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Just because the field of sedans is ever-shrinking in Australia doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least consider one against the ever-popular SUV competition.
You might be surprised, because many of Australia’s remaining small sedans are actually very good.
Take Kia’s Cerato sedan. Perhaps overlooked compared to its popular hatch sibling, I think the sedan is better looking and a hoot to drive.
|Kia Cerato 2020: GT Safety Pack|
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Korean cars have gone from poor imitations of Japanese rivals to the forefront of design in their respective price brackets. Kia is now well ahead of the curve, designing bold and dashing cars which are quite unlike others on the market.
The biggest surprise when it comes to the Cerato is the fact that the sedan, to my eyes, is miles more appealing than its hatch counterpart.
Everywhere you look there’s something interesting, be it the widening front spoiler with detailed grilles and air dams, its swept back LED eyes that rake up the bonnet, the fancy alloy wheels, or my personal favourite touch, that oh-so-resolved boot.
I’d say it’s better looking than Hyundai’s Elantra, and gives consumers something to think about before they settle on the once leading Mazda3.
Certainly, it cuts a profile far more appealing than most SUVs.
Inside is swish, too, the culmination of years of improvement emanating from the Korean brand’s design department now heavily staffed by Germans.
The chiseled look continues with strong contours running from the dash into the doors, and a satisfying sense of symmetry throughout.
The materials have taken a jump from the previous Cerato, too, now less clinical and hard-wearing, and a little more crafted to create an interesting and ergonomic environment. I'm a particular fan of the media set-up, flat-bottomed steering wheel, and rotary vents.
Look closely and you will find hard plastics and other little giveaways that this is still a car built to a strict price. Things like the holdover analog handbrake and padded but firm materials for your elbows show areas where improvements are yet to be made.
Still. Bravo. This is an excellent cabin design which I was more than happy in for hours on end.
Cabin practicality is usually cooked into Kias, even with the effort applied to their ever-improving design.
Our Cerato GT had big cupholders in the centre console, a smallish armrest console box with no amenities in it, small trenches in the doors integrated with a small cupholder, and a large storage area under the climate controls.
This area was clearly suited to hold more than just a single phone, and our GT comes with another phone-sized shelf with a wireless charging bay to boot.
Full marks for connectivity, too, with dual USB ports, an auxiliary port and a 12-volt power outlet available. Notably missing is USB-C, but we think it will be a while before this standard becomes a requirement.
There’s a smallish glove box on the passenger’s side and a sunglass holder in the roof.
The Cerato’s driving position is generally very good and very adjustable, with an electric driver’s seat. You will have to crouch down a little to get in, due to this car’s relatively low ride height and roofline.
Rear seat passengers get more room than expected, with plenty of airspace for my knees behind my own driving position, and plenty of headroom, too.
The front seats have hard plastic backs on them (good for kids) although amenities are limited to four cupholders and directional air vents. There are no power outlets for rear passengers at all.
The boot is huge at 502 litres (don’t let anyone tell you an SUV has a bigger boot than a sedan – most don’t) and looks a bit basic with simple carpet trims.
There are two quick release leavers for the split-fold rear seats which is a nice touch, and a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor.
This is the most expensive Cerato you can buy, the top-spec GT, wearing a before-on-road cost of $33,490.
Value for-money might depend on how much you like driving, as we’ll explore in the driving section of this review, but its direct rivals are the Mazda3 G25 Evolve sedan ($31,090), Toyota Corolla ZR sedan ($33,635) or perhaps even a European alternative like the Skoda Octavia Sport sedan ($35,290).
Regardless, the Cerato’s equipment at this price is formidable. Included are 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built-in sat-nav and DAB+ digital radio support, and leather-appointed seat trim.
There's also a 4.2-inch colour screen in the instrument cluster, a wireless phone charging bay, LED headlights with adaptive high-beams, an auto-dimming rear vision mirror, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel.
The GT specifically picks up several performance enhancements over the rest of the Cerato range, going some way to earning the GT badge, including larger front brakes, multi-link rather than torsion beam rear suspension, the aggressive sports bodykit, and an overhauled powertrain which we’ll touch on later in this review.
The Cerato is available in a wide array of 10 colours, of which only 'Clear White' is free, and ‘Sunset Orange’ is exclusive to the GT grade. Our car, as pictured, is in ‘Horizon Blue’. All optional colours come in at $520.
On the balance of price/features then, we’d say even this most expensive Cerato is impressive.
The GT grade is the only Cerato in the range powered by a new 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces an impressive-for-the-segment 150kW/265Nm.
It also does away with a six-speed torque converter auto, featuring a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic instead .
The Cerato GT’s claimed combined cycle fuel consumption number is 6.8L/100km against which I scored an amazing 7.0L/100km.
To be fair, while I was driving it, there was very little traffic on the roads, and it did involve a solid freeway stint. Still, it’s impressive that the Cerato can score so close to its claimed consumption number after almost 600km of testing.
Kia says you can fill even this turbo Cerato’s 50 litre fuel tank with regular 91RON petrol.
With the Cerato GT’s newfound whiz-bang turbo engine comes dollops of driving engagement, but at a certain cost.
This is a fun car to accelerate in. The little engine makes a satisfying grumble when you put your boot into it and can make use of its peak torque from just 1500rpm.
It’s spritely enough to cause a break in traction off the mark, and with seven ratios available from the dual-clutch transmission, is more than happy to kick down a notch for an overtaking maneuver, even at freeway speeds.
The dual-clutch is fast, but has a few niggles at low speed. It can occasionally be indecisive, or get caught changing the wrong direction, but does well to keep up where it counts.
The steering seems immediately oddly heavy for a car this small, and it is to the point of being artificial. I'm not a huge fan.
It's direct and accurate in the corners, but constantly had me wondering how much of what I was feeling was real. At low speed the extra weight imposed by this electric system is a bit annoying.
The suspension, too, goes a little too far in the performance direction. I know a Kia warm sedan has something to prove to naysayers, but does it need to be so punishing?
The firmness inspires confidence when you’re in the corners but proved to be quite uncomfortable and noisy on poorly sealed roads.
Spend too long on this type of terrain, as I did, and you’ll start to notice the chassis constantly jiggling about, too firm to be settled at any speed.
Perhaps this is still what separates this Kia from, say, the Skoda Octavia, which I found to be firm but forgiving on similar surfaces.
Regardless, if you like driving to have fun, this is a car for you. The on-board tech proved to be wonderful for long freeway drives, too, with the adaptive cruise control and LED headlights surprisingly intuitive and easy to use. Full marks there.
7 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
On the topic of active cruise control, the Cerato is equipped with an impressive suite of active safety features, especially at this full-fat grade.
Included is auto emergency braking (AEB - works at freeway speeds and detects pedestrians and cyclists), blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention alert, active cruise control, and adaptive high-beams.
It also scores front and rear parking sensors, a relatively high-res reversing camera, six airbags, the expected stability and brake controls, as well as three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
This Cerato has amongst the most impressive active safety suites in the segment and avoids the issue of having some items as optional extras as the rest of the range.
Unsurprisingly, higher spec Ceratos hold maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings.
Brand-new engines or not, Kia still covers its entire range with its leading seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty coverage.
Kia’s coverage also involves seven years of capped price servicing and up to eight years of roadside assist provided you stick to the brand’s servicing schedule.
The schedule involves servicing the Cerato GT once a year or every 10,000km whichever occurs first and costs between $282 and $640 for a yearly average over the seven years of $471 which is not particularly cheap.
Kia’s Cerato GT looks great, feels great, and is a blast to drive. The drawback? It tries so hard to be a performance car but perhaps falls a tad short to be considered alongside something like Skoda’s RS range.
And that’s okay. Considering the price, it’s still a fantastic and well-equipped little sedan well worth your consideration, especially if you’re looking for a compelling drive experience.
|S||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$16,000 – 22,330||2020 Kia Cerato 2020 S Pricing and Specs|
|Si||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$16,400 – 22,880||2020 Kia Cerato 2020 Si Pricing and Specs|
|S||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$16,000 – 22,330||2020 Kia Cerato 2020 S Pricing and Specs|
|Sport NAV||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$17,400 – 24,200||2020 Kia Cerato 2020 Sport NAV Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|