The popularity of the five-door Cerato hatch is growing yearly and now leads from the Rio to claim top sales for Kia.
Interest in the Cerato should keep expanding with the release of 2013 Cerato teaser images, which give a glimpse of the new car that arrives in Australia around the middle of next year.
In the meantime, Kia has released a limited edition of the current Cerato, offering a few extra bells and whistles on top of the standard specs.
With the Cerato, Kia sets out to challenge its rivals with competitive pricing and a sharpened design thanks to chief designer Peter Schreyer.
As a result Kia’s market strategy of targeting those who want a “European” style car at an affordable price has brought Kia up to speed with the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Holden Cruze - market leaders in this segment.
Priced from $21,490 for the manual and $23,490 for the auto the LE is $1850 more than the $19,640 manual base model hatch. Standard features include six speakers and an MP3 compatible CD player.
It’s also worth noting that all new Kias come with a five year unlimited kilometre warranty, as well as the recently launched industry first five-year capped-price service program Kia Connect. So what does the limited edition get you? On the outside the LE has 17-inch alloys, chrome tip exhaust, rear parking sensors and front fog lamps.
And on the inside there’s a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, tilt telescopic steering and Bluetooth connectivity. Colours available in the limited edition include racing red (only available in the hatch), clear white, ebony black, bright silver and titanium silver. There’s also the option of metallic paint which adds a further $400 to the price.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine gives you 115kW of power and 194Nm of torque via a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. We tested the auto with an official combined fuel figure of 7.7L/100km, while the manual gets 7.5L/100km.
Schreyer is on a mission to make Kia cars top notch when it comes to styling. The shape of the Cerato is fresh and modern, with sweeping lines somewhat similar to a coupe body. The Cerato has Schreyer’s signature ‘tiger face’ chrome grille flanked by two narrow headlights and the rear gets a spoiler and chrome exhaust tip. It’s an eye catching vehicle that draws attention wherever it goes - in racing red it was a real head turner.
The interior is a contrast to the outside, as the layout of the dashboard is simplified. So while the gadgets are there -- like a MP3 compatible CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel mounted controls -- the design may seem plain to some drivers. However, those that are looking for a clear console without a pernickety layout will find that in the LE.
The 385L boot is about standard for this class of car and has sufficient room for a weekend away. But for longer trips with more baggage, you’ll definitely have to drop the rear seats, thankfully easy to do.
Safety features include six airbags, an anti-lock brake system, electronic stability control and speed sensing auto door locks. It’s a wonder the limited edition doesn’t buy you a rear vision camera but the wide side mirrors do provide clarity of vision.
The LE also comes with rear parking sensors that beep persistently whenever you’re near an obstruction. Sometimes they beep when there is nothing there which is a bit annoying.
We drove the LE through a variety of driving conditions -- city roads, highways and rough country roads -- and really experienced everything the hatch has to offer.
Starting off in busy urban streets, the small car has the right amount of go on the road with a spark that lets you know the 2.0-litre engine is alive. The Cerato serves well through the city and provides reasonable control through corners, with good suspension. The automatic transmission shifts sinuously through gears which makes this car ideal for a first time driver - even climbs aren’t a problem.
The LE definitely ticks all the boxes when it comes to city driving, so we decide to venture onto major highways to really see how it goes. Pressure is put on the small car due to a bit of extra holiday baggage; of course the handling is understandably heavier and it takes a bit of extra throttle to get the car going.
But once the car takes off it’s impressive for what it is, gliding effortlessly along at highway speeds. The only major criticism is the large amount of road noise that enters the cabin at high velocities.
We also took it onto rough country roads - admittedly not what it’s made for. The LE doesn’t like rural surfaces and sends gravel flying at every turn, propelling vibrations throughout the car. Overall, while it doesn’t shine on gravel and dirt, that’s not where most of these cars will live and once we are back on busy city streets the Cerato feels at home.
Don’t worry about the badge because the equipment list and impressive styling make the Cerato LE great value for money.