RIGHT ON TAR­GET When it comes to small sedans, Kia’s Cer­ato hits the mark

Daily Mercury - - FIND YOUR CAR ON FINDA - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

As more buy­ers switch to SUVs there are re­newed ef­forts to im­prove the ap­peal of con­ven­tional pas­sen­ger cars. Take the new Kia Cer­ato sedan for ex­am­ple. It’s big­ger than a Toy­ota Camry from 20 years ago — and larger than the cur­rent Corolla and Mazda3 sedans — and equipped with class-lead­ing tech­nol­ogy de­spite not wear­ing a Euro­pean badge.

The price of the base model au­to­matic — the most pop­u­lar vari­ant — has risen from the long-stand­ing dis­counted $19,990 drive-away to

$21,490 drive-away. The man­ual base model re­mains $19,990 drive-away.

How­ever, it’s still less ex­pen­sive than most of its main­stream peers, in­clud­ing the Mazda3, Toy­ota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic, Ford Fo­cus and Subaru Im­preza.

It’s bet­ter equipped than the cheap­est ver­sions of these ri­vals, too, an amaz­ing dou­ble-act that’s likely to ce­ment the Cer­ato’s place in the top five sell­ers list in the small-car class.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes city au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing (AEB), lane-keep­ing as­sis­tance, rear cam­era, front and rear sen­sors, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, dig­i­tal ra­dio, a dig­i­tal speed dis­play and dusk-sens­ing head­lights.

Op­tional on the two cheap­est vari­ants — and stan­dard on the $26,190 drive-away flag­ship — are radar cruise con­trol and AEB with pedes­trian and cy­clist de­tec­tion.

Rear cross-traf­fic alert and blind-zone warn­ing are also avail­able. Un­like most ri­vals, all of the above ex­tra safety tech can be added on the base model, for $1000.

Con­ve­nience items in­clude a one-touch auto-up power win­dow for the driver, three USB ports and one 12V socket.

Both sun vi­sors have large van­ity mir­rors, al­though only the top mod­els are il­lu­mi­nated.

The dear­est model gains leather seats, LED head­lights, built-in nav­i­ga­tion with free map up­grades for 10 years, sen­sor key with push-but­ton start, and dual zone air-con­di­tion­ing.

The ex­te­rior may look fa­mil­iar but this Cer­ato is new from the tyres up, a clean-sheet de­sign from the pre­de­ces­sor in­tro­duced in

2013.

In­side, there’s more head, shoul­der and knee-room and the in­te­rior pre­sen­ta­tion has been given a lift.

The seats have bet­ter cush­ion­ing and fab­rics, the cabin ma­te­ri­als have a higher qual­ity ap­pear­ance and there’s a large tablet-style eight-inch touch­screen in the cen­tre of the dash. The glove­box, cen­tre con­sole and door pock­ets are gen­er­ously sized.

The view from the rear seat is not quite as im­pres­sive: there are no pock­ets on the front seats of the base model. In­stead, there’s a large piece of hard plas­tic to cope with scuff marks.

The top model gains rear air vents and mesh on the seat backs to stow bulky items.

All mod­els come with two Isofix child seat mount­ing points and three top tether latches, al­low­ing for an old-school child seat in the mid­dle po­si­tion.

The back seat split-folds 60-40, al­though the re­lease tabs can only be ac­cessed via the boot.

On the base model the boot can be opened only via the re­mote key fob or a tab in the driver’s footwell, next to the fuel-flap re­lease lever. Dearer mod­els gain a boot re­lease switch un­der the gar­nish near the top of the rear num­ber plate.

Thanks to the growth spurt the boot is mas­sive, up from 482L to 502. This gives the Cer­ato sedan one of the big­gest cargo holds when com­pared to Civic (519), Corolla (470), Elantra (458), As­tra (445), and Mazda3 (408).

Coun­try driv­ers who pre­fer a full-size spare can buy one as an ac­ces­sory and it will fit com­fort­ably in the wheel well. Other­wise, it’s a space-saver as stan­dard.

ON THE ROAD

As with all other Kia cars sold lo­cally the new Cer­ato has ben­e­fit­ted from Australian sus­pen­sion tun­ing. The steer­ing is smooth, light and pre­dictable. The en­gine is not the most pow­er­ful among its peers but it’s perky enough.

Claimed fuel con­sump­tion has gone up slightly thanks to the big­ger body and ex­tra equip­ment .

The con­ven­tional six-speed auto has been re­vised from the pre­vi­ous model; it’s a wel­come point of dif­fer­ence with cer­tain ri­vals that have in­de­ci­sive twin-clutch au­tos or con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sions that seem to strain.

The two most ex­pen­sive mod­els — the Sport and Sport+ — run on 17-inch al­loys with low-pro­file Nexen tyres.

Our pref­er­ence is the base model on 16-inch steel wheels with taller pro­file Kumho tyres for greater com­fort, yet they still steer and corner with con­fi­dence and pre­ci­sion.

Few cars in this price range have lux­ury-car lev­els of re­fine­ment (sound dead­en­ing costs money and adds weight) but first im­pres­sions are that the Cer­ato is on par for quiet­ness on most road sur­faces.

In ad­di­tion to its in­dus­try-lead­ing seven-year/un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre fac­tory-backed war­ranty, the Cer­ato’s main­te­nance sched­ule and costs are bet­ter than most ri­vals.

Ser­vice in­ter­vals are 12 months/15,000km (oth­ers such as the Corolla in­con­ve­niently need to re­turn to the dealer every six

months/10,000km) and the capped price servicing pro­gram is rea­son­ably priced.

The first three ser­vices cost a to­tal of $923, al­though there is a spike at the four

year/60,000km mark ($487).

WHAT’S NEW

PRICE The base model auto in­creases from its long­stand­ing dis­counted price of $19,990 drive-away to $21,490 drive-away but it is much bet­ter equipped. The man­ual re­mains $19,990 drive-away. The Sport is $23,690 drive-away and the flag­ship Sport+ is $26,190 drive-away.

TECH The Cer­ato now leads the class. All mod­els gain cam­era-based au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing (AEB) and lane-keep­ing as­sis­tance in ad­di­tion to a rear cam­era and front and rear sen­sors. Also avail­able are radar cruise con­trol (adding pedes­trian and cy­clist de­tec­tion to the AEB), rear cross traf­fic alert and blind zone warn­ing.

DRIV­ING As with all mod­els sold lo­cally, Kia has tuned the sus­pen­sion on Australian roads. The base model on 16-inch wheels and Kumho tyres is a good all-round pack­age. The Sport pair (both with 17-inch al­loys and Nexen tyres) feel good in dry con­di­tions but wet weather grip could be bet­ter.

PER­FOR­MANCE The carry-over 2.0-litre four-cylin­der is matched to a re­vised six-speed auto or six-speed man­ual. It uses a touch more fuel than be­fore (up from 7.2L/100km to 7.4L) be­cause the new model is slightly heav­ier.

DE­SIGN New from the ground up but with the same foot­print as the model it re­places, the Cer­ato is longer bumper-to-bumper and roomier — it’s big­ger than a Toy­ota Camry from the mid 1990s.

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