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Kia Cerato S 2019 review: hatch

EXPERT RATING
7.8
Don't mind hubcaps and don't like to follow instructions, then the Cerato S could be the most affordable and smartest choice you've ever made.

The endless drives while the rest of the family snores. The filling up at the petrol station. The time alone thinking I’m a half decent driver. The shopping centre car parks. The day care drop offs with hands full and keys in mouth. The going-nowhere traffic commutes to work. The boot packed to the back-window trip away. The carrying of children from their seats to their beds. I’ve done it all in the Kia Cerato S before you do.

This is what I discovered.

Kia Cerato 2019: S
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$20,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?  7/10

To my eyeballs the Cerato S looks stunning from the back, those tail-lights make it appear like a mini BMW X4 and the refinement and elegance to the styling are up there with a European premium car, too. 

From the side, however, I’m not convinced – I think that fastback profile doesn’t suit a small hatch and looks a bit elongated. My wife reckons that side-on the Cerato S is hot, but that’s what she says about me, and well… we know that’s not true.

I like the line that sweeps from the rear wheel arch to the base of the front guard. I like the line that sweeps from the rear wheel arch to the base of the front guard.

I do like the line that sweeps from the rear wheel arch to the base of the front guard – check out the images, the way the light falls on it is pretty.

Even the Cerato S comes with cool body kit features like a gloss black rear diffuser, roof top spoiler and gloss black grille.

The Cerato S comes with cool body kit features like a roof top spoiler and gloss black grille. The Cerato S comes with cool body kit features like a roof top spoiler and gloss black grille.

The cabin has a premium look, with clean styling and a great layout of controls. Letting the tone down slightly are hard plastics which aren’t just confined to the S grade, but higher spec Ceratos, as well.

The S and the Sport grade above it look identical, apart from their wheels: the S has steel wheels with hubcaps, while the Sport has alloy rims.

The Cerato S is just over 4.5m long, 1.8m wide and a bit more than 1.4m tall. That makes it officially a small car. So how much space is there inside? Yup, we’re about to get to that.

How practical is the space inside?  8/10

My family lived with the Cerato S for a week. It was hot and rainy, we covered almost 500km and used every cupholder, door pocket and storage area on-board.

  • The cabins are also almost identical in the S and Sport. The cabins are also almost identical in the S and Sport.
  • Legroom in the second row is also excellent. Legroom in the second row is also excellent.

What do I wish it had? Bigger door pockets in the back, directional air vents in the back, wireless charging, tinted windows in the rear. And this grade doesn’t have proximity unlocking – when your hands are full nothing beats just tapping the door handle to lock or unlock the car. Instead I had to take the key out each time and press its buttons. 

Storage though is excellent – the boot’s cargo capacity of 428 litres, and I like the little triangular shaped wells either side of it, that were good for holding bottles and plants upright.

  • The boot’s cargo capacity is 428 litres. The boot’s cargo capacity is 428 litres.
  • Under the boot floor is another storage area shaped like a bento box. Under the boot floor is another storage area shaped like a bento box.

Under the boot floor is another storage area shaped like a bento box which we used for sandy shoes or wet clothes and towels.

In the cabin those rear door pockets are small but there are two cupholders in the fold down armrest, two more up front and bigger door pockets there as well.

The bin under the centre front armrest is a good size and there’s a USB charging port in there, while in front of the shifter there are bunk-bed style shelves for your phone and wallet and also two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet. 

As for people space, up front is excellent even for me at 191cm tall with great shoulder and elbow room, while legroom in the second row is excellent – I can sit behind my driving position with about 20mm to spare.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  9/10

The Cerato S is the entry-grade into the model and with a list price of $24,010 it’s the most affordable in the range sitting below the Cerato Sport (which I’ve also reviewed). 

The Cerato S is the entry-grade into the model and with a list price of $24,010. The Cerato S is the entry-grade into the model and with a list price of $24,010.

At the time we published this review Kia was doing a drive-away deal of $23,490 and going by the Korean carmaker’s longstanding offers the special offer may still apply as you’re reading this – so be sure to check its website.

Standard features on the S include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, cloth seats, 3.5-inch LCD instrument screen, electric mirrors, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and 16-inch steel wheels with 205/55 R16 tyres.

Standard features on the S include 16-inch steel wheels with 205/55 R16 tyres. Standard features on the S include 16-inch steel wheels with 205/55 R16 tyres.

While the air-con worked well, the lack of directional air vents in the back meant our little boy was getting warm in the heat of summer 2019.

You’re also missing out on some safety equipment that you’ll get on higher grades – you can read about that is the safety section below. But you can option a safety pack for about $1500 that’ll fix that.

Rivals to the Kia Cerato S? There are stacks – the Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport, the Hyundai i30 Go and the slightly more expensive Ford Focus Trend.

The value is excellent here with a low price that it’s rivals struggle to meet. Seriously, unless you really need built-in sat nav or desperately want alloy wheels (which are really just cosmetic) then the S grade is the smart buy in the range.

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

The Kia Cerato S has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 112kW/192Nm. The same unit powers the Sport and Sport+ grades.

The Kia Cerato S has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 112kW/192Nm. The Kia Cerato S has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 112kW/192Nm.

You can have your Cerato S with a six-speed manual gearbox, but our test car had a six-speed automatic. 

It’s a responsive engine and transmission combination, especially when you knock the shifter over into Sport mode

How much fuel does it consume?  7/10

After 236.7km of testing the Cerato S used 20.36L of 95 RON premium unleaded which works out to be 8.6L/100km. That was measured by brimming the tank at the start, then brimming again at the finish.

About 130km of that was motorway running, while the rest were covered commuting from the 'burbs to the CBD. Kia’s official fuel consumption figure over a combination of open and urban roads is 7.4L/100km.

What's it like to drive?  7/10

Cars like the Cerato S make me happy. Let me explain. I road test more than a hundred cars a year. Most of them cost more than a Cerato S, but not all of them (by a long shot) are as good to drive. 

I’m not saying the Cerato S is a Porsche 911 or anywhere near it because it absolutely isn’t, but for comfort and easiness to pilot the Cerato is excellent. I feel the same way about the Hyundai i30 and Ford Focus. For the money they’re great to drive.

For comfort and easiness to pilot the Cerato is excellent. For comfort and easiness to pilot the Cerato is excellent.

The Cerato S’s front seats aren’t leather or even power adjustable but they're supportive and comfortable, while the base is wide and the back is bolstered to hold you in the corners. I sat in the driver’s seat for three hours straight on one trip and walked away at the end without wincing or complaining about my back once.

The actual seating position is good, too – the manual adjustment allows you to get nice and low.

Then there’s the ride. The suspension has been specifically tuned by Kia’s local engineers and the resulting ride is composed and comfortable, while the car offers great body control and good handling, too.

The 2.0-litre engine is also a winner – plenty of grunt and Sport mode made it more responsive – but also a bit noisy. The six-speed transmission isn’t a quick as the seven-speed dual clutch auto in the GT, but it looks after gear shifts seamlessly the entire time I drove it.

What’s not so great about the driving experience? The steering feels a bit odd when turning just off top-dead centre – it wanted to pull back aggressively. That’s the electric assistance and it’s been set up that way, but it adds a lumpy feel.

A spongy brake pedal, a blind spot at the back because of the tiny port hole rear quarter window, and a reversing camera with not the best picture quality are just a few of the other tiny issues ever-so-slightly colouring an otherwise impressive driving experience.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  7/10

The Cerato S scored a four-star ANCAP rating (from a possible five) in 2019. It didn’t achieve the maximum score because the AEB system doesn’t have pedestrian and cyclist detection. That said, there’s still AEB with car detection and other advanced safety equipment such as lane keeping assistance.

Thing is, you can option that more sophisticated AEB system and turn the Cerato S into a five-star car for an extra $1500, via a safety pack which adds the trickier AEB plus blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.

As you’d expect there are driver and front airbags, front side airbags, and curtain airbags. A reversing camera with guidelines is also standard.

For child seats there are three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.

Under the boot floor is a space saver spare. Under the boot floor is a space saver spare.

Under the boot floor is a space saver spare.

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

The Cerato S is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Kia’s had this warranty in place since late 2014, and it’s outstanding, especially considering most other carmakers are only moving to five years now.

The Cerato S also comes with seven years of capped price servicing. Kia recommends you service the Cerato at 12 month/15,000km intervals with the first capped at $275, the second at $469, then $339, $623, $309, $596 and finally $328. Over seven years you can expect to pay no more than $2939 in regular servicing. 

To top off the great ownership value, the Cerato comes with seven years of roadside assistance. Full marks for cost of ownership here.

Pricing Guides

$26,490
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$19,990
Highest Price
$32,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT (TURBO) 1.6L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $32,990 2019 Kia Cerato 2019 GT (TURBO) Pricing and Specs
S 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $20,990 2019 Kia Cerato 2019 S Pricing and Specs
S (AV) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,790 2019 Kia Cerato 2019 S (AV) Pricing and Specs
S Premium 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,990 2019 Kia Cerato 2019 S Premium Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Price and features9
Design7
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety7
Ownership10
Driving7

“The Cerato S is the smart choice of the Cerato range – the same engine and styling as the Sport grade for about $2000 less. All you’re not getting are the alloy wheels and sat nav. So, if you don’t mind hub cabs, save the money or better still spend it on the safety pack.”

Would you have a Cerato S over an entry grade Hyundai i30? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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