FIVE WEEKS into TMR's long term test of the stylish new Kia Cerato SLi, things are looking good.
Young BIK-22X is proving to be good motoring in TMR's books. It isn't faultless, but at this end of the market, it's important to be realistic about expectations and value for your dollar. With the five-speed range-topping SLi coming in at just under $23,000, the value is undoubtedly there.
Offering features and power in line with the Ford Focus LX, Subaru Impreza R, and the Holden Cruze CD, the Cerato SLi is priced closer to the smaller and less powerful Honda City.
While a long distance roadtrip is on the cards for the little Kia, the Cerato SLi has lately been getting an inner Melbourne workout, running errands and shuttling bodies from one end of town to the other.
Because of the constant stop-start nature of urban driving - what with freeways, traffic lights, school zones and all that road space gobbled up by parked cars, trams and cyclists - there's no better way to test a car's fuel economy than the daily grind.
In the past few weeks, the five-speed manual Cerato SLi in TMR's care has held up its end of the bargain, managing an average fuel consumption figure of 8.5 l/100km - just over half a kilometre per litre off the 7.9 l/100km figure claimed by Kia and within spitting distance of its competitors.
Wandering onto Melbourne's Citylink tollway, and constant 100km/h speeds saw fuel economy leap to around 6.5 l/100km.
In our introduction to the Cerato SLi, we found that the clutch of the Cerato SLi was too light, and, combined with a very short take-up and a too-sensitive friction point, inattention could leave you reaching frantically for the key after stalling in the right-turn lane.
In the weeks since, we've adapted to its quirks - easily resolved as method and muscle memory kick in.
It must be said though that the average driver is likely to find the clutch action and feel a tad irritating - a little more 'weight' on the pedal feel is definitely called for. We've gotten used to it, but should we have had to?
Since our initial impressions, we've warmed to the engine performance. And, while lacking in refinement when the engine is under load, the Cerato has proven to be a happy mover low in the revs.
For space and comfort, the Cerato is proving to be more than up to the task. The Cerato's roadtrip (coming soon) will be the true test of the car's comfort, but for an hour or two at a time behind the wheel, the conclusion is 'so far, so good'.
Material quality in the cabin is living up to initial impressions; it's quite ok, and the leather-bound steering wheel also feels good. The components of the largely plastic dash all feel solid and well connected, with nary a squeak to speak of.
The Mazda3 might offer a more upmarket feel to its dash, but unless you put the two side-by-side, you won't feel like the Cerato SLi's interior is inadequate.
Our next report will see the Cerato SLi taken for a weekend away into the hills surrounding Melbourne, and the report following that will have us heading up over the border into BIK-22X's homeland, New South Wales. Stay tuned - there's more to come.