When Kia came out with the Stinger in 2017, the world’s attitude about whether this Korean carmaker could produce a high-performance car changed almost overnight. So, Kia adding a GT to its Cerato line-up needs to be taken seriously. Not just another Cerato with bigger wheels and a twin exhaust – this is a car with a more powerful engine and sports suspension.
Having just spent the previous weeks testing the Cerato S and Cerato Sporthatchbacks, I headed to the launch of the GT expecting something the same but quicker and more fun. I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The GT grade lords it over all the other Ceratos with the best features and the most powerful engine, but that means you’ll pay more. The list price of the Cerato GT in both hatch and sedan form is $32,990 (before on-road costs). At the time we published this review Kia had a drive-away offer of $31,990, so it’s worth checking to see if that deal still stands.
What standard features does the Cerato GT get? All of them. Well, all that the Cerato model has to offer.
Interesting is the right word. The new Cerato hatch looks more premium than the previous model, almost like a mini BMW X4 from certain angles, and the sloping rear window gives the profile a fastback wagon look.
The GT grade adds toughness and a solid stance to the Cerato Hatch with the large lower grille and black splitter at the front. At the rear there’s a lot going on, although there’s not much difference between the styling of the GT and the lower grade Sport with the gloss black diffuser and integrated exhaust. The main differences here are the twin exhaust and LED tail lights of the GT as opposed to the single tail pipe and regular tail lamps on the Sport.
The Cerato GT Sedan is arguably the better looking of the two and you hardly ever hear of that happening – it seems it’s always the hatch that’s more attractive, and the sedan is a bit ‘meh’ in comparison.
The GT grade adds toughness and a solid stance to the Cerato Hatch.
The GT variant adds twin exhausts and LED tail lights to the look of the Cerato.
The same differences apply to the GT Sedan and its Sport sedan sibling – with the GT again having the same tough planted look, twin exhaust and LED tail lights.
The GT’s cabin is distinguishable from a Sport by its leather sports seats, the alloy sports pedals, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and red stitching everywhere.
As for paint colours, Clear White is the only non-cost option. You’ll pay $520 for Runway Red, Sunset Orange, Silky Silver or Gravity Blue.
The Cerato GT’s dimensions? The GT hatch is 130mm shorter than the sedan at 4510mm end to end, but the same width at 1800mm across, while the GT is only 5mm taller standing at 1440mm.
The Cerato GT is a five-seater and comes as both a hatch and a sedan, but you knew that already, right? What you may not have known is that boot space in the sedan at 502 litres (VDA) is bigger than the cargo capacity of the hatch, at 428L.
The hatch does come with handy storage under the boot floor, however, in the form of a compartmentalised area – kind of like a Bento box for wet shoes or other bits and pieces. Either side of the boot floor are triangular-shaped storage areas good for holding things upright like plant pots or bottles.
There’s plenty or head and elbow room for people up front.
Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with a finger’s width of knee space.
The sedan's boot space (502L) is actually bigger than... the cargo capacity of the hatch, at 428L.
...the cargo capacity of the hatch, at 428L.
Storage inside the cabin is good with two cup holders in the fold down armrests in the back row, plus two more up front. The bottle holders in the doors aren’t huge but the front ones can fit a 1.5L bottle and the rear ones a 500mL bottle. The centre console storage bin is deep and the hidey holes that are stacked like bunk bed in front of the shifter are great – one is for wireless charging.
To connect devices there are three USB ports – two are for charging (one is in the hidey hole the other in the centre console bin) and the other is for media such as Apple CarPlay for your iPhone.
As for people room – the cabin is spacious for a small car. Up front there’s plenty or head and elbow room, while in the back even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with about a finger’s width of space between my knee and the seatback.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The GT is the most powerful Cerato in the range with its 1.6-litreturbo-petrol four-cylinder making 150kW and 265Nm. Those figures are identical to the output of the Hyundai i30 N-Line. Actually, the Cerato GT and i30 N-Line use the same engine.
As for that low(-ish) mark - don't get me wrong, the engine is fantastic and I loved it in the Hyundai i30 SR, but in the Cerato GT this 1.6-litre feels a bit underpowered when teamed to a chassis this good. I'll explain myself better in the driving section below.
It might surprise you that the GT, the most powerful grade in the line-up, is also the most fuel efficient. Kia says that after a combination of open and urban roads the GT should use 6.8L/100km and that goes for both the hatch and sedan.
After 130.1km country road testing the trip computer on the GT hatch I tested at the launch said I was using an average of 7.6L/100km. The swapping into the Cerato GT Sedan after 295.8km the trip computer was reporting an average of 8.4L/100km, but that was after winding uphill sections.
Kia’s warranty has been in place for years and is still outstanding compared to most other carmakers who are only now moving to five- year warranties. The capped price servicing is also excellent value.
To be able to sell your Cerato a few years after new and be able to offer the next buyer years left on the warranty can only boost this car’s resale value.
In the weeks before I came to the Cerato GT launch I spent time getting to know the Cerato hatch in the entry grade S and mid-spec Sport. I drove hundreds of kays in them, dropped my son off a day care in them, did the shopping, sat in traffic, played air drums in them and took them on my 85km road loop and even measured how much fuel they were drinking at the petrol pump.
But the GT is different in two major ways to the other grades: the engine is more powerful and the suspension is set up for better handling.
So, while the GT was similar in many ways to the S and Sport – the driving position was excellent; visibility was great except for over your shoulder through that tiny side window; the reversing camera picture wasn't superb; the lane keeping system yanks you back quite aggressively; steering still felt a bit artificial and there was some road noise finding its way into the cabin – the GT drove differently.
What you lose in comfort you gain in agility, and the handling is superb.
Word has it that when Kia’s local engineering team was tasked with the job of coming up with a suspension tune for the Cerato GT, it used the Peugeot 308 GTI as a bit of a benchmark for its handling ability.
Kia doesn’t have a dedicated sports sub brand like Hyundai’s N division and therefore lacks a hardcore sports car like the i30 N. So the plan was to have the Cerato GT handle somewhere between the Hyundai i30 SR (now N-Line) and the i30 N.
So what is the Cerato GT like to drive? I drove the hatch and sedan back to back and the first thing I found was that ride is firm - and I really suggest you test drive it and take a passenger, because when I was riding shotgun I found the jolts as we hit rough patches in the road to be more apparent and frustrating than when I was driving.
What you lose in comfort you gain in agility, and the handling is superb. From the pilot's seat I was so engaged with the driving I didn't notice the hard ride - the GT was planted and stable in corners with great body control, while the 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sports gripped incredibly well.
The 1.6-litre is brilliant, but it felt lacking now that the Cerato's handling ability has been turned up.
Steering - like the regular Ceratos - felt a bit detached, and turn-in was no where near as sharp as an i30 N.
But these aren't major issues. The one thing that became apparent to me is that Kia's local engineering team has done such a great job with the suspension that it now has a sports car that's in need of a more powerful engine. That 1.6-litre is brilliant, but it felt a little lacking now that the Cerato's handling ability has been turned right up.
I drove the GT in hatch and sedan form and with both having identical suspension set-ups and engines, could not feel any difference in the way they drove.
I’ll give it to you straight: the Cerato GT’s ride is not comfortable and if you’re buying the car just for sporty looks then the Cerato Sport with its excellent ride is the car for you. But if you’re after an engaging drive and see the suspension firmness as a win for handling which it is, you’ll love this car.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
Has Kia has come up with a true contender to warm hatch rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.