Sleeker, sportier and with a classier interior, the new Kia Ceed is well equipped to cope with some weighty expectations.

Since the original went on sale 13 years ago, 1.3 million have taken to the road, making the hatchback one of the brand’s best-selling models in Europe.

Designed, engineered and built in Europe, the third generation Ceed combines some of the latest driver technology alongside a range of low-emission engines.

Lower, wider, and with a longer rear overhang than the car it replaces, the Ceed now has straight lines replacing the rounded edges of its predecessor.

Add a wider ‘tiger-nose’ grille and lower air intake at the front and the more dynamic looks successfully hide the fact that it remains an ultra-practical, five-door, five-seater.

There is also no shortage of choice, with 17 versions based on five engines, two transmissions and seven trim levels.

The car driven here came in GT-Line specification, one of three sportier trims introduced this year, with black cloth roof lining, metallic scuff plates on the door sills and a sporty D-shaped, heated leather-trimmed steering wheel as standard.

Those in the front slot into a pair of height-adjustable sports seats, trimmed in black cloth and light grey faux leather, with larger side bolsters than those found in conventional Ceed models.

Classy touches include dual automatic air conditioning, all-round electric windows, cruise control with speed limiter, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and engine start/stop button with keyless entry.

Suspension has been tweaked to provide sharper handling than before, while still maintaining the comfort that has made the car such an enduring success.

Riding on 17-inch alloy wheels, GT-Line trim adds privacy glass, front projection headlights, LED daytime running lights both front and rear, front fog lights, rain-sensing front wipers, front wiper de-icer, automatic headlight control and electrically-folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors with LED indicators.

Power was provided by a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, which like all the Ceed’s engines meet the upcoming Euro-6d-Temp emissions regulations.

The car was also fitted with an ‘eco pack’ using an air flap that opens and closes depending on engine cooling requirements and helps the car’s aerodynamic efficiency for greater fuel economy. It also came with an underbody cover and lower suspension, aiding air flow beneath the vehicle, as well as low rolling resistance Michelin tyres.

In real-life driving that meant I managed more than 66mpg over 400 miles of varied motoring, just a whisker off the claimed combined figure.

Technology has also moved on with systems such as high beam assist, driver attention warning, lane keeping assist and forward collision-avoidance assist all fitted as standard.

A first for any Kia sold in Europe, the Ceed is available with lane following assist, a system that detects road markings to help keep the car in the centre of its lane on the motorway, and controls acceleration, braking and steering to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

Since the introduction of the original and oddly-spelt cee’d in 2006, Kia’s annual European sales have more than doubled, with the Ceed remaining a vitally important car for Kia in the UK as its third best-selling model behind the Sportage and the Picanto and accounting for almost 10 per cent of the company’s sales.

Auto facts

Model: Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi GT-Line Eco

Price: £23,530

Insurance group: 13 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 68.9mpg

Top speed: 124mph

Length: 431cm/169.2in

Width: 180cm/70.7in

Luggage capacity: 11.4 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11 gallons/50 litres

CO2 emissions: 114g/km

Warranty: Seven years/ 100,000 miles