Kore­ans hatch a new plan

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE - Ler­ato Matebese ler­ato@mweb­biz.co.za

Mo­tor News at­tended the launch of the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Kia range

KIA Mo­tors SA has added a hatch ver­sion to the Cer­ato line-up to take on the likes of the Volk­swa­gen Golf, Ford Fo­cus, Mazda 3, and the Hyundai i30. Launched in 2009 in sedan body form, the Cer­ato range in gen­eral and the sporty Koup in par­tic­u­lar left us rea­son­ably im­pressed by what they had on of­fer in­clud­ing good build qual­ity, a host of stan­dard equip­ment, and a strong value for money propo­si­tion.

So, then, the new hatch suc­cinctly treads in the tyre tracks of its sedan and Koup si­b­lings as it is es­sen­tially a sedan with its boot lopped off. In fact both the wheel­base and track mir­ror those of the sedan. From a styling per­spec­tive, it cer­tainly has that Euro­cen­tric de­sign about it with very tidy and un­of­fend­ing de­sign lines. How­ever, I would be re­luc­tant to say that it is the best-look­ing model in the range as that ac­co­lade un­equiv­o­cally goes to the Koup.

In­ter­est­ingly though the com­pany pitches the hatch model at the young fam­ily type who wants a stylish hatch with­out com­pro­mis­ing prac­ti­cal­ity. In that re­gard they cer­tainly have a valid point since both the Koup and Pro C’eed mod­els are unashamedly sporty twoand three-door mod­els.

“The lat­est Cer­ato Hatch is de­signed to ap­peal es­pe­cially to those con­sumers with young fam­i­lies who pre­fer a hatch for its style and en­hanced prac­ti­cal­ity,” says David Si­eff, na­tional mar­ket­ing man­ager, Kia Mo­tors SA.

“The avail­abil­ity of this body style for our C-seg­ment model will en­able Kia deal­ers to meet the needs of a broader range of cus­tomers. This de­riv­a­tive will boost to­tal Cer­ato sales to an even higher level in our lo­cal mar­ket, with a view to ac­cel­er­at­ing mar­ket share in this seg­ment,” says Si­eff.

There are two en­gine de­riv­a­tives avail­able; the 1.6l EX with 91kW at 6 300r/min and 156Nm at 4 200r/min. Then there is the 2.0l SX mak­ing 115kW at 6 200r/min and 194Nm at 4 300r/min. Both mod­els are of­fered in ei­ther six-speed man­ual or six-speed au­to­matic. The said trans­mis­sion is now also avail­able in the Koup vari­ant, which has had to make do with a five-speed man­ual or five-speed au­to­matic gear­box pre­vi­ously.

Shoe-wise the 1.6l is shod with a 205/55/16 wheel and tyre combo while the 2.0l has 215/45/17 pro­file tyres. Boot space mea­sures a spacious — by hatch­back stan­dards — 550l. Stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes leather up­hol­stery in the top model, USB and iPod con­nec­tiv­ity, dual front, side and cur­tain airbags and ABS with EBD.

We spent our launch drive in the flag­ship 2.0l SX model in man­ual guise which, as is ex­pected, drives much like its sedan and Koup si­b­lings. While the en­gine is rea­son­ably perky, bar a slight hia­tus when chang­ing up at high revs, that feath­erlight elec­tric steer­ing re­mains, which is not the best. It is quite vague in the straight ahead po­si­tion and the slight­est tug in ei­ther direc­tion has no feed­back.

Nonethe­less, it is an hon­est and sturdy ve­hi­cle and is rea­son­ably priced, too. Whether it will out­sell its si­b­lings is any­one’s guess, but my hunch is that the Koup will re­main much more in de­mand.

Hav­ing said that it would seem that Kia as a brand has a co­nun­drum of de­mand out­strip­ping sup­ply. As it stands there is quite a lead time be­tween or­der­ing and tak­ing de­liv­ery of your ve­hi­cle which, says Ray Levin, CEO of Kia Mo­tors SA, can be up to six or eight months in some in­stances.

The Cer­ato, ac­cord­ing to Levin, re­mains the best-sell­ing model with 35 917 units sold glob­ally in the first quar­ter of 2011. The world­wide sales in­crease for the Kia brand is said to be about 20%.

A host of new mod­els will find their way to our shores this year. The on­slaught will be­gin with the new Pi­canto and Se­dona VQ (which will fea­ture the 2.2l diesel from the Sorento) in July, while the new Rio hatch and sedan can be ex­pected in Au­gust. The stylish Optima K5 sedan — likely to be called Ma­gen­tis lo­cally — is ear­marked for Novem­ber. In the in­terim all Kia deal­er­ships will un­dergo a re­vamp of sorts to bring them in line with the global cor­po­rate iden­tity cube theme, start­ing with Rand­burg and rolling out to other re­gions in SA.

Pric­ing:

1.6 EX R185 995 1.6 EX Auto R195 995 2.0 SX R205 995 2.0 SX Auto R215 995 All mod­els come with a fouryear/90 000km ser­vice plan and a five-year/100 000km war­ranty.

TRUE BLUE: The Kia Cer­ato hatch, left, is aim­ing to take on some es­tab­lished ri­vals. Items such as that rear dif­fuser are in­tended to pro­vide a slightly sporty look, top. The in­te­rior is the same as that in the sedan, above.

Kia un­veiled the new Rio in Shang­hai this week, due in SA in Au­gust.

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