, xenon lights, climate control, alloy wheels, blind-spot monitoring system, and it looked great.

Okay! Let’s, um…. proceed!

The Cee’d is engineered and designed in Germany and built in Slovakia. Its direct competition is the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Under the hood of our car was a 1.6L, four-cylinder diesel engine making 126 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.

It was great to be driving a diesel (Kia doesn’t offer the option in Canada), especially as fuel was selling for over $2.00 per litre in Portugal at the time. Everyone, it seemed, drove a diesel and all the rental companies charged a premium to get into one. As an aside, a few things to remember when renting a vehicle in Europe: automatic transmissions cost more, and may not be available; there’s a daily surcharge for a second driver; a portable GPS rents for about $10.00 a day and insist on taking and returning your car with a full tank.

The destination for most tourists heading south from Lisbon is the Algarve, the “Portuguese Riviera,” as it’s known. It’s where you find the sunniest weather, the endless beaches and the equally endless hotels that border them. We were headed, however, to the tiny village of Longeira, a couple of kilometres inland from the Atlantic coast, in the less “touristy” Alentejo region. It’s about half-way between Lisbon and the Algarve.

Atlantic Coast, PortugalSines, PortugalVila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
Atlantic Coast, Sines, Vila Nova de Milfontes. Click image to enlarge

As far as driving is concerned, several travel sources I consulted warned that Portugal has one of the highest rates of automobile accidents and fatalities in Europe. Why? Poor, narrow, rough roads; insufficient illumination; confusing road signage; potholes, excessive speed, and unpredictable driving habits, to name a few!

So I was, you know, cautious.

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