AT A GLANCE
SIXTH on the sales ladder is more than good enough for many car brands. Not Kia. And definitely not for the Cerato.
The brand is looking to boost sales by expanding the appeal of its budget small car beyond the current 45-plus group who dominate Cerato deliveries.
After months as a run-out special, with an effective showroom deal at $18,990, the compact Kia is getting what it needs to make a run at the dominant Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.
The price line for the new Cerato sedan and hatch is rock solid at $19,990 on the road.
Midlife updates include a 2.0-litre petrol engine as standard, a new nose with bigger grille opening and smaller headlamps, improved interior trim and fittings, sharper suspension and more safety equipment throughout.
“Our strategy was to add value ... The pricing has remained unchanged for the volume variants,” says Kia Motors Australia boss Damien Meredith. “Drive-away pricing has been one of the great things for our success. We’ve kept the consistency with our pricing. We’re not going to change that.
“Our goal with this model is to break into the top five. I think fourth is where we should be.”
The Cerato definitely drives well for the class and, after Carsguide cited the harsh ride and noisy cabin of the previous model, there has been a lot of improvement. Even the Nexen tyres are a lot better.
Six airbags are standard and Kia Australia says it retains the five-star ANCAP score, although there is still no reversing camera on the starter car. A $500 option pack that includes a camera isn’t available on the basic manual variant.
“If we could get a reverse camera in under $20,000, we would,” says Meredith.
In the 2016 line-up of sedan and hatch, the 2.0-litre loses the outgoing engine’s direct fuel injection. Kia says it’s happy with 112kW/192Nm and claims fuel economy of 7.1L/100km.
The six-speed manual gearbox is available only on the Cerato S, with an auto standard on the S Premium, Si and SLi.
The infotainment is improved on all models. It’s worth getting the option pack on the S auto just to get a bigger display screen, and the S has front and rear parking radar even without a rear camera.
Kia’s suspension guru Graeme Gambold has improved the steering feel and response as well as the stability of the chassis, despite going much firmer on all the settings.
The Si gets blind spot and lane change warnings and the SLi has a forward collision warning, lane departure assist and upgraded stability control.
As always, Kia is trumpeting the longest factory warranty in PRICE $19,990-$32,990 drive-away WARRANTY 7 years/unlimited km CAPPED SERVICING From $2579 for 7 years SERVICE INTERVAL 12 months/15,000km SAFETY 6 airbags, 5 stars ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 112kW/192Nm TRANSMISSION 6-speed man/auto; FWD THIRST 7.1L/100km DIMENSIONS Sedan 4560mm/hatch 4350mm (L), 1780mm (W), 1435mm/1450mm (H), 2700mm (WB) WEIGHT From 1770kg SPARE Full-size alloy (steel on base model) Australia — seven years — and capped-price servicing costs it claims are the best-in-class. The bolder nose means the Cerato now stands out in traffic. The sedan and hatch are not nearly as bland as some rivals.
It’s hard to see or feel much improvement in the cabin but the car is definitely quieter on the go. The six-speed manual has a light feel but few will use it as they go for the auto with new driving mode selector.
Moving up the model range adds comfort and kit but the basic driving feel is much the same. In corners, the tyres on the S roll around a bit. Upspec cars have greater basic grip.
The ride is good, with no thumping or banging, reflecting again the wisdom of proper suspension and steering tuning in Australia. Even on awful country roads north of Sydney the Cerato drives well, for the class and, particularly, the price.
There is every reason to consider — and take — a Cerato in a value-for-money cross-shop against the Hyundai i30. The warranty and running costs also bring it into consideration against a Toyota Corolla or Mazda3. It’s not as well known as those models but it looks good and drives better now after the update. The Cerato is still not the best in the class but it’s more than good enough.