WHEN KIA MOTORS PR boss Jonathan Fletcher invited TMR to take on a long-term test car and left it to us to decide which model to run with, it wasn?t an easy decision.
The mighty Kia K2700 light truck was a tempting prospect, but commonsense prevailed when we realised that parking it for four months could prove challenging.
Which left us to choose between two shining lights in the Kia line-up, the next generation of style-oriented, fashion-conscious models: the 2009 Kia Soul and the 2009 Kia Cerato.
We drove the 2009 Kia Soul at the car's Australian launch back in April of this year, and must confess to being impressed.
"The large, uniquely-shaped headlights, flared guards, sharp character line, sports-inspired bonnet bulge, strong D-pillar and ?wrap-around? windows, combine to ensure the little Kia stands out in any crowd." They were our views then, and haven't changed.
Overseas, the Soul is up against the Scion xB, the Nissan Cube and the Honda Element. But locally, Kia's competitors have yet to bring a serious rival to the Soul to these shores.
We wanted a long-termer that was fighting in a hotly-contested segment.
So the Cerato it was, and with that decision made, Kia handed us the keys to one of their range-topping five-speed manual SLi spec Ceratos, in 'Light Graphic' metallic grey.
With prices starting from $22,990 for the manual and $24,999 for the four-speed auto, our first inspection of the SLi reveals that for its class, segment and price point, there is very little missing.
Kia's 'more for less' approach sees the Cerato equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors, climate control, trip computer (including distance to empty), leather steering wheel and gear knob, USB/Aux audio connectivity with iPod compatibility, and steering-mounted controls.
From a styling perspective, the Cerato is one of the sharpest and best-looking cars in its segment, easily holding its own against the likes of the Mazda3.
We quite like the sharp character lines along the belt-line, and the scalloped lines edging the bonnet.
Even the Accord-like headlights can't take away from the Cerato's overall good looks, and the stylish tail lights set off a nicely balanced rear end.
There appears to be plenty of room on the inside and the overall material quality is on par with some of the more expensive offerings in the small to medium segment.
The same quality feel is found in the centre stack and steering wheel controls, which feel robust and direct in the way they operate.
The Cerato has been awarded a four-star ANCAP rating, which may disappoint some shopping in this segment, but there is plenty of safety kit included as standard, especially in SLi spec.
Anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and active front headrests are standard across the Cerato line-up, while electronic stability control features on the SLi only (ESC is standard across the Cerato line-up in New Zealand).
The entire Cerato range features a complement of six airbags: dual front airbags, side airbags and head-protecting side curtains.
There is plenty on offer under the bonnet as well. The Cerato's 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine develops a healthy 115kW, enough to ensure it has class-leading bragging rights.
Our first few days with BIK22X has revealed that the Cerato is more than up to dealing with the daily commute, proving its worth in peak hour traffic as well as the occasional highway run.
Although it is early days, we did note that the Cerato seems a little unwilling low in the rev range and can feel unrefined when pushed. The clutch pedal also feels too light and the clutch takes up very early in the pedal?s travel.
On-road dynamics have surprised us; the Cerato feels composed and predictable through corners - certainly better than we were expecting. The compliant and well-damped suspension is also a highlight, only partly let down by the light and slightly vague feel to the steering.
So it looks great, handles nicely, appears to be a reasonable drive and is full of kit. Let?s see how it handles the rigours of four months at the hands of the TMR reviewers.
We'll be providing fortnightly updates on the Cerato SLi, including mileage updates, as well as roadtrips and daily duties. Stay tuned.
- iPod connectivity
- Clutch too light when depressed, too sensitive on take-up
- Engine loud, unrefined at high revs