2009 Kia Cerato SLi Long Term Road Test Review
IT SOUNDED like a plan. Take the Hume to Sydney, have a bit of a look, then drive back to Melbourne along the New South Wales South Coast.
Yeah, I was up for it. Why not? After all, we had TMR’s long term Kia Cerato SLi itching for just such a run. “And when you get back, write it up… now get cracking.” (Oh well, there goes the holiday.)
So it was settled, my sole companion for the trip would be BIK-22X.
With nothing but the Cerato, a selection of pub-style classic-rock CDs and the open road for company, the adventure began.
The primary fear when undertaking a long haul trip is comfort, or more importantly, lack thereof.
Luckily, for seat comfort, the Cerato manages to get it pretty right. It also scores a tick when it comes to getting the relationship between the seat and the steering wheel nicely set.
If there were to be a niggling point, it would be the rough-edged plastic trim on the right side of the driver’s seat. Those foolish enough to wear shorts in the tail end of winter can find it a tad scratchy in the long run.
As for braving local radio in far-flung locales, the Cerato’s reception stayed clear and crisp for both FM and AM bands. The same, however, can’t be said of some radio presenters.
Battling boredom on long stretches of dead-straight road is a much easier task with a decent audio system, and while it’s not world-beating, the Cerato’s system is still competitively punchy.
Most of the trip on the way up was via the Hume Highway with detours along the way to take in a pie at Benalla, stop for a look around the Ettamogah Pub, check out the B11 Submarine in Holbrook, and pay respects at the Truckers’ Memorial in Tarcutta.
For long-legged cruising, the Cerato helped out - the SLi’s standard cruise control being a must-have. Particularly so when over the border into NSW: there, the first roadworks sign indicated 125 kilometres of ‘men leaning on shovels’, with roughly as many speed limit changes along the way.
Straying off the Hume and heading into the Snowy Mountains revealed that even on the winding uphill climbs, the Cerato managed a respectable fuel economy.
After returns of 6.7 l/100km on the flat, the mountain stretch saw a still comfortable 8.1 l/100km thanks to a combination of sensible gearing and (just) enough torque to maintain momentum uphill on the long climbs.
Inside, the Cerato offers plenty of space for its relatively compact exterior dimensions. To make it look truly small though, try parking the Cerato alongside the six pipes that feed the Tumut 3 hydro electric power station at Talbingo.
Each is large enough to drive a double-decker bus through and the Cerato looks just about the right size to loop-the-loop through the pipes. Never got the chance to test that theory out though.
Then back to Gundagai, a brief stop at the ‘dog on the tuckerbox’, and it was back onto the Hume and headed for the siren’s call of Canberra.
From here on the Hume looks more like it’s supposed to: dual lane carriageway paved in concrete and as smooth as glass.
Ditto for the roads around Canberra. The over-capitalised spending in and around the national capital really puts other parts of the nation to shame. If every road in Australia were like this, suspension tuning would very quickly become a lost art.
Enough of Canberra, the bright lights of Sydney beckoned. Once again it was back onto the Hume, through Collector and past the Big Merino at Goulburn.
It was by this stage that the thought occurred that the Cerato could possibly do with another gear. With a six-speed transmission there’d be less of that buzz on the freeway – not loud, but ‘there’ - the result of the engine spinning at around 2800 rpm at 110km/h.
Economy for the long flat sections though was recording a pleasing 6.2 l/100km. That figure, while good on its own, wouldn’t be any worse with a taller top gear.
With the likes of Liverpool and Wollongong flashing past on the freeway signs, Sydney was but a step away. Compared to the cross-country touring of the previous few days, it came as quite a shock to the weary traveller.
Not such a big issue for the Cerato though. With a light feel to the clutch, crawling through Sydney on the tail end of peak-hour presented no problem. The Cerato slid effortlessly into its new surroundings, ducking with nimble agility from lane to lane.
It’s not so happy with Sydney’s steep streets and countless up-hill starts. On these, the light clutch and sensitive throttle can be a little hard to work with, but, once rolling, the gearbox is easily managed.
The manual gate isn’t quite Japanese precise, but is still defined enough to slot gears home with a minimum of fuss.
With sights to see the Cerato happily ambled out to the Blue Mountains, as well as racking up a couple of days in and around Sydney’s CBD.
Fuel economy tumbled around town however - the city leg of the trip recording 11.4 l/100 km.
Finally, the trip home saw the Cerato and I teamed up for a cruise along the NSW South Coast. Soaking up the sun and setting up camp wherever the road met the beach in towns like Bateman’s Bay, Merimbula, and, once over the border, Lakes Entrance.
Small, thoughtful design touches in a car can play a big part on a meandering winding stretch of road like the South Coast Highway.
One such thoughtful inclusion is a driver’s footrest actually placed in a comfortable and useful position. The other is a pair of cup-holders positioned far enough back in the centre console not to be in the way of gear-shifting duties.
All too soon though, fourteen pairs of socks and jocks later, two weeks on the road came to an end. Over the course of 2850 kilometres, the Cerato managed a fuel consumption average of 7.0 l/100 km.
Over a variety of terrains and road surfaces, and in temperatures from near freezing in the Snowy Mountains to the low 30’s through Sydney, that little Kia rarely put a foot wrong.
It’s no road rocket, but it’s not bad either. And it’s stylish enough and comfortable enough to be a very good road companion.
More importantly though, Kia has worked out how to screw a vehicle together free of nasty rattles or bugs. On a long trip, you’ll appreciate that.