IT has taken 11 years for the silly apostrophe to be dropped from the Kia cee’d.

So the third generation hatchback hitting the showrooms is Ceed – with a capital C as well – just as it should have been in the first place.

When the car was launched in 2007 the odd name – it stood for Community of Europe with European Design – came in for a fair bit of stick from the motoring press but there was a positive side. It helped put the new hatchback contender in the limelight so may be the decision makers were not so daft after all.

This was a ground breaking car for Kia, designed and built in Europe for Europe and with the first ever seven year warranty, so no publicity was bad publicity.

In the scheme of things the name business was a side issue which fizzled out as the car quickly became part of the hatchback establishment. Now it is the company’s second best seller behind Sportage and is about to become an even bigger threat to Golf, Focus and Astra.

This is no cosmetic facelift, the car of 2018 is pretty much new from the ground up, built on a new platform that endows it with greater comfort and sharper handling, while some of the quality and refinement issues that hung over previous models have been well and truly addressed so much so that Ceed is now a car that needs to be feared by the market leaders.

The improvement in ride quality is evident from the start. The car was given a stern test on the many poor surfaces of the roads on our test route in Slovakia, near to Kia’s Zilina factory. These are a mixture of decent and downright poor roads but even the worst potholes were easily absorbed by Ceed’s new chassis and suspension.

Once into the twisting alpine roads where the surfaces are much better the Ceed’s newfound agility came into play and showed that with some tweaks to the suspension the car has serious hot hatch credentials. A Pro Ceed is on the cards so let’s hope it has an engine that is worthy.

Back to the mainstream Ceed which has a new body – more straight lines and fewer rounded edges – a noticeable difference in cabin trim quality, two new engines, and a host of safety features. Here the headline act is lane following assist which monitors congestion on the motorway and switches the car into a lane with less traffic. All the driver does is flick the indicator to overtake and the system does the rest.

All car companies are battling to meet the strict new worldwide emission testing procedures, with some struggling more than others, but Kia has done it bringing in two new engines, a 1.4 litre turbo charged petrol and 1.6 litre diesel to sit alongside the nippy 1-litre petrol.

It took no time for me to pick my favourite – the 1.4 petrol. With my driving partner we gave it a hard time, pushing its performance and enjoying its lively response, particularly in sport mode. It surprised us by returning 42mpg over a quick 80 mile run and we found a couple of colleagues who topped 60mpg over the same route so the potential for 50+mpg for everyday driving is there.

Fewer people are buying diesels and Kia is not offering one on the top spec First Edition where the majority of sales will be lower mileage private buyers. That said the diesel is refined and smooth and returned 62mpg over the test route.

As is the norm with a new model customers get more and here the opening Grade 2 model is generously equipped with all round electric windows, auto dipping headlights, reversing camera, a number of safety features and a lot more. Move up a grade and navigation through an eight inch touch screen comes into play.

Prices range from £18,295 for a 1-litre petrol, £19,545 1.6 diesel, £21,095 1.4 petrol topping out at £26,850 for the 1.4 litre, 7-speed auto First Edition.

* Kia has added a new dimension to the top selling Sportage SUV with a 48 volt mild hybrid mated to the two-litre diesel engine. With 182bhp performance and an eight speed automatic gearbox it is leaps and bounds ahead of the 1.6 turbo diesel mainly down to more horse power and an extra chunk of torque – 400Nm versus 320Nm for the 134bhp 1.6.

The painful bit is a £3,500 price hike over the diesel with two offerings of £32,545 and £34,545. The Sportage’s opening price is £20,305.

Sportage also gets a minor facelift with new front and back bumpers, bonnet and light signature.