In spite of the flourishing compact SUV market, Kia hopes it can bring something exciting with its new small size sedan.
While the third-generation Cerato’s appeal will be bolstered by a GT warm hatch later this year, the sedan that’s coming later this month already shows Kia’s new car is an impressive machine with plenty to enjoy about it.
It’s a handsome machine, from its sleek yet aggressive front-end right through its fastback roofline that tapers into the bootlid. Where other brands simply adapt a sedan bodystyle from the more popular hatch variants by, what appears to be, attaching the boot on the back, the Cerato looks like it was designed to be a sedan, albeit one that doesn't follow the convention of a traditional three-box layout with its sleek roofline.
With design elements inspired by the Korean brand's flagship Stinger sports sedan, Kia has taken the opportunity to revise the naming strategy for the three-tiered range, replacing the mid- and top-grade Si and SLi badges with new Sport and Sport+ models.
It still kicks off with the entry-level Cerato S, which retains a bargain-basement $19,990 driveaway price tag with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic costs an additional $1500.
Even at that level, the Cerato comes with a generous level of equipment including an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with digital radio, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android devices as well as automated emergency braking with forward collision warning and lane keeping assistance, a reverse camera and front and rear parking sensors. The S rides on 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, has a basic cloth trim, manual air conditioning and power windows all round.
Stepping up to the Sport adds larger 17-inch alloy wheels, sportier cloth trim for the seats and sat nav, as well as a standard automatic, for $23,690 driveaway, while the Sport+ brings fake leather interior trim, heated front seats, LED running lights, smart key with push button start, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control with rear vents for $26,190 driveaway.
Interior space is largely the same as before, while minor revisions to the layout have liberated marginal improvements in shoulder room across both rows and a little extra leg room in the front.
That aside, the Cerato's cabin is a pleasant place to sit with comfortable and supportive front seats that offer plenty of adjustment to suit a variety of drivers and a chunky three-spoke steering wheel that falls nicely to hand, plus there's excellent small item storage and connectivity with two USB and 12V power outlets in the centre console, but none in the rear.
The overall dash design has a sense of style about it too, with Stinger-like turbine air vents at each end and clear and easy-to-read instruments while the 8.0-inch touchscreen has all the toys laid out in a logical menu structure.
The mostly black plastics used throughout don't look as cheap as previous Kia models but are still a little scratchy compared to more premium small car alternatives. However, the overall fit and finish has taken another step forward as it feels solidly built with consistent and close gaps between the parts.
ON THE ROAD
Like all Kia models in Australia, the Cerato's suspension – with a MacPherson front strut and torsion beam rear – and electric power steering have been tuned to suit local tastes and conditions.
What all that amounts to is a small sedan that impresses beyond its excellent value for money equation.
On the road, it's not quite as sporty as the new badges suggest but it feels solid with good compliance over the bumps and positive steering that is well weighted across the ratio.
The range continues to use the same 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 112kW and 192Nm as before. Going against the trend, and owing to the extra weight brought about by its larger dimensions, fuel consumption has risen slightly with a claimed average of 7.4L/100km for the automatic and 7.6L/100km when fitted with the manual – figures that are above most of its rivals, although it can use cheaper unleaded petrol.
The engine, however, is starting to show its age. Without a turbo charger or even direct fuel injection like more modern rivals, it won't win any green light grands prix and, therefore, needs to be worked a little harder to dart around town or for quick overtaking moves at highway speeds, generating a raucous exhaust note at high engine speeds.
It is more than adequate for everyday work though and works well with the six-speed automatic, even if it does have to constantly row through the gears to keep the engine spinning within its sweet spot.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
All in all, while sedans are less popular than hatchbacks the Cerato is an impressive small car that looks, feels and drives better than some higher-priced rivals. That it comes loaded with gear while maintaining exceptional value for money, all with the added peace of mind of Kia's benchmark seven-year warranty and affordable servicing, makes it an easy car to recommend.
It's hard to call it a baby Stinger in terms of performance, but it fuses the style and substance of its bigger brother into an accessible small sedan.
- Interested in buying Kia Cerato? Visit our Kia showroom for more information.