THE 2016 KIA CERATO S PREMIUM ISN’T WHAT YOU’D CALL "GROUNDBREAKING". And it's certainly not 'shouty', bold or wildly innovative.
For plenty of buyers, that’s not a problem. They like it for what it is - robust, value oriented, a real salt-of-the-earth kind of car.
And that's what we like about Kia's nicely-styled Cerato; ease of ownership, promise of reliability, and that comfortable feeling of familiarity from the moment you slip behind the wheel.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $24,990 (driveaway)
Engine/trans: 112kW/192Nm 2.0 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.1 l/100km | Tested: 8.6 l/100km
In Kia’s four-model Cerato range the S Premium model you see here sits one rung up from the base model. It's more of a lure to private buyers (rather than fleets) who might find the base model a little bare.
Dressed up with alloy wheels, auto lights, a softer interior, and an all-important touchscreen navigation system, the S Premium (as the name suggests) throws in a few extra touches to feel more premium.
As part of a restyle this year, the Cerato range also sports a new front end with slimmer headlights and new grille. The result is a more mature appearance and a look that ties it in with the larger Optima sedan.
With a 2.0 litre petrol engine, six-speed automatic, and five-door hatchback practicality, the well-priced 2016 Kia Cerato S Premium hatch fot the small car template perfectly.
- Standard equipment: Cloth seat trim, trip computer, cruise control, power windows, remote central locking, cooled glovebox, front and rear parking sensors,dusk-sensing headlights, soft-touch interior surfaces, premium steering wheel, leather-look instrument cover, chrome interior door handles, 16-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, MP3/AM/FM playback satellite navigation, Android Auto (now) and Apple CarPlay (via software update), Aux and USB input, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity
- Cargo volume: 385 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat
The most obvious difference in feel and quality between the Cerato S and the S Premium can be found inside the cabin. Here, Kia has boosted the ambience with more soft-touch surfaces, extra chrome, and a premium steering wheel.
The infotainment system also gets an upgrade thanks to a 7.0-inch touchscreen system that includes standard navigation as well as Android Auto, with an Apple CarPlay update available soon.
Ergonomically Kia has the basics covered; all controls fall readily to hand, the interior is logically laid out and easy to operate.
Both front and rear seats are nice and comfortable, easy to get in and out of, and trimmed in an inviting fabric that looks more mature than the fabric pattern that came before it.
With the 2016 update Kia hasn’t made any big changes to the dashboard design, and a mash of surface textures and shut lines makes it a little jarring to look at compared with how well executed some of the Cerato’s competition are.
It’s also a magnet for marks - the plastic panels around the centre screen and the door trims attract fingerprints and the gloss black cap on the gear selector was already showing premature signs of wear.
Storage space in the cabin is split between generous lidded areas in the centre stack and under the centre armrest. The boot holds 385 litres, falling at the larger end of the small hatch class.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 112kW/192Nm 2.0 litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated front, solid rear
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, turning circle: 10.6m
- Towing capacity: 1100kg braked, 610kg unbraked
As part of its 2016 upgrade the Cerato S Premium moves to a slightly larger 2.0 litre engine in place of the previous 1.8 litre unit.
Power gets a slight boost to 112kW at 6000rpm, just 2kw more than before, while torque climbs to 192Nm at 4000rpm, or 14Nm more than the previous engine. Noticeable is a stronger mid range and more relaxed urban drivability.
All Cerato models from the S Premium and above are available with a six-speed automatic only, in line with the buying patterns of Australian consumers.
As a city runabout, the combination of 2.0 litre engine and six-speed automatic work well together. The Cerato is capable and eager enough to dart about with relative ease in and out of heaving traffic.
Some drivers may find initial throttle response a little too 'twitchy'. The Cerato can surge from standstill with even light throttle applications - while it helps make the small hatch feel lively it isn’t always great in crawling stop-start traffic.
Out of town the Cerato will happily sit on the highway, with a generally stable ride and decent noise insulation. The engine buzz when worked hard is the only disturbance you’ll find.
But that engine buzz does pop up on hilly roads, or when you need to overtake. It's quick enough if you're looking for a turn of speed, but the six-speed automatic can often be tardy with its kickdown response, it will then drop two gears instead of just one (giving the Cerato that old-fashioned ‘buzz box’ feel in short bursts).
Ride comfort is a mixed bag too - although the Cerato is not overly firm nor uncomfortable, it does tend to bob about over even moderate imperfections, more noticeable at lower speeds on ratty surfaces.
Steering is also quite light - ideal for driving in close quarters, but perhaps a little 'free-feeling' at higher speeds. Steering weight is linked through the drive mode switch on the gear lever surround, which also alters transmission and throttle response.
All up though, despite not being the most dynamic offering in its class, the Cerato is still a decent car to drive.
Mostly unassuming from behind the wheel, comfortable, and with good forward visibility, there’s lots to like about the Cerato’s ‘jump in and go’ feel.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Cerato maintains its previous 5-Star result, scoring 35.51 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2013.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, front side, and curtain), ABS brakes with brake assist, hill start assist, electronic stability and traction control, 2x rear ISOFIX child seat mounts, and front seatbelt pretensioners.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Corolla is the mainstay of the small car class in Australia, and its sales success is no accident - there is a lot of appeal here. That said, it is starting to feel the breath of Hyundai’s top-selling i30 on its neck.
There’s also plenty to like in the Mazda3 range, particularly one step up from base model, while the Volkswagen Golf still delights thanks to its quality-feel and lively dynamics.
In fact, those four cars combined make up almost 70 percent of the sales in the mainstream small car market, but the Cerato, in fifth place isn’t prepared to give up the fight
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Right now the hottest buy in Kia’s range is the $19,990 Cerato S, but that car - targeted at fleets mostly - might be a little too bare for private buyers, which is where the Cerato S Premium steps in.
Thanks to added brightwork inside, a more plush interior in places, plus alloy wheels and touchscreen infotainment including navigation, the S Premium is hardly lacking for equipment or value.
With the exception of adding metallic paint (a $520 option), the price you see on the window is the one you’ll pay as well. The entire Cerato range is covered by driveaway pricing, meaning less chance of a nasty surprise when you walk into the dealership.
More than that though, the peace of mind from Kia’s industry-leading seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty means that the Cerato S Premium should present no qualms for buyers looking for a safe, stylish, reliable small car.