Kia Cerato VS Toyota Corolla
- Great value
- Long warranty
- Is it hot or not?
- GT needs more grunt
- Steering feel
- Great value
- Big boot
- Good rear legroom
- Not as sexy as the hatch
- Hard cabin plastics
- Parking sensors not standard
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|
Do you have a sibling that seems to get all the attention? Feel like you’re playing second fiddle to a superstar? Want one chance to prove you can do everything they can do and more?
|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 Corolla sedan is for those who want affordable, safe, modern and easy driving with great boot space and good legroom in the rear seats. Perfect for ride share drivers, small families, new drivers and those looking to downsize. With the Corolla hatch no longer offering much practicality in a small car, it’s time for the Corolla sedan to step in and shine.
As for a sweet spot, the Ascent Sport Hybrid is the definite pick - it picks up extra features over the petrol version and comes with real-world fuel savings, too.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
Small sedans rarely look good - that seems to be one of the rules of design only broken occasionally by the likes of cars such as the Audi A3. The Corolla sedan isn’t as stunning as the A3 but it is good looking and much more attractive that the generation before it.
The sedan wears the same angry bird face as the Corolla hatch with the super pointy nose and the sleek headlights. I’m a fan of the treatment given to the rear – a refined, grown-up design.
The sedan’s cabin is also a match for the hatch and while the clean design of the dash (now less cluttered with buttons) is pleasing, the widespread use of hard plastics isn’t.
That said, as with all Toyotas, the Corolla feels well-built, while the fit of panels and components appears superb.
Want the dimensions? The Corolla sedan is 4630mm long, 1780mm wide, 1435mm tall with a wheelbase of 2700mm. In comparison the Corolla hatch is 4375mm long, with a wheelbase of 2640mm, 1790mm wide and the same height.
Buyers can choose from colours such as 'Glacier White', 'Crystal Pearl', 'Silver Pearl', 'Ink', 'Wildfire', 'Volcanic Red' and 'Lunar Blue.'
Telling the grades apart is tricky, so look for the wheels – the ZR has 18-inch alloys, while the Ascent Sport and ZX have 16-inch alloys, and the hybrid versions have 15-inch alloys with aerodynamic covers.
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.
One of the few criticisms of the new-gen Corolla hatch was that rear legroom and the boot’s cargo capacity had been reduced compared to the previous model.
The sedan offers more legroom than the hatch and even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare (even headroom is good). As for boot space the cargo capacity of the sedan 470 litres – much more than the 333 litres.
Cabin storage is also good with four cupholders (two in the back and two up front), decent-sized door pockets, a deep centre console bin and a large shelf in front of the shifter which doubles as a wireless charging pad in the hybrid along with the SX and ZR grades.
All grades come standard with a 12-volt outlet and a USB port.
So, for practicality the sedan outshines the hatch. There is no way I can sit in the second row of the hatch behind my driving position and the boot in that car rules it out as a family vehicle.
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 new-generation Corolla sedan has arrived more than a year after its hatchback sibling. Pricing for the sedan matches the hatch grade-for-grade.
The range kicks off with the Ascent Sport which with a petrol engine and manual gearbox lists for $23,335 before on-road costs (add $1500 for the CVT auto) and above these is the a hybrid variant for the first time at $26,335.
The SX sits in the middle of the range and the petrol auto lists for $28,235 while the hybrid is $1500 more. The ZR is the range topper with its list price of $33,635 and it’s only available with a petrol engine and auto transmission.
Standard features on the Ascent Sport include: LED headlights, tail-lights and daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, fabric seats, air-conditioning, and six-speaker stereo.
The hybrid Ascent Sport adds climate control, proximity unlocking and 15-inch alloys.
The ZR gains some luxury touches in the form of heated sport seats up front, synthetic leather upholstery, power driver’s seat, head-up display and ambient lighting.
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 Corolla sedan comes with a choice of petrol engine and, new with this update, a hybrid system.
The petrol variant has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 125kW/200Nm. The entry grade Ascent Sport gives buyers a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT auto. Grades above the Ascent Sport only come with the auto.
The hybrid combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (72kW/142Nm) and an electric motor (53kW/163Nm). A CVT auto does the honours here, too.
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.
Let’s start with the petrol Corolla sedan first – Toyota says that after a combination of open and urban roads it should use 6.0L/100km with the automatic transmission and 6.5 with the manual gearbox.
The hybrid (which is front-wheel drive only) is the mileage hero with Toyota saying the combined fuel economy is 3.5L/100km.
At the Australian launch of the Corolla sedan I drove the hybrid Ascent Sport from Melbourne through peak hour traffic then 97km north along motorways and country roads.
When we arrived at our regional Victoria destination the trip computer told me the car had use at average of 3.9L/100km. The fuel economy of a petrol Ascent Sport driven by a colleague on the same route was 7.5L/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.
The Corolla sedan sits on the same new platform as the hatch and it’s the reason while both these cars ride, steer and handle better than pretty much any of their competitors.
A wonderfully comfortable and composed ride that would be the envy of the some more prestige brands is the standout feature of the Corolla sedan.
Visibility is a little bit obstructed by the long pillars either side of the windscreen, but we’re clutching at straws here. It’s difficult to fault this small sedan from behind the wheel.
Look that 2.0-litre engine is a bit ordinary in that it’s a little dull when matched to the CVT, so if you’re somebody who likes to get more involved in the driving then the manual gearbox offered on the Ascent sport could be the way to go.
Personally, my pick is the hybrid Ascent Sport. A hybrid in a Corolla makes complete sense – the fuel savings are absolutely real and it’s more fun to drive with the way the electric motor offers little nudges of torque when you dab the accelerator while cruising.
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 Corolla hatch scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2018. Coming standard across the range is advanced safety equipment such as AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, auto high beam, lane trace assist with lane centring and speed sign recognition.
All Corolla Sedans also come with seven airbags and a reversing camera.
Stepping up to the SX adds blind spot monitoring, while the ZR brings a head up display.
For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX points across the second row.
Missing here are front and rear parking sensors – these are a dealer fitted option. I think this is outrageous. They should be standard.
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 Corolla sedan is covered by Toyota’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Hybrid versions are also covered by the same warranty including the battery.
Servicing of the petrol and hybrid variants is recommended annually or every 15,000km with the first four services capped at $175.