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Used Kia Cerato review: 2004-2013

2004 Kia Cerato.
Kia Cerato has become more visible on buyer radars in the last year or so, primarily because of its excellent new styling.

Kia Cerato has become more visible on buyer radars in the last year or so, primarily because of its excellent new styling. Previously it had been on the bland side, now it has real character. Of course it’s the bland models that are by far the most common on the used-car front so these are the ones under scrutiny here.

Incidentally, the Cerato name has only been used since July 2004, but its predecessors are worth considering if your budget only runs to an old car. Names to look for are Kia Mentor, Shuma and Spectra. Koreans feel that each new model deserves a new title, whereas Australians like to hold onto a name indefinitely. The local importers have cottoned onto that fact and Cerato seems set for a long stay here.

Note however that the Cerato’s ancestors don’t have its build quality and handling dynamics. One of the excellent things about the Kia Cerato is that it’s set up with Euro-style driving dynamics. The suspension is supple and works well, even on the rough Aussie country roads. Noise and vibration are well damped and coarse-chip road surfaces don’t create as much din as in many cars.

If you’re a keen driver may we suggest you save up your pennies and go for the latest model Cerato you can afford as there have been continual improvements over the years.

Kia Cerato is sold as a four-door sedan and five-door hatch. The sedan models were often introduced before the hatches so there was on overlap of new and old bodies at times.

Interior space in the Cerato is good with no headroom problems either front or rear. It also passes the four-adult test for rear legroom without any real compromise being needed from the front occupants.

We should perhaps mention another Cerato model – the Kia Koup, introduced in September 2009, carries 'Cerato' badges but is generally seen as a different model altogether. Your call, though, it’s an interesting car with an unusual shape and we do love the way the marketers have chosen to call it a Koup rather than a Coupe.

Most Kia Cerato models are powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. This gives it enough power and torque for most owners, but some would like a bit more grunt to match the dynamics of the chassis, particularly on the most recent model. The all-new Cerato of 2013 has a new design 1.8-litre engine in place of the old 2.0. It provides more performance and uses less fuel whilst doing so.

Five-speed manual gearboxes were used until they were replaced by a modern six-speed unit late in 2010. The latter is an excellent unit with a good feel through the lever and a good choice of ratios.

Four-speed automatic transmissions, fitted prior to March 2011, do a reasonable job, but you will find them hunting up and down for the best ratio at times. Far better is the six-speed auto, installed from 2011.

Kia Ceratos have quite a simple mechanical layout and can be serviced and repaired by good amateur mechanics. Don’t forget to buy a workshop manual.

Spare parts and professional repair costs are reasonably priced. Kia dealers are mainly set up in metropolitan areas, but some country towns are starting to gain dealers as well. Insurance is usually costed in the bottom third of the premium scale and we haven’t seen any big variations from company to company.


Handbrakes can be over adjusted causing premature pad wear on the rear brakes. You may feel and hear the pads rubbing slightly on the discs during your test drive. Fuel remote release cables can stretch making removal of the fuel cap difficult, check for yourself.

Some Ceratos had audio unit failures, though it’s likely the defective unit will have been replaced by now. Check the full range of modes in the system to be sure.

Incorrectly serviced variable valve timing units can fail due to poor oil quality blocking the oil passage. As always, we suggest having a vehicle serviced by a professional, preferably one with people trained on the vehicle type.

Look for body damage in areas such as the rear bumper which often seems to get scarred by people carelessly loaded the boot.

Former crash damage usually shows up as ripples in body panels, colours that don’t match correctly and even wheels out of alignment. If you’re in the least bit unsure call for a professional inspection.


Damage to the rear seats and boot floor are often signs a car has had a tough life as a family hack. And for some reason family hacks don’t alway get their service done on schedule. Which is probably connected to tight budgets and lack of spare time.


Year Price From Price To
2013 $6,050 $15,620
2012 $4,950 $12,760
2011 $3,850 $10,010
2010 $3,300 $7,370
2009 $2,640 $6,270
2008 $2,750 $4,730
2007 $2,640 $4,070
2006 $2,420 $4,070
2005 $2,310 $4,070
2004 $2,310 $3,850

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Range and Specs

(base) 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,999 – 4,990 2004 Kia Cerato 2004 (base) Pricing and Specs