Take a look at www.euroncap.com which gives the safety ratings for most cars. Safety isn't the only thing to take into account but gives a good idea of the ethos behind the manufacturer.
Kia are starting to show good results but some of the older models perform poorly.
I'm a great fan of Top Gear and if you look at the 'ordinairy' cars they have celebrities (awful word) drive, then they tend to be of the Kia variety.
The latest are Chevrolets; in fact Daewoos with a badge on the front.
Both Daewoo and its stable mate Kia are trying to up their image but you cannot expect any of their cars, at the moment, to be as driveable as European or the better Japanese cars. They are now employing, mostly British, ride and handling engineers so in the next few years things could well look up a lot.
You get a lot of knobs and buttons for your money but that has to come at the expense of something else, even with the lower labour costs these manufacturers have.
A lot of European cars have all the knobs and buttons, good NCAP ratings, and competitive prices.
i bought a kia sedonna, manual diesel, , the ride and comfort was great along with handling, it was a bit sluggish in the low gears but from third up was good.
the only downside and the reason i got rid of it was the price of parts and servicing, Â£360 for a cambelt change, and kia dealers wouldn't sell the cambelt to me for an independent garage to do.
also with six people in, there was hardly any space for luggage. hope this helps.
Just started looking at the moment and the Cee'd and one of the 4x4 caught my eye. Retirement is growing closer and we will be dropping back to one car (at present have 206 and Isuzu 4x4), so will probably go for either a larger Estate or 4x4, looking at the Cee'd blurb it seemed to be ticking some of the boxes, especially the 7 year warranty
I have a kia picanto that I converted to lpg. Its a good car and one I purchased as the miles im putting on it are extreme. When looking at this I realised I was better buying a new car than a second hand one and take the hit with depreciation as the miles meant anything I got would be worth nothing in next to no time.
As for the picanto itself its quite roomy for a small car. Comfy in the back ( a friend said it was one of the most comfortable he had been in when travelling from Scotland to pompey). Performance is okay, it will keep up with most things but sometimes is a little frustrating. Discs all round which is a bonus for such a cheap car. Always check the emmisions model, for example the GS and the LX have different emmissions catergories and so one is in a lower tax bracket.
Economy is nowhere near what KIA claim, do some research of independent tests first - not just repeats of claims. The best i have seen is 48mpg but KIA claim about 50 -60mpg. At first if you buy new it will be terrible, KIA's economy seems to get better as the miles go on. Anything up to 10000 will see an improvement.
The ceed is a lovely car. i would take one at the drop of a hat. Look past the badge and the features are really good. I have never been one for badge snobbery. It is really worth a few grand more to have a different make on it when at the end of the day you can have more comfort and features.
It does though depend on what YOU want and would YOU be happy with it.
babystew they should have sold you the cambelt. Maybe you got a crappy dealer. Mine will sell all the service kits. Did you mention informing KIA U.K. of their attitude. Under U.K. law a company cannot hide information about models anymore (i believe they cant insist on parts being fitted by them either)(but would need to check). I had a similiar problem with the check engine light on first fitting my LPG kit and could read the code with my reader but a local garage wouldnt tell me what it meant - untill i pointed out that i knew about the specific law and they quickly told me after that.
I know a few people with Kia's, they like them. 142hp 2 litre engine is ok, goes well enough but does drink a fair bit of oil (check that dipstick). 2.7V6 a bit underpowered and fairly harsh, works better in the older Tucson. Diesel is not a patch on similar PSA engines, but is relatively cheap, smaller new common rail TDs are better (variable geometry turbos), but still lack the refinement of the PSA/BMW or even Fords. But its a diesel, right!
They have parts commonality with equivalent Hyundai, eg Kia Rio=H. Accent, K. Spectra/Ceed = H. Elantra, H Sonata =K. Magentis (as best as I can tell). Floorpans and chassis, engines and most of electrics and switchgear are common. Older cars are good buys if they've been serviced regularly (FSH), granted they lack the refinements of the newer cars (six airbags, std ABS, PAS etc but are also lighter, and the older 1.8 spectra is about as quick as the newer car. Stick to manuals for the 1.6 and below, and only get AC in the bigger cars eg the 3.3v6
From what you've said its either a Ceed SW or a Sportage/Sorento, so also check out the Hyundai I30, Matrix, and Tucson.