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Kia Cerato


Toyota Corolla

Summary

Kia Cerato

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.1L/100km
Seating5 seats

Toyota Corolla

The all-new Toyota Corolla 2018 hatchback is here, and it has you in its sights.

Not literally. And not the car. Toyota, the brand that has been the number one seller in the country for the past 15 years straight, wants you to buy even more Corollas, because being the best-selling passenger car for the past few years in a row isn’t enough.

The story here, though, is that there’s less of a focus on fleet buyers, and more focus on everyday consumers. And to say that another way, the brand has pushed away from the base-model drive-away deal approach for the new Corolla, instead focusing on a higher-price-but-much-higher-spec way of thinking.

So, prices are up. There’s no base model equivalent anymore. And it comes loaded with equipment. Does that combination make the new-generation Corolla hatchback the best example of its type to date? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Kia Cerato8/10

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.


Toyota Corolla8/10

A truly compelling Toyota Corolla? You bet - that’s exactly what the new-generation model delivers, and not just due to the fact it’s a good looking car - it’s also good value, has a strong focus on safety, and is now theoretically better to own than ever, too. If you need a really roomy hatchback you need to look elsewhere, but for a style statement - I can’t believe I’m writing this - the Corolla could be for you.

My personal pick of the range is the ZR hybrid, which has efficiency in terms of driving and space. But the pragmatist in me reckons you get a lot of Corolla in SX 2.0-litre guise - it's a value option that's hard to ignore.

Are you drawn to the new Toyota Corolla hatch? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Also check out Matt's video review from the Corolla's international launch:

Design

Kia Cerato7/10

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.


Toyota Corolla9/10

It’s the best looking Corolla, ever. Hands down. 

There’s no point trying to argue otherwise, because the exterior design - particularly for the ZR model - somehow manages to look like a hot-hatch with its body kit comprised of side skirts, a low front spoiler, a rear diffuser and tailgate-mounted rear spoiler. The 18-inch alloys look terrific, and even the lower-grade versions on 16s with a more sedate design look pretty smart. Remember, this is a Toyota Corolla

Rather than looking bloated in size, the sculpted lines and angular edges help tame the dimensions of the new Corolla hatch. It is bigger than its predecessor, with the body measuring 4375mm long (+45mm) and the wheelbase’s extra 40mm (now 2640mm) helping look more planted and substantial than before. The extra width - now 1790mm, up 30mm - and the lower roof (height: 1435mm, down 40mm).

It looks low and wide, sleek and muscled. It’s a chunky little number, and I really think it looks good no matter the grade. What a shame Toyota hasn’t decided to bring the bigger rear spoiler that was fitted to US cars, because it completed the look - particularly for a high-spec car on 18s.

I love that Toyota has made LED headlights standard across the range, too, and the ZR gets even higher-spec bi-LEDs. Some brands still offer halogens in their entry cars, and HID headlights, projector headlights or xenon lights. LEDs are not only longer-lasting, their lower energy consumption and lower replacement cost makes them a logical inclusion. Good on you, Toyota.

I’ll get to the interior dimensions in the next section, but have a look at the interior images and let us know if you prefer the leather trim, or the cloth… I think the latter could be the pick.

Practicality

Kia Cerato8/10

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.


Toyota Corolla7/10

You can’t mistake the new model for the old one, which is more than we can say for some small hatchbacks.

There’s an all-new dashboard design, with less of a slabby look to it and more of a premium appearance. The dimensions state the new Corolla hatch is wider, and it feels like a more open space than the predecessor car. 

The cabin is really nice, well designed and with quality materials throughout. The ZR gets sportier looking seats, but in all models the seats are a big step forward for Toyota - even if you can’t get electric adjustment or memory settings in any grade.  

The fact there’s an electric park brake adds to the simple smartness of the cockpit, and the storage is cleverly dealt with, too - there is not one cupholder but two between the front seats, and there are bottle holders in all the doors, and a deep covered centre bin plus a cubby for your phone in front of the shifter. 

Every model in the range comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, but you only get sat nav built-in on the mid- and high-grade models, and none come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That’s annoying.

But there’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, plus USB connectivity. And in the SX and ZR, you get a rear USB port. 

Speaking of the back seat, there’s only just enough space for me to sit behind my own position, because those front seats - as comfy as they are - have big backs to them and they eat in to the space.

It’s not the benchmark in terms of rear legroom and shoulder space, but it certainly is capable of dealing with a young family of four, if not a family with growing teens. Headroom is questionable in the back for taller occupants, with the ceiling side sections impinging on the space to an uncomfortable degree if you’re my size (182cm).

Plus the fact there is only a black headliner available makes if feel quite cosy in the cabin. Some might say claustrophobic, in fact… Another concern is that the high-spec model gets rear-seat air-vents, but the two lower grades don’t. And the ZR gets nicer door plastics, where the Ascent Sport and SX have cheaper feeling hard plastics.

If you want the most practical hatch out there in terms of boot space and luggage capacity, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. The ZR hybrid model gets the biggest boot size of the range because it has a tyre repair kit instead of a spare tyre. The storage space is 333 litres (VDA), as opposed to 217L in all other variants, whether they have a full-size spare (Ascent Sport petrol) or not (all others).

At least there’s a retractable cargo cover, and you can get a cargo barrier fitted if you prefer to lower the 60/40 split-fold rear seats and turn it into a compact van. Hey, some people do! And those people might also want to get a cargo liner to stop the carpet from getting wrecked.

There are no models with roof rails, but an 'Eclectic Blue' ZR model with a roof rack set-up would look very cool.

Price and features

Kia Cerato9/10

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.

There’s the new Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla and the Mazda3. All great, but they can get quite pricey as you step up through the grades. The Hyundai i30, then? Yep, damned fine automobile. 

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.

The same grade with an automatic transmission lists for $23,790 or $23,490 drive-away. Kia’s drive-away deals are long lasting so check to see if it’s still in place.

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.


Toyota Corolla8/10

How much can you expect today for the new-generation Toyota Corolla? This price list should help guide you through the range of models on offer, and what each will cost.

The entry-level Ascent Sport is available with a 2.0-litre petrol six-speed manual at $22,870 (RRP - that’s the list price, not a drive-away price), a 2.0-litre petrol with new 10-speed CVT auto at $24,370, or a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid with CVT auto at $25,870. Toyota expects the Ascent Sport to make up the bulk of sales, as it did for the previous model (more than 60 per cent).

The next step up is the SX, which is available with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder CVT at $26,870, or a hybrid CVT for just $1500 more ($28,370).

The range-topping model is the ZR, again available with the 2.0-litre CVT drivetrain ($30,370), or as a hybrid at $31,870. That’s pretty affordable for a flagship hatchback - many competitors sit in the mid-to-high $30k range.

To make it easier to do your own models comparison, here’s the spec breakdown for each of the trim levels: Ascent Sport vs SX vs ZR.

The Ascent Sport has LED headlights (with auto high-beam), LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touch screen multimedia system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, voice recognition, USB/auxiliary connectivity and a six-speaker stereo. You’ll need to choose the hybrid model if you want push-button start, keyless entry and dual-zone climate control (you get manual air conditioning in non-hybrid Ascent Sport versions).

All Ascent Sport models come with a plastic steering wheel with audio controls, but at least there’s an electric park brake and a 4.2-inch colour info display for the driver. You can option sat nav and privacy glass on this grade for an extra $1000.

The next step up is the SX, which adds fog lights, tinted windows, a ‘premium steering wheel’, a wireless phone charger, DAB+/DAB digital radio and a navigation system with GPS live traffic updates. The SX has two USB ports (one front, one rear). It has a smart key no matter the drivetrain.

Flagship ZR grade versions look the sportiest of the lot, with a set of 18-inch rims adding some presence. Inside there are heated front sports seats, 'ultrasuede' and leather seats, driver’s lumbar adjustment, a 7.0-inch driver info display, ambient lighting, a head-up display and a JBL sound system with eight speakers (no subwoofer, though). ZR models also gain an electro-chromatic (auto-dimming) rear-view mirror and high-grade bi-LED headlamps.

Other standard features include expected items like power windows for all four doors and a power mirror for each of the front doors, a digital clock, central locking with automatic door lock, and a detailed trip computer. In the boot you’ll find a tool kit to help you change a tyre if you need.

Sadly, unlike some competitor top-spec models, there’s no panoramic sunroof (even as an option), and you can’t get electric seat adjustment on any grade, or a heated steering wheel, either. Models from Kia and Hyundai have those bits, plus ventilated (cooled) front seats on their high-spec wares… but the price is pretty appealing on this flagship Corolla. 

And on the topic of things the Corolla misses out on, there is no Apple CarPlay and no Android Auto - so you’ll have to just connect your iPhone (or other smartphone/mp3 player) via Bluetooth. And while some people think all cars should have a built-in DVD player, CD player or CD changer, that’s not the case here - no new Corolla has any of those things.

Who knows? Maybe Toyota will offer a premium package with some of those bits at a later date… If not that, then a black pack special edition or a sports edition is almost certain!

This model change has seen Toyota focus in on safety equipment - read the safety section to see what’s included on which models. Here’s an early hint, though: the electric power steering allows an active lane assist system, and all models have ESP (electronic stability program) with VSC (vehicle stability control), and manual models have a hill holder function. 

There are eight colours to choose from: there’s 'Glacier White', which is the only no-cost colour, or you will need to add $450 if you choose 'Crystal Pearl' (a nicer white), 'Volcanic Red' (which almost looks orange at times), 'Eclipse Black', 'Peacock Black', 'Eclectic Blue', 'Silver Pearl', and the very fetching 'Oxide Bronze' (which is like a mix of green and grey). 

One nice option for ZR customers is the choice between black or red interior leather highlights - the red looks good in combination with a white exterior paint colour, but in most other instances, the black has a bit more of an understated appearance. 

Accessories for the Corolla are set to include floor mats (ask the dealer to throw them in for free), and while some aftermarket suppliers may be able to fit a nudge bar, we don’t think a bull bar will do the styling any favours. 

How many seats in the Corolla hatch? Five is the answer.

Engine & trans

Kia Cerato7/10

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 GT has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol making 150kW/265Nm. It’s a great engine and Kia has given it a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission for quick shifts.

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. 


Toyota Corolla8/10

Let’s talk engine specs. 

The entry-level engine size has jumped up from a 1.8-litre to a 2.0-litre - still a four-cylinder, but Toyota calls this engine the 'Dynamic Force' petrol engine, and while the name might suggest it’s a turbocharged motor, it’s not.

The direct-injection 2.0-litre’s output ratings have jumped, with power at 125kW (at 6600rpm) and torque pegged at 200Nm (from 4400-4800rpm). The horsepower output is up 21 per cent, while torque is up 15 per cent.

Only in the Ascent Sport grade can you play the ‘manual vs automatic’ game - that spec allows you to choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a newly-developed CVT automatic transmission. The rest have CVT only,  but the manual gearbox has a rev-matching feature. Sporty!

It’s some CVT, though - a 10-speed sequential unit with a ‘launch gear’, which essentially is a conventional first gear like you’d find in a torque converter automatic, and enables “brisk take off”, unlike a regular CVT which can whirr and buzz.

The other option is a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid four-cylinder. As always, things are confusing in terms of power ratings: the engine can produce 72kW (at 5200rpm), and 142Nm (at 3600rpm), the electric motor is capable of 53kW and 190Nm, and the maximum output from the drivetrain is 90kW. It uses an 'e-CVT' automatic.

The hybrid is the conventional type, with the battery pack recharging by way of regenerative braking. You can run on EV mode, but it’s not a plug-in hybrid, so you can’t recharge it at home - rather, you might recharge it on your way home. 

There are no diesel specifications to speak of, as there’s no oil-burner available. The statistics don’t lie - at the time of writing, less than two per cent of passenger car sales are diesel vehicles. Forget an LPG/gas dual fuel version for Australia, too.
 
In Australia, every Corolla is front-wheel drive (4x2). There is an all-wheel drive model (AWD) in markets where snow is more common, but it’s not a proper 4WD or 4x4. You can forget rear-wheel drive - that’s best left for the Toyota 86

The kerb weight of the Corolla hatch ranges between 1320kg and 1420kg, depending on the drivetrain and spec of the car. There is no gross vehicle weight figure given by Toyota.

Fuel consumption

Kia Cerato8/10

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.


Toyota Corolla8/10

The new Corolla hatch with the hybrid drivetrain is the most efficient non-diesel hatchback in its class, with fuel consumption claimed at 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres (if you prefer, that’s almost 23.8km/L). No three- or four-cylinder petrol engine can match that… But if you want the most frugal vehicle in the class, you can’t beat the diesel fuel consumption of the Peugeot 308 (4.0L/100km, or 25.0km/L). 

The 2.0-litre petrol automatic model has good fuel economy, too, using a claimed 6.0L/100km (16.7km/L) which is better than many non-turbo rivals, but not quite as good as the likes of an entry-grade VW Golf. An eco mode, sport mode and normal mode will likely effect the fuel use of the 2.0-litre CVT model.

The six-speed 2.0-litre manual is claimed to use a bit more than the auto: 6.3L/100km (15.9km/L)

Your mileage for the hybrid will be determined by fuel tank size - 43 litres - while the 2.0-litre has a 50-litre tank capacity. 

Now if you plan to fit a tow bar to your Corolla, you best not buy a hybrid version. The petrol-electric model has no towing capacity at all, because of the design of the car. Instead, you can opt for a petrol model with a capacity of up to 450kg for an un-braked trailer, or 1300kg braked.

Driving

Kia Cerato7/10

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.


Toyota Corolla8/10

As with every model the company has built on the new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), the Corolla is better to drive than the model it replaces. And in this car’s case, it’s a quantum leap forward.

Admittedly it’s not the fastest hatchback out there - 0-100 acceleration speed takes a back seat to fuel efficiency, for example - but the performance is better than we’ve known from the Corolla for some time.

A lot of that comes down to the new Dynamic Force engine and its very clever CVT auto transmission. There isn’t a huge amount of power, but there’s definitely more than ample grunt to get things going, and the CVT’s clever launch gear really does make stop-start traffic and green light acceleration less annoying than it used to be. It offers much more zesty engine response than the engine outputs suggest, although it can be a little noisy under hard acceleration.

Of course, the hybrid drivetrain is a tried and tested (you can read that as ‘old’, if you like) unit, and while it doesn’t move the game on for tech, it is usable, fuss free, and largely well refined. You can expect to run about 2.0km on electric power alone. 

The new platform means the entire body of the car - including the centre of gravity, overall height and the ground clearance (135mm) - is lower than before. And it handles like it’s more hunkered down, too.

The chassis is all-new, with MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link independent rear suspension set-up - with a clear emphasis on cornering body control and ride comfort.

There is a slight difference in terms of ride quality depending on the size of the alloy wheels you’re driving atop. The lower-grade variants with 16-inch wheels are slightly more pliant, while the 18 inch alloys have a slightly terser edge to them, particularly over sharp bumps. 

It’s nice to see a big jump in wheel sizes between low/middle and top-spec versions - there are no 15-inch or 17-inch rims, and thankfully no chrome wheels, either…

You will notice, though, there’s more road noise on the bigger wheels (not that the 16s offer the most muted drive, with noticeable tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces), and there’s an impact on the car’s park-friendliness, too. 

The ZR has an 11.4m turning circle (5.7m radius) compared with the 11.0m turning circle (5.5m radius) but the ZR has a slightly different steering ratio, (13.6 compared to 13.5), and what that translates to is a slightly more direct rack in the ZR, and fewer turns lock to lock (2.65 compared with 2.76). 

In short, the ZR feels more sporty to drive. It has a warm-hatch feel to it, gripping better than the lower-spec cars thanks to better, wider Dunlop tyres. It’s genuinely enjoyable to push through corners.

Stopping power is pretty impressive in the petrol, and fine in the hybrid. Both have ABS brakes (anti-lock brakes) and brake assist, so you will stop in a timely and straight fashion, but the pedal feel of the hybrid model’s brakes proved a bit squishy.

We didn’t do any off-road driving, so there’s no comment to be made there. But hey, if you want a compact model with AWD, you’d be best served to check out the C-HR.

Safety

Kia Cerato8/10

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.


Toyota Corolla8/10

There’s no ANCAP crash test safety rating as yet for the Corolla hatch. But Toyota says it anticipates the maximum five-star ANCAP score.

The level of safety features offered on all Corolla models is very good. 

Every automatic Corolla is fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (day and night) and bicyclist detection (day), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist, speed sign recognition, active cornering control (torque vectoring by braking),

If you choose the Ascent Sport manual you miss out on fully adaptive cruise that works at all speeds, down to 0km/h - instead, it gets a ‘high-speed active cruise’ system. Plus the manual misses out on lane-keeping assist.

Corolla SX and ZR models add blind-spot monitoring, but there’s no rear cross-traffic alert. And while every Corolla has a reverse camera, but none come with a surround view camera, nor are there parking sensors fitted to any model as standard (front and rear sensors are available as an accessory option, fitted by the dealer). Unlike some competitors, there’s no semi-automated park assist, either - even in the high-grade.

All Corolla hatchback models have seven airbags, including dual front, front side airbags, driver’s knee and full-length curtain. Further, every Corolla hatchback has ISOFIX and top tether attachments, meaning fitting your baby car seat should be a breeze. 

It shouldn’t really matter where a car is made these days, but there are still people who will ask ‘where is the Toyota Corolla built?’ And the answer varies: for the hatchback models, it’s Japan; for sedans, it’s Thailand. 

Ownership

Kia Cerato10/10

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.


Toyota Corolla8/10

Toyota persists with a three-year/100,000km warranty, which is below par these days. Rival brands Hyundai, Mazda, Ford and Holden all have five-year/unlimited kilometre plans, while Kia extends that out to seven years. 

If you fear the reliability rating for the Corolla won’t be terrific, there’s the option of an extended warranty plan - up to three additional years/150,000km total - which should put your durability doubts at ease. 

But the Corolla can now match the best of them for service intervals, with maintenance due every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. There’s a five-year/75,000km capped price servicing program for the new-generation Corolla, and the maintenance cost is capped at $175 per visit. That makes the service cost for Corolla hatch pretty much unbeatable.

It’s a big improvement over the existing Corolla, which had a three-year/60,000km service plan, and visits for the old model were due every six months/10,000km. You still don’t get included roadside assistance, but at $78 a year it’s not a budget-breaker.

Resale value on Corolla hatches has typically been stronger than some competitors - just be sure to keep your owners manual / logbook stamps up to date to make sure you get the best second hand price possible.

It’s hard to say if there will be any long-term reliability concerns with the new architecture and drivetrains applied in the Corolla range. Be sure to check out our Corolla problems page to see if any complaints, issues, automatic gearbox problems, clutch, suspension, engine or cruise control problems, or any other common problems.