Mazda 3 2014 Review
Mazda has had a taste of being number one in sales in Australia, and likes it -- which is hardly a surprise.
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After completing a long distance test of Kia's new Cerato -- the popular sleek sedan which has also been joined by a hatchback in this country -- it was a case of the more I drove it, the more I loved it.
Cerato prices start at a sharp $19,990 for the 1.8-litre S, you will pay $23,990 for the better performing 2.0-litre Si, which is the pick of the range. The top-of-the-line SLi tips the $30,000 barrier by the time you add satellite navigation. It sells for $30,990. The S is well packaged with three adjustments for steering wheel effort, keyless entry, six-way adjustable driver's seat, heated door mirrors, LCD instrument cluster, MP3 compatible audio with CD, radio and six speakers, iPod connection, Bluetooth and air conditioning.
Jump up to the Si and you add alloy wheels, an excellent rear-view camera, dusk sensing headlamps, push button starting, folding door mirrors when you park (a neat trick), a premium steering wheel complete with audio and cruise controls, carbon-look to the dashboard, touch LCD colour screen and air vents for back seat passengers, which is a welcome move in the small car pack.
Go the whole hog and the SLi adds bigger 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-dimming rear view mirror, LED daytime running lights, HID headlamps, leather trim, eight-way adjustable driver's seat with two memory settings, powered sunroof, paddle shifters, dual-zone climate-controlled air conditioning, heated and vented driver's seat and cooling system for the glovebox to keep the kids' lollies chilled. All models come with a sensible full-sized spare.
We drove the SLi, which gets Kia's 2.0-litre all-alloy petrol direct injection engine. It delivers 129kW (at 6500 rpm) and 209Nm of torque (4700 rpm) and is mated to a six-speed manual or auto transmission. The beauty of this engine is it packs a reasonable punch and excellent fuel economy.
Thanks to a tall set of top gears in the auto, the Cerato consistently returned 7.3L/100km for the 1700km journey, but we saw a low of 6.8l/100km. Kia claims a combined consumption of 7.4l/100km. When required for rapid overtaking the mid-range response is surprisingly good for a 2.0-litre engine. The auto allows manual shifting when required with rapid sequential up or down changes.
What is remarkable about the Cerato is how quiet it is, with only tyre noise making a presence in the cabin. Kia has made a huge effort to improve sound deadening over the previous model and it's noticeable.
Designed in America but having a Euro look, the Cerato is classy and good looking with a sporty edge. Kia describes it has having an "emotional appeal" and they are right. This latest model is lower, sleeker, longer and wider. The lower hip height of the seats may not suit those less nimble but the offset is a gain in legroom. The sloping coupe-like roofline looks like it would compromise rear head room but it doesn't, and the 421-litre boot space is generous for this class.
The driving position is comfortable, even over long distances, thanks to its eight-way adjustment and lumber control. Front-seat passengers, however, miss out on electric adjustments. What is also noticeable is the level of quality to the fit and finish, unlike made-in-Korea cars of not long ago. The plastic finishes are no longer hard and cheap looking.
My only major gripe was the positioning of the speedo and tacho, which can be part hidden by the rim of the steering wheel. The front-quarter window compensates for the sloping windscreen so the forward and side views are good. But the rear C-pillar is hefty, meaning you have to rely on the rear camera for parking.
As expected, a five-star rating. There are six airbags and a raft of electronic safety aids including stability control, hill start assist, ABS brakes plus parking sensors.
It's no sprint car but not a slouch either, taking a claimed 9.3 seconds to get up to 100km/h. The Cerato sits flat in the corners, shows little regard for bumps in the road and feels solid and reassuring. Heavy braking, thanks to New Zealand's mountainous roads, can induce some softness in pedal feel but nothing too dramatic here. The three settings for steering wheel effort (Kia calls their version FlexSteer) are a gimmick with little real difference except for sport mode and I am no great fan of electric steering which tends to mask "road feel" through the wheel.
There's a plethora of small cars on the market but the striking Cerato stands out as one of the best thanks to an excellent mix of good road manners, comfortable ride, value for money and pleasing styling.
|SiR||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$6,400 – 9,900||2014 Kia Cerato 2014 SiR Pricing and Specs|
|S||1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$6,200 – 9,570||2014 Kia Cerato 2014 S Pricing and Specs|
|Si||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$7,900 – 12,210||2014 Kia Cerato 2014 Si Pricing and Specs|
|Koup SLS||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$9,900 – 14,960||2014 Kia Cerato 2014 Koup SLS Pricing and Specs|