2012 KIA CERATO REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $26,505 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.7 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
Kia is already showing off its handsome new model Cerato. We can expect to see it, as a sedan at least, as early as April. But what about the hatch?
For the time being it remains a secret (although the European market C’eed may offer some clues), but there is still some life in the current model for buyers looking for a likeable all-rounder - even if it is a bit invisible style-wise.
The current model is coming to the end of its innings, but TMR took it for another ‘spin around the block’.
The Cerato range has impressed us in the past; but how well has it held up in this ever-changing market. More to the point: should you try to squeeze a last-minute run out deal while you still can?
Quality: We put the SLi hatch over some of the worst roads we could find in the week we had it in our care, and the hatch was as untroubled as other Ceratos we’ve tested.
These are mechanically strong little cars. And, inside, the addition of new finishes and soft-touch surfaces (missing prior to 2011) help lift the tone.
That said, on rougher road surfaces we uncovered a buzzing within the right-side rear door and a rattle that would come and go in the passenger B-pillar. (They may have been one-offs, but you wonder...)
Comfort: Seats are biased for comfort rather than sporting grip, which is fine. There is, however, good support where you need it, and the faux suede fabric (more like a jersey knit) of the SLi has a nice premium feel.
Setting up behind the wheel is simple, with reach and rake adjustment, front seats are roomy and the rear bench allows access for three without too tight a squeeze.
Equipment: Standard features include heated door mirrors with LED indicators, power windows, remote central locking, climate-control with pollen filter, six-function trip computer, ‘super vision’ instruments, steering wheel audio and cruise control.
There's also paddle shifters for automatic models, sports pedals, chrome door handles (inside and out), 17-inch alloy wheels and MP3 compatible single CD player with USB and aux in, six speakers and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity.
Storage: With seats up there’s 385 litres of boot space, expandable via the near-flat folding 60:40 split rear bench.
Around the cabin there is a deep centre console, a moderately-sized glovebox, front and rear cup holders, front bottle holders and a generous open hold-all at the base of the centre stack.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: When the Cerato first launched in Australia, it was hobbled by a four-speed automatic transmission that wasn’t quite good enough.
Them the 2.0 litre Cerato’s 115kW output and 194Nm of torque struggled with it.
Now, thanks to an update in 2011, a six-speed automatic helps spread engine power-delivery across a more useful range of transmission ratios.
It’s not quite tuned right though - especially for city driving. While peak torque arrives at 4300rpm, the transmission upshifts too early, dropping the engine back to around 2000rpm with each gear change.
This leaves things doughy underfoot at slower speeds. While the engine wants to run on, it never quite gets the opportunity to live up to its full potential.
Of course, this can be overcome with the steering-wheel mounted shift-paddles.
If you want to hustle it through the ratios, the Cerato responds faithfully and swiftly to driver’s commands.
It’s not quite DSG-quick, but it makes the Cerato a great deal more enjoyable on a winding road and also sharpens up overtaking performance.
Refinement: Across the board, the Cerato could do a little better. Tyre noise isn’t too strong, and wind noise is at acceptable levels for the class, but there’s plenty of racket from the engine as revs build.
And the driveline is also a little coarse, amplifying the NVH issues.
Suspension: Macpherson front struts work alongside a torsion-beam rear axle. As with other recent Kia models, there has been some local tuning work done to suit Australian conditions.
While the changes are noticeable on the open road, the Cerato lacks the planted confidence on rural roads that you get in a Japanese or European small hatch.
Braking: Four wheel disc brakes, with vented front rotors provide the stopping force. The Cerato will pull up swiftly if required, although the pedal feels a little vague underfoot in hard stops, and if worked too hard brake fade sets in early.
ANCAP rating: 4 stars (Cerato S sedan)
Safety features: Dual front airbags, side-airbags and curtain-airbags, antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake distribution with Emergency Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control.
There are also seatbelts pretensioners with height adjustment and all seating positions feature three-point seat belts and height-adjustable head-restraints.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres for private, fleet and government buyers (Taxi, hire car and other selected applications are limited to a 130,000km distance limit)
Service costs: “Kia Connect” fixed price servicing covers the first five services at 12 month, or 15,000 kilometre service intervals (whichever occurs first) and includes roadside assist, renewed for 12 months after each service.
Service costs vary from $262 up to $535, consult your Kia dealer for full terms and conditions.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf 90TSI Trendline DSG ($27,490) - For not a great deal more you could get into the benchmark of the small car class, Volkswagen’s Golf. Like the Cerato the Golf is at the end of its model cycle, yet still boasts the best interior.
Although slightly less-powerful, the torquey turbocharged engine provides plenty of urge and the slick, quick-shifting seven-speed DSG provides confident on-road performance and good fuel economy. (see Golf reviews)
Hyundai i30 Elite ($26,590) - Hyundai has rolled out its refreshed i30 ahead of the new Cerato, and there’s a fair chance that some of the finishes, quality and equipment presage what might come in the new Cerato.
Certainly the fresh styling and strong equipment list command attention. Like the Corolla (see below) the i30 stacks in the value with its standard feature-list. (see i30 reviews)
Toyota Corolla Sportivo SX S-CVT ($25,990) - With the new Corolla, Toyota has gone on an all-out value assault. Standard fare in the Sportivo SX includes 17-inch alloys, sat-nav and reversing camera.
On the road the Corolla is competent and quiet. Although it isn’t revolutionary in any way, as a package the Corolla is hard to beat, landing itself a spot as one of TMR’s top ten Best Buys of 2012. (see Corolla reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For commuter duty the Cerato provides a comfortable ride and seating, but is not quite so good on longer cross-country stints.
But perhaps it is time for the new model. Where the small Korean once offered incredible value as a buy, it now looks like something of an also-ran against newer competitors, particularly against the feature-laden Corolla and i30.
Despite those shortcomings, for its no-nonsense engineering and robustness, and generally good on-road manners, the Cerato is still worth consideration.
With a new model here in April, dealers will be looking to clear existing stocks - that will be your opportunity.