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Kia Cerato 2018 review

Meet the third-generation sedan.
Kia's best selling car is the Cerato, and the third generation sedan will go up against category-leading rivals like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Honda Civic in the shrinking small car category.

As SUV sales continue to rise, Kia is taking a slightly different tack. Despite steady declines in sales numbers for small cars, the company looks not at percentages, but at figures… and the smaller end of the new car segment still makes up more than 350,000 sales a year. 

Not a bad space to play in, especially if other players are diving out…

It’s here that Kia will drop its almost all-new third generation Cerato, which will go up against big-selling rivals like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. It’s just a sedan at this stage, with the hatch expected later in 2018.

Kia Cerato 2018: S
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$11,200

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Kia claims the new fastback-style exterior design is inspired by the larger Stinger, with the bluff nose and stylised roofline the obvious keys. Its dimensions have grown 80mm in overall length, despite having the same wheelbase as the previous generation Cerato.

The large grille and wider lower front bar is reminiscent of the Stinger, for example, along with larger headlights and the sculpted bonnet. The windscreen has been pushed back 127mm which lengthens the bonnet, while the rear spoiler has been replaced by a small ducktail swoop to tidy up the airflow over the roof and boot lid.

The new Cerato (seen here in Sport guise) had design elements inspired by the larger Stinger fastback. The new Cerato (seen here in Sport guise) had design elements inspired by the larger Stinger fastback.

If you’re looking for a more complete body kit, you’ll need to wait for the Cerato GT, which will come later in the year.

The interior treatment is new, too, with a wider dash, turbine vents in the dash, redesigned seats and a multimedia screen that sits higher on the centre console.

The rear of the sedan (seen in S guise here) now has a sportier duck-tailed look. The rear of the sedan (seen in S guise here) now has a sportier duck-tailed look.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The $19,990 drive-away price for the base model S in manual remains in place, while a six-speed auto will add $1500. In fact, Kia officials were at great pains to tell us how much negotiation took place to keep that sub-$20k price in place for the new generation car.

And it’s even managed to improve the list of standard kit that comes with it. All of the models in the range now come with features like AEB, lane guidance assist and forward collision alert as standard, even in the base model. 

All Ceratos including the base S pictured here will include AEB as well as an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All Ceratos including the base S pictured here will include AEB as well as an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

All Ceratos have front and rear parking sensors, six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, six-way driver seat adjustment, cruise control, an eight-inch multimedia infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice recognition, a six-speaker sound system with DAB digital radio with Bluetooth connectivity (bye bye CD player and DVD player), single zone air-conditioning and power windows with auto-down on the driver’s window.

Do a model comparison with other brands at that entry-point and the Cerato starts to look pretty good, even taking into account the S’s 16-inch steelies and lack of full size spare.

From here, it all changes. The S Premium, Si, and SLi variants are gone, now replaced by Sport and Sport+ models. The Sport costs $23,690 (driveaway), and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a navigation system with live sat nav traffic monitoring that uses GPS, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter and fancier cloth-trim seat trim.

The Sport+ will cost $26,190 drive-away, and includes an upgraded version of AEB known as 'Fusion II', which adds pedestrian and cyclist recognition ability to the AEB system. 

There’s also advanced smart cruise control, LED daytime running lights (no LED headlights, though), a smart key with keyless entry and push-button start, leather seats, electric folding exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning and rear air vents. 

There’s no sunroof, though, and you’ll need to argue with the dealer about floor mats and other accessories.

The new range is comprised of just S (far back), Sport (to the right), and Sport Plus (front left). The new range is comprised of just S (far back), Sport (to the right), and Sport Plus (front left).

Colours include three all-new additions to the palette. The base colour is 'Clear White', and there are eight premium colours (each with an $520 uptick), including 'Snow White Pearl', 'Silky Silver', 'Platinum Graphite Grey', 'Gravity Blue', 'Aurora Black Pearl'. There are three new ones, too; 'Steel Grey', 'Horizon Blue' and 'Runway Red'.

Kia reckons the sales mix will go 40 per cent to the S, 40 per cent to the Sport and 20 per cent  to the Sport+, while about five per cent of S customers will want to change gears by themselves.

Oh, there will be a Cerato GT coming down the track, in both hatch and sedan form.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

It hasn’t gotten much bigger from gen to gen, but the four-door, five-seat Cerato is still a pretty decently sized little car in its own right.

There are two cupholders line astern up front, nestled next to a manual handbrake. Partitioned door cards front and rear can accept medium bottles, while a pull-down armrest provides another two cupholders. The top spec Sport+ is the only one to offer rear vents, but there is only a single USB port up front, next to a 12-volt point.

The Sport Plus receives a fancier cloth trim. The Sport Plus receives a fancier cloth trim.

There’s an additional 20 litres of boot space for a total of for 520 litres (VDA) luggage capacity, with seat-back dropper switches located in the boot space – but frustratingly, there’s no boot lid release on the actual damn boot lid. No roof racks are fitted as standard.

Firmer seat cushions and new seat frames make for decently sized pews, while the multimedia screen is 68mm higher on the dashboard, which is itself 18mm wider. The Stinger makes its presence felt again, too, via a pair of circular turbine-style air vents on the dash.

In the rear, there’s a surprisingly generous amount of leg and toe room, and head room is also sufficient even for a tall adult. The rear door aperture is relatively small for the space, which could make tossing small children into their ISOFIX mounted seats a bit of a back straining pain.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Kia is known for ‘localising’ its suspension set-ups – or perhaps more accurately, improving the often compromised set-ups that come standard from the factory.

As is par for Kia’s course, the end result for the Cerato – which has MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear end - is a firm ride at lower speeds which relaxes as loads and road speeds start to climb. 

It’s a deliberate ploy by Kia to separate itself from its Korean sibling and rival, but I reckon the company could roll back from that stance a bit. 

The firm ride at lower speed is a deliberate ploy to differentiate Kias from their equivalent Hyundai models. The firm ride at lower speed is a deliberate ploy to differentiate Kias from their equivalent Hyundai models.

Around town and on broken surfaces at lower speed, the Cerato can be a bit fussy and overbearing, especially from the passenger’s side, though it’s tempered by gold star body-roll control and surprisingly pleasant steering. Ground clearance is on par with a typical small car at 150mm.

A new steering column gearbox has been added, which basically realigns the column in relation to the steering rack, and gives a better, more natural feel under the driver’s hand. 

The six-speed auto is the pick of the two gearboxes, too; the manual feels flimsy and underdone in the palm, and while the clutch is lightly sprung, it’s got very little feel. Brakes, on the other hand, are great, with a nice, firm, well-modulated pedal feel.

The powertrain won’t set new 0-100km/h records, but the acceleration of the naturally aspirated engine is acceptable, if not shattering. Engine noise is a bit of an issue when it’s being stretched, but it’s quieter than before.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

There’s not a lot of change in the specs here, with Kia opting to retain the same four-cylinder, 2.0-litre non-turbo MPI petrol engine from the second-generation car.

Modest engine specs of 112kW and 192Nm are the result. Both the manual and the automatic transmission have been updated slightly, but the engine is a direct carryover.

Kia did look at its inventory of drivetrains around the world to see if it could go down a different path - even considering a CVT auto/Atkinson-cycle motor combo with an engine size of 2.0-litres - but it elected to stick with the status quo.

It’s not the quietest nor the most inspiring producer of horsepower on the planet, but the MPI four-potter – which runs a timing chain, not a timing belt – has a great reputation, with few if any engine problems reported over the years.

It’s the same for automatic transmission problems; Kia’s in-house self-shifter has a terrific reputation. 

While a towbar can be fitted, towing capacity is relatively modest at 1100kg of braked trailer, with a very low 75kg downball weight limit.

In the obvious questions department, the front-wheel-drive Cerato doesn’t come in diesel or LPG, nor does it come in 4x4 or indeed 4WD guise – so brown roads are a no-no.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

At a kerb weight of between 1295kg and 1332kg, the Cerato is about 19kg heavier than the outgoing car, despite a slightly lighter body, and it’s actually a tiny bit thirstier than the outgoing model, at 7.4 litres per 100km on the combined fuel consumption economy cycle.

At 7.6L/100km, the mileage from the manual is also slightly higher than the auto. Remember when fuel consumption figures for manuals were always lower? Not any more… There is an 'Eco' mode button in the Cerato, which changes the throttle and gearbox maps, but it won’t save much fuel.

Over 120km, we posted a combined fuel economy figure of 7.9L/100km in an auto Sport variant.

The fuel tank capacity is 50 litres in size.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Cerato sports an excellent array of active and passive safety kit, including six airbags that have been ‘depowered’ for a more controlled deployment, AEB, front and rear sensors, a rear camera and more included as standard. 

As well, a $1000 option pack will add the upgraded AEB, smart cruise control (auto only), blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, electric folding mirrors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel to the S and Sport models. 

A second pack will add blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert to the Sport+ for $500; it already carries all of the other features.

Kia also claims big increases in the use of high-strength steels in key areas like the B-pillar.

There isn’t a Euro NCAP score that Kia can use as a basis for a local ANCAP score, and Kia is currently working with the Aussie agency to crash-test the vehicle locally.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   10/10

The seven year/unlimited km warranty is the headline act here, along with a seven year roadside service offer and a seven year capped-price servicing schedule (up to 70,000km). The warranty can also be transferred to the next owner.

Servicing is recommended at 12-month or 10,000km intervals, and seven years of servicing will cost $2447, according to Kia – so you won’t have to worry about knowing the oil type. 

To grab a figure at random, the 30,000km service cost will cost $365. Just keep that owner’s manual up to date.

It won’t cover things like the battery, though.

While this is a new platform for the Cerato, there are almost no common problems, issues, faults or complaints about reliability to mention. Resale value is on par with other small cars in the class.


The third generation Cerato is small, nimble, looks handsome and can carry four in absolute comfort. It’s safe as houses, great value and cheap to look after, too. 

What’s not to like? Well, it’s not as easy to hop in and out of as a small SUV, the engine is a bit harsh, and Kia’s suspension crew needs to really look at horses for courses – a base model small sedan doesn’t need to feel like it’s heading for a rally special stage.

Still, the new-gen Cerato is set to hold its position as Kia’s best seller, and with very good reason.

We'd pick the $23,690 Cerato Sport as the sweet spot in the range, thanks to its 17-inch alloys, nicer interior trim and standard sat-nav. We'd also add the optional driver aid pack for $1000 to create an even safer Cerato.

Are you a current Cerato owner? Will you upgrade to the third generation version?

Pricing guides

Based on 522 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

Koup Turbo 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP MAN No recent listings 2018 Kia Cerato 2018 Koup Turbo Pricing and Specs
GT (turbo) 1.6L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $19,400 – 27,060 2018 Kia Cerato 2018 GT (turbo) Pricing and Specs
S 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $11,200 – 16,390 2018 Kia Cerato 2018 S Pricing and Specs
S (AV) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,600 – 16,940 2018 Kia Cerato 2018 S (AV) Pricing and Specs
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist


Pricing Guide


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