Fatherhood is far from dull, except when it comes to motoring. First, you have to get a car with at least four seats, rather than two. Then, your primary considerations are how much stuff it can carry and how economical it is. Perhaps the Volvo 240 epitomised this best: the squarest car of all time, it had sensible “dad-car” written all over its ugly face.
Even as a kid, I longed for something sportier. In the intervening years, estate cars became even more boring. With responsibility having taken hold of their hearts, squeezing all of the reckless spontaneity out of them and replacing it with plain old common sense, it seemed even car designer dads couldn’t come up with anything more inspiring. And so dads bought SUVs, even MPVs, to try to add some spice to their daily commute. That’s how bad it got.
So what about today’s dad? Well, you may try to console yourself that, in the corner of the lounge, there’s still the 1986 Naim Nait amplifier you bought secondhand in your twenties – the only item left in the entire house not removed, relinquished or relegated that is independently yours – but you’ve been so successful at procreation that you find yourself staring down the barrel of a spacious but dull estate car. What on earth are you going to do?
The good news is, estate cars are no longer boring. It seems even the practical side of our brain wants to make an emotional decision these days: hence estate cars are getting design makeovers to appeal to the inner 30-year-old in all of us dads. In fact, they’re not even called estate cars any more. They’re called sportswagon, sports tourer, sportbrake, shooting brake or FF, if you are a particularly prosperous dad.
Take Kia’s new Cee’d Sportswagon. It used to simply be called “SW” but the new name and its new, more elegant, shape is there to add some pizazz to a segment that is getting sexier.
I’m driving Kia’s latest model in the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. The reason I’m here is because these are the first cars to come off the production line. The roads are good, because they are just as bad as British road, which means they’re great for the British motoring press to test cars on.
At first sight, the Cee’d Sportswagon certainly looks the part. At the front, it’s the same stylish Cee’d as its saloon sibling but the window line sweeps upwards to the rear, so it looks like a sporty and contemporary – and not clunky-looking – estate car. Usually at this point, it is traditional to write a gentle disclaimer, something like, “It looks good for an estate...” but I happen to think the car stands up on its own. It hides its practicality well and looks reservedly handsome. And it certainly is practical. The boot has a massive 528-litres of space and the interior is stylish too. Like the saloon, it is well-designed, if lacking in flamboyance. The cabin is generally good, though it can look a little plasticky in places. It also comes with bags of kit as standard, including Bluetooth and music streaming, sat-nav and dual-zone air conditioning.
Available in the UK with 89bhp 1.4 or 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel engines, neither felt particularly sporty to drive. Both cars are comfortable and reasonably refined. I preferred the bigger-engined 1.6 CRDi model in level 3 trim. Although fairly quiet at 2,000 revs and above, below this the engine lacked oomph, which was my only disappointment. I should perhaps mention these cars were the first few out of the factory and had very few miles on them – once run in, these engines may be quite different.
The Kia Sportswagon is a good, practical and comfortable estate car, which is well worth a test drive. Add to it Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty and it is certainly good enough to steal customers from its rivals. It’s just a shame that, for now, the sportiest thing about it is its name.
KIA CEE’D SPORTSWAGON
0-62MPH: 10.8 secs
TOP SPEED: 120mph
CO2 G/KM: 116g/km
MPG COMBINED: 64.2mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****