2013 KIA CERATO REVIEW
What's Hot: High quality interior, long feature list and improved dynamics
What's Not: You pay more for it; numb steering feel and pretty ordinary tyres
X-Factor: Kia continues to surprise; the quality feel inside and out will win lots of friends
Models Driven: Kia Cerato S, Si and SLi
Vehicle type: Small sedan
Price: $19,990 (Cerato S manual) - $29,990 (Cerato SLi auto)
Power/torque: 110kW/178Nm (1.8 petrol) | 129kW/209Nm (2.0 petrol)
Fuel economy listed: 6.6 l/100km (1.8 petrol MT), 7.1 l/100km (1.8 petrol AT) | 7.4 l/100km (2.0 petrol MT), 7.4 l/100km (2.0 petrol AT)
The new Cerato sedan is here, and although prices have risen so too has equipment, quality and refinement.
Kia Australia has also waved a wand over the Cerato; its Australian chassis development team has tuned the suspension for our roads.
But is the promise of more features enough to distract buyers from the higher cost of entry? The previous Cerato S started at $19,390 and had a more powerful 2.0 litre engine; the new S kicks off at $19,990 and has been downsized to a 1.8 litre.
The mid-grade Si which will be the volume-seller of the range has risen to $23,990 from the previous-gen Si’s $20,240 price tag.
Not only that, but competition is fierce in the small car segment. In terms of sedans, the recently updated Holden Cruze is perhaps the Cerato’s biggest rival, and in $22,490 SRi form is a very tough act to follow.
Kia invited TMR to the picturesque Hunter Valley region in NSW to check out the Cerato. Here’s what we thought.
The new Cerato gets top marks for design, build quality, material quality and comfort. In fact, you’d have to buy a Volkswagen Golf to find a better interior in a sub-$30k small car.
The dash pad is made of soft, leather-grained plastic, and the harder elements around the stereo feel thick and durable.
In the up-spec Si and SLi the dash is adorned with carbon fibre-esque trim, which looks and feels pretty good, as far as faux carbon goes.
Switchgear is also above-par and all controls fall within easy reach.
The cloth upholstery of the S and Si seems a bit thin, but the leather in the top-grade SLi is among the best we’ve seen in a small car.
The magic of technology trickle-down also means that drivers of the Cerato SLi get to enjoy a heated AND ventilated seat (the passenger just gets heaters), which is an uncommon luxury in this segment.
The news is not as good in the lower-spec Cerato S however, its interior feels a bit stingy.
While the Si and SLi get soft-touch door-trim surfaces, the S makes do with hard plastic on everything but the armrests. The stereo system display is also monochrome rather than the colour LCD of the Si (but is functionally identical).
Equipment lists across the range are good though.
The base model gets power windows, reverse parking sensors, a trip computer, cruise control, heated mirrors and foglamps, while the Si adds - among other things, a reversing camera, stitched leather on the instrument binnacle and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Cerato SLi brings xenon headlamps, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a chilled glovebox and (from April production onwards), the option of sat-nav.
All cars get Bluetooth phone and audio integration, plus a USB and 3.5mm aux input as standard.
The cabin is spacious up front, with more than enough leg, elbow and headroom.
Headroom can feel a bit tight in the SLi though, thanks to the sunroof. The powered driver’s seat also feels like it doesn’t go as low as the manually-adjusted seats in the other variants, which doesn’t help headroom either.
Getting into the back seat isn’t as easy as it should be, thanks to the Cerato’s low sloping roofline. It’s comfortable once you’re in there though, with a nicely sculpted backrest although legroom could be better.
Boot space has grown by six litres, taking total seats-up capacity to 421 litres. The rear seats are split 60/40 and can be dropped by two boot-mounted handles to increase luggage capacity.
ON THE ROAD
The one-engine strategy used by the previous-gen Cerato has been dumped: the 2013 Cerato is now offered with two engines.
The base Cerato S gets a 1.8 litre port-injected petrol inline four, while the Si and SLi are powered by a 2.0 litre direct-injected four.
The 1.8 produces just 110kW and 178Nm, which is 5kW and 14Nm less than the 2.0 litre engine of the previous model.
Nevertheless, it feels reasonably strong when given plenty of revs. Steep hills necessitate a downshift or two, but the 1.8 feels perky enough when it’s kept on the boil.
The 2.0 litre GDI engine feels a touch more muscular. With 129kW, 209Nm and more torque below 3500rpm than the 1.8, it’s more relaxed when cruising at high speed.
It lacks the flexibility and smoothness of the Cruze’s turbocharged 1.6 though, which at 132kW is one of the most powerful engines you can find in a non-performance small car.
All variants are offered with either a six-speed manual, or, for a $2000 premium, a six-speed automatic.
The manual has a light clutch but a slightly notchy gate, and overall it’s far from being the best manual in its segment.
The automatic, on the other hand, is well worth paying extra for. It shifts smoothly when cruising, kicks down decisively and doesn’t hunt through the gears when faced with an incline. On the whole it performed very well in both city and country driving.
The manual shift mode is also quite responsive, whether using the plus-minus plane on the shifter, or a pair of wheel-mounted paddles on the Cerato SLi
The suspension tune, although quite soft, worked well on the pockmarked asphalt and concrete roads of New South Wales.
The Cerato’s roll bars are unique for this market, and the damper tune soaks up big bumps easily, without a huge penalty in body roll.
But there’s a couple of negatives here. The electric power steering is almost devoid of feel.
While the steering ‘tune’ can be switched through one of three modes - Comfort, Normal and Sport - the effect would seem to be just a reduction or increase in steering weight.
The tyres are another weak point. When Kia did their local suspension calibration, their prototype was shod with Continental tyres.
The production-spec cars that we drove however wear Nexens; we feel that the Cerato could definitely use tyres with a bit more grip.
That said, we experienced a torrential downpour on the return leg into Sydney, and on a highway with a 110km/h limit.
Grip in wet conditions was pretty good, as was resistance to aquaplaning on standing water. If only the Nexens were as impressive in the dry.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Rather than slashing prices, Kia has taken the Cerato upmarket.
Interior quality is particularly good; equipment levels are healthy in the mid-grade Cerato Si, and the SLi is positively opulent.
We’d steer clear of the base model; for the best balance of equipment, performance, quality and price, we reckon the Cerato Si is the one to get.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Cerato S - 1.8 petrol - manual - $19,990
- Cerato S - 1.8 petrol - auto - $21,990
- Cerato Si - 2.0 petrol - manual - $23,990
- Cerato Si - 2.0 petrol - auto - $25,990
- Cerato SLi - 2.0 petrol - manual - $27,990
- Cerato SLi - 2.0 petrol - auto - $29,990