Kia Cerato VS Toyota Yaris
- Great value
- Long warranty
- Is it hot or not?
- GT needs more grunt
- Steering feel
- Striking looks
- Roomy interior for front seaters
- Cheap to service
- Old tech gearboxes blunt the experience
- Driver aids optional on lower variants
- Noisy at highway speeds
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|
There is no other brand of car in Australia with a reputation to rival Toyota's. Think about it – whenever anyone asks about a car for a youngster, or their aunt who doesn’t really drive much, or an older parent, what’s the first brand that’s invariably brought up?
The Yaris has served as the brand’s smallest passenger entrant in Australia since 2005, and more than 220,000 have found new homes in that time.
Toyota has just updated the local range – comprising the entry level Ascent, the mid-grade SX and the top-shelf ZR - and it’s now only available as a five-door hatch after the four-door sedan was deleted from the line-up.
It's fair to say that it's motoring at its most basic, but does it represent good value for money?
|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 light car market continues to be decimated by the intrusion of small crossovers, making it harder for car companies to move metal without adding loads of extras – and bumping up prices.
With items like steel wheels and the lack of basic functions like auto wipers, one-touch indicators, six speed autos and the like, though, has the contemporary looking Yaris missed the mark against newer, better-equipped rivals?
Toyota's reputation for longevity and resale, especially in the smaller cars, is unrivalled in the category, though, and that will play in its favour.
Overall, the Yaris is a solid little city car with an enviable reputation, but maybe just priced a little out of its league.
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.
The Yaris has come a long way from its early days of being, well, a plain old ordinary little hatch. New design tweaks for this update include an overtly sculpted bonnet and bumper treatment and intricate headlight details that help to set it apart from the small-car pack, while the more restrained but tidy rear end brings to mind the brand’s larger Corolla.
The top-spec ZR adds LED headlights and tail-lights to the redesign, while it and the SX also get fog lights.
Inside it's a similar story, with a heavily sculpted, multi-layered dashboard treatment and flat-faced dash and console. Even the door card design and the seats are quite contemporary.
The only design tweaks for this update are restricted to the use of piano black plastics in place of some silver trim… and that’s it.
The use of 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps on the base Ascent and even on the mid-grade SX model spoils the look a bit, while on the inside it's too easy to find an ocean of hard-touch plastics that reveal the Yaris’s modest price point.
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 small Yaris five-door, five-seat hatch is comfortable even for the tallest of drivers, with great visibility, easy-to-read controls, and a steering wheel that's adjustable for both height and reach.
Toyota's ubiquitous small touchscreen multimedia system controls functions like audio, Bluetooth, phone streaming and radio across the three models, with satellite navigation added to the ZR.
There are climate control dials instead of buttons for the Ascent and SX, while the ZR gets a digital readout. All three miss out on small, nice-to-have features like one-touch indicators and a digital speedometer.
The steering wheel features controls for audio and phone, while basic cruise control is standard, as well. The exterior mirrors are electric, and the driver's window sports an auto-up function, while the other three are normal. The ZR’s wheel is covered in a thick leather, while the SX makes do with a thinner leather-like cover, and the Ascent is left au naturel.
While the central speedometer is large and easy enough to read, the switches for the Toyota 'Safety Sense' gear – standard on the ZR and a $650 option on Ascent and SX, comprising AEB, lane departure warning and auto headlights - are randomly scattered across the length of the dash.
Speaking of the auto headlights, they just don't work very well at all, unfortunately. In high beam mode, they are unable to pick up oncoming headlights in time to dim quickly enough, and they won't even switch on if there is the merest hint of reflected light alongside even a darkened road.
For rear seat passengers, it’s a pretty basic story, with reasonable headroom but not a lot of knee and toe room if taller people are in the front. The middle sash belt retracts into the roof, too, making it a bit difficult to use.
There are two ISOFIX points on the back seats, but no cupholders or bottle holders in any form for rear seat passengers - they can share a single cupholder between the front seats, though.
There’s a pair of side-by-side cupholders in the front, along with a couple of small slots in between the front seats, thanks to the lack of a centre console bin.
There are a couple of pockets moulded into the plastic of the centre console between the seats, but they are not very deep and don't hold items particularly securely. The front doors do have bottle holders, along with small pockets.
The rear hatch measures 286 litres across all three variants, and there’s also a false floor that that allows you to hide smaller belongings out of sight. It also makes for a level loading area when the 60/40 split fold seats are dropped.
There is a space-saver spare underneath the floor.
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.
It costs $15,290 RRP for the 1.3-litre four-cylinder Ascent manual and $17,330 for the 1.5-litre SX self-shifter, with the optional four-speed automatic transmission needing $1530 more. The auto-only 1.5-litre ZR costs $22,470, an increase of $650 that’s reflected in the addition of the safety gear.
Options are limited to metallic paint at $450, and colours include blue, orange, white, grey, black, red and silver.
On average, the Yaris is priced relatively well in a class that contains cars like the Mazda2 and the Honda Jazz, but new entrants like the updated Suzuki Swift do highlight the fact the Yaris’s mechanical package, in particular, is ageing.
The Ascent comes with a 1.3-litre four cylinder petrol engine, auto headlights but not auto wipers, standard cruise control, steering wheel with controls for stereo and phone, electric windows, manual air, a single USB port and a 12 volt socket.
The SX gets a bigger 1.5-litre engine, fog lights, tinted glass and upgraded cloth trim over the 1.3-litre entry-level Ascent model.
The ZR, meanwhile, gets the 'Safety Sense' system, LED headlights and tail-lights, 16-inch alloys, two-tone cloth trim and automatic single-zone climate control.
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 Yaris uses a naturally aspirated 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine for the base Ascent, which makes 63kW/120Nm, or a 1.5-litre all-alloy four-cylinder petrol engine that’s good for 80kW/141Nm in the SX and ZR.
The little (2NZ-FE) unit is basically a short-stroke version of the larger engine, and also features all-alloy construction.
Fitted with Toyota’s variable valve timing system and a steel timing chain, meanwhile, the (1NZ-FE) 1.5-litre isn’t the last word in refinement, but it delivers a surprisingly spritely mid-range despite a modest torque figure.
Both engines are backed by either a four-speed auto, or five-speed manual (in Ascent and SX, at least - ZR is auto only). Both transmissions are lacking at least one gear to make highway cruising more bearable, while the listless, unweighted feel of the clutch pedal in the manual is quite dispiriting.
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 claims a fuel consumption figure of 6.4 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle across the 1.3-litre and 1.5 litre auto-equipped engines, 5.8L/100km for the 1.3-litre manual, and 5.9L/100km for the 1.5-litre manual.
Over a test period of approximately 200 kilometres on average, we recorded a dash-indicated figure of 7.7L/100km for the 1.3-litre auto, 7.3L/100km for the manual SX and 7.2L/100km for the ZR.
The Yaris will drink 91RON without a drama and uses a 42-litre tank, which equates to a range of about 700km between fills.
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 Yaris is really basic motoring 101. A five-speed gearbox sounds like a throwback to the past, but the performance of the 80kW 1.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine in the SX is actually quite sprightly.
The 1.3-litre auto is a bit more breathless, and is really hobbled when bolted to the four-speed auto – it struggles more to get up to speed.
Things are nicer in the 1.5-litre auto, but that lack of an overdrive gear cruels the car when taking off from rest, or leaning on it to get up to speed, or crest an incline; it just has to work too hard in the lower gears.
A lot of noise from the engine gets back into the cabin, though, and both the manual and the auto Yaris are compromised when it comes to highway cruising, thanks to that lack of a taller gear.
While the ride is comfortable, it can be quite noisy thanks to tyre roar, and it’s not really conducive at all to inter-city touring. The ZR’s larger 16-inch, better quality tyres improve noise and ride comfort, though.
Around town the manual is pretty handy, especially when using third gear, with just enough torque available to pull you around quite comfortably.
The clutch action is pretty average, with no real discernible bite point, which makes it a bit of a chore to use.
The steering is good, though, and its ride and handling is more than acceptable for the class.
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.
Even the basic Yaris has seven airbags and a reversing camera as standard, which are good additions to the range and help it to a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
The 'Smart Sense' kit, which adds forward collision prevention (but not AEB) and lane departure warning as well as auto high beam, is a $650 option on Ascent and SX, but standard on the ZR.
As mentioned, buttons to control the optional safety system are scattered at random around the cabin, which makes them less easy to use.
For example, the lane departure warning system uses beeps instead of vibrations or light indications, which is quite irritating, and with the switch within easy reach, it's too tempting to just turn it off.
Likewise, the addition of the automatic high beam headlights really isn't worth the price of admission, given their poor performance in our testing.
Regardless, the addition of AEB in the ZR is worth the price of admission.
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.
A three-year/100,000km warranty comes with the Yaris, which is shorter in time and distance than many of its competitors.
Its six-month/10,000km service intervals are also quite short, offset by a relatively low fixed price servicing scheme. The service interval, though, does reflect the typical usage cycle of a city car.
Over three years, the Yaris should cost around $840 to maintain through a dealer across all variants.