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Kia Cerato Hatch review

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    Kia's new 5 door Cerato represents more than just value for money. Photo Gallery

Paul Pottinger road tests and reviews the Kia Cerato 5-door hatch.

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  • Styling
  • Value
  • 6-speed auto
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  • Outdated engine
  • Base plastics
  • Little else

When asked what medium hatchback to buy, wise man invariably say: "A Golf if you've got $30K, a Mazda3 if you don't." Thirty grand gets you an 118TSI - the best VeeWee this side of a GTI . A Maxx Sport 3 gets change from that sum.

The VW's the best hatch money can buy, the Mazda's a close second. After an interval of daylight, there follows an ever more crowded field. None of them, however, including number one and two, can offer, the newly five door Kia Cerato's bang for buck. It's a convincing enough package to make a wise man question the order of things.


Unbeatable. The base SI is $20,240 for the manual; $22,240 for the auto. Its fruit includes cruise control, manual aircon, Bluetooth set-up, telescopic steering, and steering-wheel mounted controls. The SLI - $24,040 manual; $26,240 auto ­- adds 17-inch alloys, reverse sensor, suede/cloth upholstery, alloy pedals, automatic headlights, paddle shifters for the auto and various bling bits.

Kia's cousin Hyundai matches the otherwise peerless five year unlimited kilometre warranty, but while the Carsguide Car of the Year-winning i30 shares elements of the Cerato's platform and the Theta II petrol engine, the Kia's uniformly six speed transmissions best its relative's manual by one cog and its auto by two. In the case of the latter, this makes a big difference.


Hardly the last word in this department with that Theta engine a bit too like yesterday's papers compared to the direct injection turbo petrol or diesel donks to be had for a few thousand dollars more.

That's true too of the torsion beam rear suspension as opposed to the independent set-up of the Cerato's more sophisticated peers. The live rear axle allows for class leading 385-litre load space, rear seats up.

But, as is the case with the Sportage SUV, it's the Australian connection that distinguishes the Cerato. Led by Graeme Gambold, the local team's take on the Cerato equips it with bespoke spring settings and steering wheel weighting - improvements that will find their way into the Cerato sedan and Koup.


It's a looker, alright, another feather in the cap of head designer Peter Schreyer. Smart and elegant, it makes the i30 look plain, the Golf anal the Mazda3 like an over-folded piece of origami.

Inside, the base model SI looks just like a sub-$21 grand base car should, a sea of (rather smelly as new) plastic. But the SLI lifts the game markedly, inside and out, without over embellishing the go fast bits. Which would be silly, because sporty ain't what the Cerato is meant to be.


You have to applaud six airbags as standard on the both models. Ditto stability program, ABS and a full-size spare. But the Cerato will likely score four stars, not five, from the ANCAP program.


The easy shifting manual's sixth gear is a bit of gimmick, actually. At 110km/h in top cog you're still doing 3000rpm - a few hundred less than in fifth. But you're doing it with a remarkable degree of refinement. Aside for a bit of wind noise about the mirrors, this Cerato cruises in almost silently. It's a bit boomier in the back, but quite a feat nonetheless.

The auto's the go. The paddle shifters allow a degree of manual override, useful for engine braking or applying spurs to the recalcitrant Theta as a hill begins to prove too much for it. Left to self-shift, it's a fairly seamless unit that goes some way toward masking the ordinariness of the engine.

Moreover, at 7.7 litres per 100km and 187g of Co2 per km, the auto is merely 0.2L and 1g less environmentally nice than the manual.

While not so sharp as the Mazda3, the Cerato is nonetheless some way past dynamically adequate, especially for its likely buyers. Indeed, the local lads have done it proud, with a ride/handling compromise that certain other imports would envy.


Get over the badge and yourself; this represents more than value for money.




Price: from $$20,490
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder 115kW/194Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; 6-speed auto
Thirst: 7.7L/100km claimed (auto)


Ford Focus CL (from $21,490)
Hyundai i30 SLX (from $23,890)
Mazda3 Neo hatch (from $21,330)
Mitsubishi Lancer ES Sportback (from $21,990)
Toyota Corolla Ascent hatch (from $21,740)
Volkswagen Golf 90TSI ($24,990)

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 9 comments

  • Drove one recently as a hire car. Very impressed with interior room etc. If I had to buy a car in this class, I would definitely buy this car -plus a great guarantee.

    Ed of Melbourne Posted on 01 July 2011 7:27pm
  • Drove both Mitsubishi lancer, and for Focus; found the Lancer’s engine noisy although lots of inducements were thrown in; only the top of the line Focus is worth buying; the Cerato hatch has everything and any criticism or ‘badge creed’ is sour grapes!..I bought the hatch and happy I did!

    alex veldhoen of sydney Posted on 17 April 2011 10:05pm
  • never could understand why the i30 won awards i have driven petrol and diesel versions and found both very ordinary to say the least : cerato hatch deserves to succeed,very nice car indeed

    paul of brisbane Posted on 29 March 2011 9:50pm
  • Why only 4 star ANCAP rating??

    Paul from Eaton WA. of AUSTRALIA Posted on 15 March 2011 11:17am
  • The wife and I recently drove the Hyundai I30 SR and the Cerato Hatch SLi (MY11), both 2010 demo models, we both found the Cerato much better than the i30 on every level, including looks. Why is the Red Book valuation so much lower on the KIA than the Hyundai, it almost put me off buying it? (My wife doesn’t care about the valuations or re-sale, so needless to say we are buying the Cerato).

    ben wilson of victoria Posted on 15 February 2011 12:37am
  • How is the boot capacity class leading? The Focus hatch also has a 385L capicity.

    Michael of Wollongong Posted on 05 November 2010 5:45pm
  • No wagon and no diesel on the Australian market is a bad mistake. Both options are available in europe. Lucky I didn’t wait and bought a Hyundai i30cw diesel.

    Peter in Sydney of Maroubra Posted on 27 October 2010 11:22pm
  • Hi Vaughan. I reckon that’s a good mark for a decent budget hatchback. A car that might have got 75 gets marked down for an ordinary engine. It’ll be good enough for most purposes, but I mark harder than most. The Golf TSI gets 80 and the Mazda3 70. 

    Paul Pottinger of Sydney Posted on 25 October 2010 10:30pm
  • ‘None of them, however, including number one and two, can offer, the newly five door Kia Cerato’s bang for buck.’....‘Get over the badge and yourself; this represents more than value for money.’ Then you give it 65/100? That’s a very low or lowest C you can achieve! Very strange, very strange indeed:(

    vaughan minto Posted on 24 October 2010 8:55am
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