A new Kia Cerato five-door hatch has arrived in New Zealand, meaning the South Korean marque now boasts the fullest selection of vehicles in the all-important small-medium segment of the new car market. reports.
The Kia New Zealand management looked so pleased with themselves at a recent media conference, it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had suddenly begun dancing a little jig of delight.
They would have had good reason, too: they have just ended two years of frustration over not having a small-medium hatchback to sell.
Granted, they have had the Cerato sedan and the Cerato-based two-door Koupe since last year, and those two models have done well – the sedan accounting for 5.9 per cent of total Kia sales and the Koupe, 3.4 per cent.
But what the Kia people have been missing is a hatchback, something that could allow them to compete head-on with such product as the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and the Volkswagen Golf.
There hasn’t been a hatch since the company stopped selling the previousgeneration Cerato two years ago.
It had intended to replace it with the Slovakia-built C’eed, but that plan stalled when the global financial crisis severely affected the value of the New Zealand dollar.
This meant Kia New Zealand found itself forced to sit and wait until a hatch version of the latest Cerato became available for sale.
It must have been a frustrating time, because small-medium five-door hatchbacks are extraordinarily popular. Worldwide sales of such vehicles are forecast to grow from 920,000 last year to 1.22 million by 2012. Even now, in New Zealand, hatchbacks make up 64 per cent of sales in the small-medium segment, which accounts for 29 per cent of the total new vehicle market.
So it was little wonder the Kia New Zealand team were looking pleased with themselves on Tuesday when they introduced the motoring press to the new Cerato hatch – a nice-looking, roomy and well-specified contender in that market segment dominated by the world’s most popular car, the Corolla.
Kia New Zealand general manager Todd McDonald said his company is targeting annual sales of at least 450. Although nowhere near the 1800 sales achieved by Corolla, 450 sales would still make it the third most popular Kia in New Zealand behind the smaller Rio hatch and the Sportage SUV.
‘‘What it will do is help make the Cerato model line the most popular in the Kia stable,’’ Mr McDonald said.
At the front the Cerato hatch is identical to the sedan, and it has the same doors, width, height and wheelbase. But the rest of the body is new, and the very fact it is a hatch means the rear overhang is reduced by 190 millimetres, making it shorter overall. It all looks rather nice. The rear features tail-lamps with etchingprocessed lenses, and they are split across the tailgate’s shut lines. The tailgate opens up to reveal a cargo area 385 litres in capacity – less than the sedan’s 495 litres, but more than the hatchback opposition.
On Tuesday, the Kia New Zealand team kept comparing the Cerato hatch against the Corolla, Mazda3 and Golf, which they see as the main opposition.
They pointed out that not only does the Cerato have the most boot space, but it also has more front and rear leg-room, and easily the most head and shoulder room.
Powering this new hatch is Kia’s Theta II in-line four-cylinder petrol engine with continuously variable valve timing, a unit that develops 115 kilowatts of power and 194 newton metres of torque.
What is different is that the engine is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission that has also now been installed into the Cerato sedan and Koupe.
Compared to the four-speeder that used to be in those two models, this transmission has 62 fewer parts, and is 41mm shorter and 12 kilograms lighter – making it the most compact six-speed auto on the market.
In the Cerato LX this automatic can be operated tiptronic-style using the hatch’s floor-mounted shift lever, while the more upmarket SX has paddles on the steering wheel. It is an impressive transmission.
A short drive programme out into the countryside north-west of Auckland showed the auto was a fast-acting unit that works well with the engine.Also rather good is the hatchback’s ride and handling.
Specification levels are good for what immediately appeals as a very good new hatchback. I think it’s going to help Kia New Zealand celebrate a rather happy Christmas.