Kia Cerato VS Suzuki Baleno
- Great value
- Long warranty
- Is it hot or not?
- GT needs more grunt
- Steering feel
- Great infotainment
- Zippy at low speeds
- Expensive-looking front end
- Lack of standard safety kit
- Cheapest feeling cabin plastics
- Gearbox noisy at speed
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|
It’s entirely possible there has never been a better time to shop for an entry-level new car, what with our budget bangers now cheaper and more cheerful than ever before.
Yep, entry-level buyers are absolutely spoiled for choice at the moment. And into that congested fray storms the Suzuki Baleno, one of Australia's cheapest new cars, and one you can drive away in for just $15,490.
So how does the Suzuki Baleno stack up in the light-car jungle?
|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 city-car segment is stacked to overflowing with quality contenders, all wearing dirt-cheap price tags. And that's what makes this Baleno a bit of a tough sell. It's perky and fun from behind the wheel, sure, but the safety package and short warranty dents its appeal.
Would you choose the Suzuki Baleno over one of its competitors? Let us know in the comments section 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.
Front on, the pair of fog lights and DRLs add a sense of premium to the view, while the blacked out windscreen surrounds give the roof a kind of floating effect, making the Baleno look a little low-slung and sporty.
There is no escaping the fact the Baleno has been built to a price point, though - the door trims, for example, aren't just hard plastic, but a particularly thin and gnarly feeling material that almost folds in on itself when you push it.
The big question, then, is how much you care about that stuff, because there are some other really cool things going on in the cabin. The tech offering is sensational, with its big and clear touchscreen that's super simple to use and really rather posh looking.
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.
The Baleno might stretch a mere 3995mm in length and 1745mm in width, but clever interior packaging means it never feels overly tight in either row of seats.
Up front, the storage cubbies are all small and uncovered, but there is a power source and USB connection in the centre console. There's no central storage bin, but rather a small square that doubles as a single cupholder for backseat riders.
In the back, there’s enough clear air between my knees and the driver’s seat to not feel cramped (I’m 175cm tall), and there’s space between my head and the roof lining, too. But it would be a cruel driver who attempts to squeeze three adults across the back. And there’s little in the way of comforts back there, with no power sources, USB connections or any real niceties.
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.
The Baleno GL tested here will set you back $16,990 drive-away (for now, at least: the drive-away deal is a special offer) with a four-speed automatic gearbox. The manual is even cheaper, at $15,490 on the road.
That’s peanuts really, given all the stuff you’re getting for your money. There's cruise control, electric windows, central locking and manual air-conditioning, for example. The seats are cloth, of course, but you get a 'leather'-lined steering wheel. Oh, and your 15-inch steel wheels are covered by hubcaps .But you do get dusk-sensing headlights, and fog lights.
The technology is bang on for the money, too; an Apple CarPlay-equipped touchscreen (with standard sat nav) pairs with a four-speaker stereo, meaning you can stream music or podcasts, read and send messages and make phone calls from behind the wheel.
There's a GLX Turbo model that pushes the budget out to $22,990 drive-away. It's auto only, has leather and alloys, and gets a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine, unlike this model. More on that below.
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 GL is powered by a four-cylinder, 1.4-litre petrol engine (the more expensive version nabs the clever, turbocharged 1.0-litre motor). It'll develop 68kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm at 4000rpm.
Which, let's face it, isn't a whole lot of power. But remember, it tips the scales at just 915kg, so there isn't much weight to pull around. That power is channeled through a four-speed automatic, sending power exclusively to the front wheels.
That GLX Turbo I mentioned before? The 1.0-litre turbo triple in it produces 82kW and 160Nm, and has a six-speed auto.
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.
Good news on that front: the Baleno will use a claimed 5.4 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle (5.1 litres should you opt for the manual transmission) which is good. And better, the 37-litre tank happily accepts cheaper 91RON fuel.
Emissions are pegged at 126 g/km of C02, or 118g/km if you choose the manual ‘box.
The GLX Turbo uses 5.2L/100km.
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.
A zippy little city car can be lots of fun when done right, and the cheapest Baleno definitely qualifies on that score.
The trick to these cars is to keep things simple, but responsive. Nobody wants to be darting around city traffic in something that feels as lively as a wet tea towel, and while you could never accuse the little Baleno of being sporty, it does feel perky at slow speeds - which is actually more important in the city.
So that tiny engine delivers its power when you need it, pulling cleanly away from traffic lights all the way to about 30km/h. The power then Christopher-Skase-vanishes as you approach the speed limit, but by then you've mostly settled back into the flow of traffic.
The ride is pretty good, too, erring on the soft side, so it's not sending every bump in the road rattling into the cabin too often, but feeling connected enough to the road below to ensure you know what's happening with the tyres. The cabin insulation could be better, though, as you do get plenty of noise from the outside world.
Downsides? Well, the four-speed gearbox is a bit of a letdown. It's plenty loud, making a harsh-sounding drone when you are too aggressive with the accelerator. And the steering, which works in the city, is confusing when you find yourself on a twisting road. It feels like it's winding on the lock in stages, so there can be plenty of little steering corrections when you're pushing it through corners.
In short, though, it behaves exactly as you might expect a car at this price point to behave, provided you spend most of your time in the city.
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.
You’ll also find two ISOFIX attachment points in the backseat, and a hill-hold function to stop you rolling back when setting off on a slope. But that’s it. No AEB, parking sensors or any other high-tech safety equipment is on offer here.
It is yet to be ANCAP tested, but a 2016 crash test by Euro NCAP served up a disappointing three-star (out of five) result for this Indian-built hatchback.
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.
The Baleno is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty which is, frankly, not long enough. Especially given its obvious Korean competitors are offering five- or even seven-year warranties as standard. Compounding the issue is its six-month, 10,000km service intervals.
Suzuki’s capped-price servicing program does limit your maintenance costs, and the easiest way to explain it is that every fourth service is a major job, wearing a circa-$450 price tag, The three minor services leading up to it are $175 each. Then the cycle repeats.