Everyone loves a bargain. Brands like Hyundai and Kia might have given up on the super-cheap driveaway deals of the past as they try to push added value over cut-price deals, but they haven’t turned their back on a bargain deal just yet.
That’s particularly true of the Kia Cerato Sport, a new variant of the South Korean brand's small car range that adds extra trinkets and driveaway pricing in the lead up to the Cerato’s runout.
Basically the Cerato Sport is here to keep sales numbers up against newer competitors like the Hyundai i30 and Volkswagen Golf, while still appealing to buyers that don’t want to spend too much to get into a new, well equipped small car.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $22,450 driveaway
Engine/trans: 112kW/192Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km | Tested: 9.3 l/100km
The new Cerato Sport model slides into the range just above the base model Cerato S, mirroring the specifications of that car, but with 17-inch alloy wheels and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added in as standard - almost matching the Cerato S Premium that has quietly disappeard from the range.
You could, of course add those extras to a regular Cerato via Kia’s options and accessories catalogue, but the sharp $22,450 driveaway price, including a six-speed automatic, means you don’t have to.
Not only that, but some of the other Sport touches, including chrome door handles, a soft-touch dash, and a leather-look steering wheel are harder to add and make the Cerato Sport feel less like a fleet special and more like a smart choice for private buyers.
- 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, chrome interior door handles, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, MP3/AM/FM playback, satellite navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Aux and USB input, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 385 litres to rear seats
As Kia’s small car entrant is approaching the end of its current generation, the interior is perhaps starting to show its age in terms of design and materials compared to newer small cars.
The black-on-black trim is handsome enough, but the dash design has plenty of panel joins and fussy details, like the waveform dash in front of the passenger that tries hard to look cool, but fails.
On the other hard, quality seems to be a high point. There may be plenty of panel joins but they are all tight and consistent, with a sturdy feel to the interior plastics and no initial squeaks or rattles in the time we spent with the car.
The added navigation system gets a big tick for combining driver-distraction reducing smartphone mirroring systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with built in navigation meaning no need to draw on your data plan, and a more reliable connection in areas with poor mobile coverage.
Like the regular Cerato S, the Cerato Sport comes with standard features including cloth seat trim, manual air conditioning, and front and rear parking sensors, but including the soft-touch dash, chrome door handles, reversing camera and leather look steering wheel are all added features.
If you’ve considered buying a Cerato before and think those extras look a lot like the Cerato S Premium you’d be spot on - Kia has quietly removed that variant from its range, slotting the Sport in as its replacement, upsizing the S Premium’s 16-inch alloys to 17s in the process.
At the rear the Cerato Sport maintains 385 litres of boot space, giving it a flexible cargo area capable of carrying plenty and able to be expanded via 60:40 folding rear seats.
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
Sport by name, though not by nature. Like plenty of sport-branded cars before it, the Cerato sport is a badge only and in no way aimed at keen driving enthusiasts.
As a result the Cerato Sport is packaged with the exact same 2.0-litre engine from the regular Cerato range, producing 112kW of power and 192Nm of torque - an engine that’s fine for the task, but no superstar.
Coupled with a six-speed automatic the engine and transmission deliver eager performance around town, and work harmoniously together with willing acceleration from standstill and enough pickup to run with bustling traffic.
The engine isn’t a powerhouse though, and the comparative lack of torque compared to some rivals with turbocharged engines can leave the Cerato feeling less lively, particularly uphill, or when overtaking.
There’s little to fault in the way the Cerato Sport holds the road. Once again there’s been no sport-skewed modifications to the suspension, but like nearly all of Kia’s range the Cerato has been tuned to Australian conditions.
The overall ride is well controlled and the Cerato is able to dispatch high-frequency bumps and corrugations quite well in rural settings, and city streets - from mis-matched tarmac to suburban speedhumps - don’t pose a challenge to the settled Cerato.
Unfortunately its 2.0 litre engine shows some rough edges compared to smoother, more refined units, becoming harsh sounding when revved and lacking for noise insulation over rough-paved tarmac, resulting in tyre noise at even suburban speeds.
Driver’s seeking a little more excitement on their commute can select a Sport mode that adjusts the automatic transmission’s responsiveness and adds weight to the steering, or in situations where a less-is-more approach is called for, Eco mode does the opposite though it was hard to see any noticeable improvement in eco-friendliness.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Kia Cerato range scored 35.51 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2013.
Safety Features: All Cerato variants come standard with 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.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Seven years, unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Kia’s capped price servicing program runs for seven years or 105,000km with 12 month/15,000km intervals. Individual services are priced between $289 and $487 depending on the interval. Your Kia dealer can provide more info on terms and conditions of the program.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
If you’d considered a Civic previously, but found them low on appeal the new model fixes that, and after a long wait is finally available as a hatch, joining the sedan launched last year. A strong focus on connectivity and interior space is impressive, but the naturally aspirated engine in base models is uninspiring.
Holden’s Astra hatch is Euro through and through, looking and feeling more substantial than the previous Cruze it replaced. There’s a sportiness to the Astra’s on-road feel matching the sharp styling, and a lack of sales success means great deals for potential owners.
Hyundai’s new i30 reaches for the stars, with strong standard equipment levels, and a handsome but more grown up look. Like Kia, Hyundai realises the importance of tuning cars to Australian conditions with a handling package that’s just right for Aussie roads.
The class-leading small car in Australia, the Mazda3, pushes a near-premium vibe, though to get that you’ll need to look further up the range than one of the Cerato Sport-rivalling models. That said there’s still plenty of standard equipment, impressive safety features, and pleasing dynamics across the range.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Any automaker has a battle on their hands once a particular model starts to show its age against newer competitors, but the Cerato has somewhat gracefully slid into old age. No, it isn’t a standout for design or features, but nor is it behind the pack in any significant way.
Kia’s genuine selling point is, of course, a seven year warranty - the best in the Australian automotive landscape. That means peace of mind for long-haul owners, and a handy feature that makes selling a used Cerato easier if you decide to change cars in four or five years time.
Value holds up for the Cerato Sport too. Whilst it isn’t the cheapest in its class, it does put forward a good value proposition, with a balance of low price and good features, with driving dynamics that are sensible and well suited to the cities and towns of Australia.