Kia Cerato VS Mazda 2
- Great value
- Long warranty
- Is it hot or not?
- GT needs more grunt
- Steering feel
- Fun chassis
- Great safety package
- Cheap to own and run
- Tight rear seats
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Dark interior on all but GT hatch
You need a new small car and have $20-30k to spend, max. What do you do? Easy. You take $24,870 and go straight to our sister site autotrader.com.au and get yourself that sweet-as 2015 white Mazda MX-5 convertible with the manual gearbox and 32,141km on the clock.
What? You need more than two seats? And a proper boot? For about the same amount of money? Oh… well this is awkward. Okay, have you met the Kia Cerato, then?
I did, I’ve met them all - every Cerato from this new generation model. I’ve driven the sporty one – the GT on some of Australia’s best roads, and I’ve driven the rest, the S and the Sport, on some of the worst roads.
My family and I lived with them, too. We drove hundreds of kays, did day care drops off, had supermarket car park meltdowns where nobody was talking to each other, singalongs (that was mainly me, by myself), fell asleep in them and did the daily commute in them.
I feel I know the Cerato so well now, I reckon I could almost build one if you gave me the pieces.
Here’s what I learnt about what could be the best value small car buy out there right now. Or there’s the Mazda MX-5.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Mazda2 is the favourite small hatch for the private buyer. While other small hatches have fallen away, the 2 has held firm, its stylish sheetmetal and quality interior setting apart from pretty much every car in its class. It's been in its current shape since 2014, so Mazda has given it a light mid-life spec re-arrangement.
The refresh has not only included a few new goodies and detail improvements, but it's also brought with it a new range-topping GT variant. Sadly, it has not brought a hot or even slightly warm hatch. Still, you can't have everything, especially in a market segment shrinking in favour of small SUV's like the 2's bigger brother, the CX-3. Mazda thinks the 2 can maintain its selling power, though, with the company moving over a thousand a month in 2016, beating the Yaris and only eclipsed by the bargain basement Hyundai Accent.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The drive-away pricing and big features list makes the Cerato great value, and then there’s the practicality and warranty. Also, you have choice between something a little hardcore or more comfortable.
To me, the Sport Plus is the sweet spot in the range. The leather seats, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, proximity key and heated seats clinch it.
The Kia Cerato could be the smartest choice you’ll make this year. Or there’s the Mazda MX-5.
Do you reckon the Cerato is the best value-for-money small car on the market? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The 2 has recently lost sales momentum, but so has the whole segment. VW Polo sales have halved over the past 12 months and even the Hyundai Accent has run out of steam after a big effort in 2016.
The fact the 2 is still shifting 1000 units a month must be a comfort to Mazda as all its competitors, bar the Yaris, have suffered significant drops.
The updated 2 is hardly a revolution but a steady, workmanlike approach by Mazda to "shatter all notions of class to keep Mazda2 the world’s most appealing sub-compact car" should keep things motoring along. The level of safety equipment should go some way to notion-shattering.
It's a close run thing, but the Maxx remains the best of an already impressive Mazda2 line-up. It is a significant extra chunk of money over the Neo, but the addition of MZD Connect and the reversing camera with reverse AEB seals the deal.
The 2 has by far the best safety package of its segment and probably the best interior. Add to that its sparkling chassis, plus a decent level of tech (once you're in the Maxx), and it's a compelling proposition if you can resist the switch to a small SUV. You'll save yourself a fortune if you can.
Do you still prefer a hatchback to a small SUV? Or is the pull of the high rider too great for you to consider a trad hatch? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
What a time to be alive: small cars have never looked better. Have you seen the new Ford Focus or the Hyundai i30? Even the current Toyota Corolla looks sexy.
But does the same go for the new Cerato? The sedan is certainly attractive, but the hatch looks hot from some angles and not from others. The hatch has whiffs of BMW X4 around the tail-lights, although its side profile is not as pleasing as the sedan’s.
Both have the same angry Kia face with signature ‘tiger nose’ grille, while all grades in both body styles have the glossy black diffuser and lower bumper with integrated exhaust.
And that’s a bit of a tip for you right there. See, despite there being four grades and a $12K price difference between the entry level and top-of-the-range Cerato, the difference in styling is almost zilch.
Really, the only way you can tell the difference visually between an S grade and a GT is the wheels and exhaust (the S has hub caps and one tail pipe, not two).
All Cerato hatches have that same body kit, including the roof top rear spoiler. The Cerato sedans don’t miss out – they have a little boot lid spoiler.
If it came down to it, I’d say the sedan is a better-looking car than the hatch.
The cabins are also almost identical although the cloth seats in the S and Sport aren’t as premium looking or feeling as the leather ones in the Sport + and GT, and there are other similarly luxurious elements on these grades such as the push-button ignition and soft-touch plastics. Have a look at the interior photos, I took them myself.
What colours can you get your Cerato in? There are 10, but one ('Sunset Orange') is exclusive to the GT.
Only one is a non-cost option, too – it’s 'Clear White'. The rest are premium paint colours and will cost you extra. You can have 'Aurora Black', 'Gravity Blue', 'Horizon Blue' (which was the colour of my S hatch and looks great), there’s also 'Runway Red' (that was the colour of my Sport hatch and it was hard to keep looking clean), 'Steel Grey', 'Snow White' and 'Silky Silver'. No green and no yellow.
The Cerato is a small car, but not the smallest Kia – that’s the Picanto and it’s tiny. Nope, the dimensions show the Cerato hatch to be 4510mm end-to-end, while the sedan is longer at 4640mm. Both are the same height at 1800mm tall, but their widths are different with the hatch being 1445mm across while the sedan is 5.0mm narrower.
Mazda's 'Kodo' design is very successful in just about any size and shape. The 2 hatch has all the requisite flowing lines and creases, with a more mature look than its perpetually surprised predecessor, which had huge, long headlights that swept up and back into the bodywork.
The sedan almost gets away with it, but not quite. While rather more practical than the hatch (it has a massive boot), the extension on the back is a valiant attempt but, ultimately, looks a bit too high and bustly.
Not much has changed, with the exception of a few paint colours here and trim selections there. The alloy wheels are the same designs as previously but with a different finish, and the wing mirrors now have indicator repeaters. While there are a few new colours, the only extra-cost colour is still 'Soul Red', a reasonable $300.
Inside has also received some minor changes. The steering wheel is more like the CX-9's, with a smaller airbag boss, better buttons and slimmer vertical spokes to reduce the visual weight. Otherwise, the sleek design of the dashboard with its three circular vents remains, and looks as good as ever.
Irritatingly, the instrument layout also remains but the LCD head-up display (Genki and GT) has been refined and given Audi-like graphics. The dash is still a central speedo with two wings either side housing small LCD displays. Maybe it's a personal thing, but I find this dashboard irritating because there seems to be a lot of wasted space. Mazda has made some improvements to the fonts and detailing on the speedo to try and make it more legible.
You can get the Cerato as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. They’re the same size, but which do you reckon has the biggest boot? The hatch? Nope.
See, the Cerato hatch’s boot has a luggage capacity of 428 litres and the sedan’s boot space is 502 litres.
Thing is, the hatch is the more practical of the two because of its tailgate which opens high and gives you a big aperture and you can fold those rear seats down to open up the cabin as a cargo area.
Another practicality win for the hatch is the segmented storage area under the boot floor. The sedan doesn’t get this which is a shame because it’s like a big bento box for wet clothes or muddy shoes.
Storage throughout the cabins of both the sedan and hatch is excellent with two cupholders in the fold-down rear armrest and another two up-front, while the centre console bin is deep (there’s a USB charging port in there, too) and the shelves under the dash were a great place to plonk my wallet and phone. Also hiding in there is a USB charging port, a USB media port and a 12-volt outlet. That top shelf under the dash in the GT also doubles as a wireless charging pad.
Room for people is also outstanding. I’m 191cm tall, and mainly all limbs, yet I had no elbow or legroom issues up front and I can even sit behind my driving position in both the sedan and the hatch with about 20mm of space between my knees and the seatback.
The Sport Plus and GT have directional air vents in the second row, but the lower grades don’t get these. That’s something I find pretty frustrating – my four-year-old sat for two weeks in the back of the Cerato S and Sport through the killer summer of 2019 and it was hot back there.
For passengers, almost nothing has changed. The front seats are comfortable, everything is close to hand and tall folks can survive quite happily. The rear seat is still tight for anyone over 150cm tall and is not a three-adults-across proposition unless they're all beanpoles with no hips. There are now under-seat vents for the rear passengers, though, which is a nice touch at this level.
Front seat passengers have two cup holders and a wide deep slot for holding your phone (even the larger format devices fit) and at the rear of the console is a tray for odds and ends. There is also some space underneath the air-con controls for keys or a smaller phone and it's where the 12 volt power outlet and USB ports live.
Boot space in the hatch is the same 250 litres, enough for a modest amount of shopping or a medium-sized suitcase. Go for the sedan and you'll have a gigantic 440 litres to fill, which is just two litres short of the brand new CX-5. Mazda reckons that's two suitcases' worth or two golf bags. Both variants have a 60/40 split rear seat to liberate more space.
Price and features
You’ve had a look online and you’re a bit shocked to find that your $20-$30k may not go as far as you originally thought, especially when you include the on-roads costs.
But, take a look at its ‘cousin’ the Kia Cerato, too, because I reckon it’s the best value-for-money car on the market right now, and one that no doubt keeps its rivals awake at night as it steals buyers away from them.
The Kia Cerato sedan and hatch are priced the same and the value-for-money is outstanding. The entry grade S with a manual gearbox lists for $20,990, and at the time we published this review you could have it for $19,990 drive-away.
You’d probably think the ‘S’ stands for ‘Sport’ but it doesn’t because there is an actual grade called the Sport which is the next tier up and lists for $25,790 or $24,190 drive-away. Then there’s the Sport Plus which lists for $28,840 and can be had for $27,740 drive-away. At the top of the range is the GT which lists for $32,990 or $31,990 drive-away.
Standard features on the S include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, 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 Sport are almost identical to the S. The only difference is the Sport’s premium steering wheel and shift knob, sat nav, plus 17-inch alloys wheels with 225/45 R17 tyres.
The Sport Plus has the Sport’s features and adds leather seats, dual-zone climate control with rear directional air vents, heated front seats, push-button start, proximity key and LED running lights.
The GT has those features and adds wireless phone charging, a 4.2-inch instrument cluster an eight-speaker JBL sound system and 18-inch alloys with 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber.
Thanks to a weak-ish Japanese economy and currency, Australian buyers won't have to dig any deeper for their better-equipped Mazda2. Prices haven't moved a single cent for either the hatch or sedan (three quarters of sales go to the hatch), starting at $14,990 for the basic 79kW/139Nm Neo manual.
The range rises through the Maxx, Genki and now the GT (replacing the Genki S Pack option), ending up at a CX-3 - and 3 - threatening $23,680 for the auto. Everything above the Neo gets 81kW/141Nm from the 1.5-litre 'SkyActiv' engine, which at the same time is fitted with 'i-Stop' stop-start technology. Drive-away pricing is here to stay, too - just add $2000 to the MLP (the prices I've listed here).
The Neo starts you off with 15-inch alloys, power windows and mirrors, four speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless start and rear parking sensors, low-speed forward auto emergency braking and Mazda's own G-Vectoring technology to improve steering feel and response.
If that's enough for you, the Neo will cost $14,990 for the six-speed manual and $16,990 for the auto. Spend another $2700 and you'll find yourself in a Maxx ($17,690 manual/$19,690 auto). Added to the Neo's spec are a six-speaker stereo with DAB+, cruise control, leather interior bits like steering wheel, alloy wheels, rear AEB and a reversing camera.
The reason you've got a reversing camera on the Maxx and up is because the rest of the range comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen running Mazda's really rather good 'MZD Connect.' While it doesn't have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, it does feature Pandora, Stitcher and Aha connectivity. The Maxx offers sat nav as an option and it's standard on the Genki and GT.
Speaking of the Genki, which is only available as a hatchback, you'll pay $20,690 for the manual and $22,690 for the auto. The extra three large gets you machined gunmetal alloys of 16-inches in size, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, climate control, upgraded cloth trim, body-coloured folding mirrors and LED daytime running lights.
Finally, there's the GT. Unlike the Genki, you can get a GT in both hatch and sedan, priced at $21,680 for the manual and $23,680 for the auto. The extra $990 has mostly gone on the interior. Mazda's designers have gone to town with leather and synthetic suede on the seats and a bunch of leather decoration panels on the dash and armrests, complete with classy stitching. These really lift the mood in the otherwise dark cabin and the themes differ between hatch and sedan. The hatch's contrasting colour is white while the sedan's is a rich brown colour.
Engine & trans
So, you can get a Cerato S, a Cerato Sport and a Cerato Sport Plus, but only the top-of-the-range Cerato GT is the true sporty one in the family.
The rest of the Cerato line-up shares a 112kW/192Nm four-cylinder petrol engine. If you want a manual gearbox, then you can only have it with the base grade S, otherwise the six-speed automatic, that is standard in the others, does the shifting for you.
Both are good powerplants, the 1.6-litre is smaller but more powerful and responsive and uses less fuel. How much less? Which we’re just about to get to.
The SkyActiv 1.5-litre petrol four comes in two specifications. On the Neo, you'll have 79kW/139Nm to play with and you'll go without i-Stop. Small differences include a belt-driven oil-pump and lower compression ratio.
For the rest of the range, you'll get 81kW/141Nm and i-Stop to cut fuel use in town (although this isn't reflected in the official fuel figures on the automatic).
As mentioned above, the GT with its 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder is the most fuel-efficient member of the Cerato family and after a combination of open and urban roads Kia says you should see it using 6.8L/100km in both the sedan and hatch.
When I tested the GT at its launch in January 2019 the trip computer said I was using 7.6L/100km after driving the hatch on mainly country roads and 8.4L/100km in the sedan on similar open roads.
As for the other grades Kia says the combined fuel consumption for the S, Sport and Sport Plus grades with their 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines and six-speed auto is 7.4L/100km. My own testing in the Sport hatch saw me measure bang-on 7.4L/100km (measured at the petrol pump), while the S hatch did 8.6L/100km (also measured at the bowser).
A manual gearbox is available on the S and Kia says you should see it using 7.4L/100km in the hatch and 7.6L/100km in the sedan. Along with that good mileage it's nice to know both engines are also happy to run on regular unleaded petrol.
This is simple. There are only two types of Cerato when it comes to driving. There’s the fast and hard one, or the comfy and easy one.
If you’re looking for a Cerato which is pretty quick and has great handling, then it’s the GT for you. The catch is, the GT’s ride is firm and jarring over potholes and speed bumps.
If you’re looking for something which has a comfortable ride and is fuss-free to drive then the S, the Sport and Sport Plus are for you.
See, Kia set out to make the GT a bit more hardcore – it has a more powerful engine, firmer suspension (the torsion bar set-up in the other grades was swapped for a multi-link system in the rear of the GT), it also sits lower and rides on 18-inch wheels with low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres. The result is a hatch which is knocking on the door of Golf GTI territory.
I drove the GT in hatch form at its launch on twisty country roads and it felt planted, with excellent body control and impressive grip. The only thing lacking was more grunt.
This chassis is now so good it feels like it’s in search of a more powerful engine to match it. The steering also felt a bit ‘lumpy’ in places. Still it’s accurate and not a deal breaker.
That lumpy steering feel is also present in the S, Sport and Sport Plus, too but it becomes irrelevant because these grades don’t have the performance bent of the GT. Instead they have a ride which is composed and comfortable, with an engine that provides plenty of oomph for highway cruising, overtaking and city sprints – especially when you select 'Sport' mode which sharpens throttle response.
And while they don’t have the handling and agility of the GT, I was impressed by how controlled and planted the Sport felt when I tested it over the route I normally take sport cars on.
More importantly, the S, Sport, and Sport Plus are easy and enjoyable to drive. I clocked up hundreds of kilometres in the S and Sport and found the seats to be wide at the base and supportive around my back, and they could be adjusted to find a great driving position.
Kia tunes most of its cars for Australia roads and the job its local engineering team has performed on these lower grade Ceratos is outstanding – the ride is compliant and comfortable and the car has good body control over bumps and corners.
If I could change anything it would be to improve visibility in the rear corners – those tiny porthole-like windows aren’t big enough.
The 2 is already the riot of the segment, with by far the most interesting driving experience when compared with its Japanese and Korean competition. Combining light weight, sharp steering, an enthusiastic engine and two good transmissions, the wee Mazda remains the class leader.
Cars like this are usually a barrel of fun, but when you add in the subtle effects of G Vectoring - where software monitors steering angle and fiddles with the torque to improve steering response and feel - it's even better. The tyres will give up long before you do, but there's still nothing like the 2 in this segment unless you spend another few grand on a Renault Clio or Peugeot 208. And even then...
Passengers will also enjoy the quiet cabin, although the torsion beam rear will keep the rear occupants awake with a bit of clunk thunk over the rough stuff and the ride is fairly firm but not violently so.
As with any Mazda update, there's been plenty of detail work to improve the platform. The 2 was never going to get any wholesale changes, because from launch it was one of the quietest hatches on the market, certainly much quieter than the car it replaced. Mazda has deployed more filler and foam to further dampen the noise and added an acoustic windscreen.
Interestingly, one of the noises that has been attended to is the sound of the rear door closing. Until now an unpleasant clang issued from the rear door but with a change in the position of the panel's reinforcement, it's more a thunk than a clang. Jolly good.
As far as the driving goes, again, it's all in the detail. New damper and spring rates and new bushes all conspire to quieten and sharpen the drive, along with the G Vectoring. It's still good fun and the manual is even more fun than the auto.
The Kia Cerato GT and Sport Plus hatch and sedan scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2019, but the Sport and S were given four stars because while they do have AEB it doesn’t detect pedestrians and cyclists like the version on the top two grades.
You can effectively turn a Sport or an S into a five-star car by optioning the $1500 safety pack which adds that version of the AEB plus blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
The Sport Plus and GT come with all of that advanced safety equipment already. The GT also comes with LED headlights which are much brighter and more intense than the halogen units in the other grades.
As you'd expect all Ceratos come with a suite of airbags, ESP and a reversing camera. There are also three top tether anchor points across the second row – they’re easy to use, I’ve installed my four-year-old’s seat in both the hatches I had. There are also two ISOFIX anchor points.
Under the boot floor is a space saver spare.
The Mazda2's safety package stands apart in this class, incorporating advanced features found on larger, more expensive cars from other carmakers.
The least you'll find on the 2 is six airbags, ABS, rear parking sensors, traction and stability controls. Even the base model 2 has city auto emergency braking (AEB) and Mazda's G-Vectoring technology. The rear seats feature two ISOFIX and top-tether restraint points.
On the Maxx up you have a reversing camera and reverse AEB and the Genki and GT also score reverse cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
The 2 scored five ANCAP stars in September 2015, the highest rating available.
The Cerato is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited km warranty. Most carmakers are only just making the move to five-year warranties, but Kia has had this offering in place for years. The Cerato also comes with seven years of roadside assistance.
There’s also seven years of capped price servicing. Kia recommends you service the Cerato S, Sport, Sport Plus annually or every 15,000km. You can expect to pay $275 at the first service, $469 at the second, $339, $623, $309, then $596 and finally $328 for the seventh.
It’s good to know that after seven years of regular servicing you can expect to pay no more than $2939.
As for the GT Kia recommends servicing it every 10,000km or annually. Servicing is capped at $282 for the first service, $476 for the next, then $346, $630, $317, $604, then $640 for the seventh.
The aftercare Kia offers is outstanding and so the Cerato gets full marks for its cost of ownership.
Mazda's passenger cars are covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and you can stump up $68.10 or $83.50 per year for roadside assist, depending on how keen you are for a rental car if your 2 is out of action due to a mechanical breakdown.
Mazda also offers fixed-price servicing for the 2 and you're expected to pop in to your local dealer every 12 months or every 10,000km. This regime covers the first five services, with prices alternating between $286 and $314 adding up to $1486 for the whole period.
You'll also need to budget for a brake fluid change every two years/40,000km ($64) and a new cabin filter ($80) every 40,000km.