From every angle the all-new Kia Cerato sedan displays a sleek, almost futuristic look, but the low sporty appearance belies the fact that there is more space inside the passenger cabin than in the previous model.

Despite being lower, the new Cerato sedan (a hatch is due to arrive in Australia midway through August) is longer and wider and has a longer wheelbase.

Even with the sporty roofline head room has been improved up front by lowering the seat hip line, there’s also more leg room and occupants can spread their wings into increased shoulder space. Overhangs front and back have been trimmed, yet the boot is bigger than before and takes up to 420 litres of cargo.

Engine and transmission

Kia Cerato sedan comes in three specifications – S, Si and SLi – all with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, the S hooked up to a 1.8-litre four-cylinder multi-point fuel injected (MPI) engine, while the Si and SLi enjoy the extra boost of a 2.0-litre gasoline direct injection (GDI) motor.

Fuel consumption during our week’s test was in the high fives and low sixes on the open road, but 11 to 12 litres per hundred kilometres around town. A generous 50-litre fuel tank has the Cerato comfortably cruising more than 600 kilometres between fill-ups.

The six-speed automatic transmission features fully automatic operation or Sport mode engaged by moving the lever towards the driver when in Drive. Not many drivers ever use this feature, but it’s there for those who like to have a say over what gear the car is in. The steering wheel has tilt-and-rake adjustment. Instruments and controls are purposefully directed at the driver.

Safety

Active safety items include electronic stability control and vehicle stability management that works with the ESC to provide ‘corrective’ steering inputs to help the driver avoid loss of control, especially on mixed wet and dry road surfaces, front corner and rear parking sensors. Passive safety sees the car with are six airbags and the Cerato has been given a four-star Australian NCAP rating.

Equipment

All Cerato sedans have projector-style headlamps, powered front and rear windows, keyless entry, cruise control, trip computer with external temperature display, and front corner and rear parking sensors. Connectivity is by a USB/iPod compatible radio/CD player with six speakers and Bluetooth hands-free

Cerato Si adds 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior highlights, electric folding door mirrors, automatic headlights, rear seat air vents, a 4.3-inch touch-screen audio system with LCD display, push button start and smart key and a reversing camera.

Driving

We were most impressed with the solid feel of the gen-three Kia Cerato. It’s almost as good as many European cars. The new Cerato, like all Kias of the latest models sold in Australia, had a considerable amount of local input in the suspension and steering. While some of the early Aussie-modified Kias can be on the firm side, this new Cerato is impressively smooth in its ride, even over badly corrugated roads.

This added comfort may be due to the fact that the suspension guys have backed off a little on the sportiness of the Cerato. Resulting in handling that is safe rather than exciting. Which is what typical buyers expect from a car in this class.

Noise, vibration and harshness have been minimised by a stiffer body shell and new vibration-damping front subframe mountings. The rear parcel shelf and cargo bay have insulating filling. In addition, the front side chassis members, A-pillar and side sills are filled with acoustic foam and there is a dynamic damper fitted to the shorter of the front drive shafts.

The electric power steering has three settings to match customer preference with Normal, Sport and Comfort modes, the effort required to turn the wheel varies with mode, while the number of turns lock-to-lock remains the same. It’s hard to go past Comfort mode for day-to-day city driving.

Storage is good, thanks to a glovebox that’s grown by 30 per cent, front door pockets capable of holding a 700-ml bottle and rear door holders for 500-ml bottles. The centre console incorporates a covered two-litre multi-box, ahead of the gear lever, twin cup holders, behind the gearshift and on the rear centre armrest a 5.6 litre box between the front seats. Soft-touch materials further enhance cabin surroundings.

Verdict

Though style is likely to be the big talking point in the new Kia Cerato sedan, there’s a lot more to be considered. It has decent handling that’s tuned for Australian drivers and roads, it’s well equipped and sells at a highly competitive price.