Takes some bold for­ward steps, but engine is not one of them

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - TONY O’KANE

It’s what’s in­side that counts in new com­pact Korean

CON­SIDER this: the Kia Cerato, so or­di­nary and unas­sum­ing, is re­spon­si­ble for a third of Kia Aus­tralia’s sales. What’s more, those stats are for the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion model, a dis­tinctly av­er­age ve­hi­cle right at the end of its life­span.

How? Well, pric­ing has played a big part in the Cerato’s suc­cess –a key rea­son why Kia has re­tained a com­pelling $19,990 en­try sticker for the Cerato S man­ual – but for the new-gen sedan price isn’t the only rea­son to give it a look-in.

Styled to mimic the broad­shoul­dered and con­fi­dent stance of the Stinger, the new Cerato sedan shares the pre­vi­ous model’s 2700mm wheel­base but is frac­tion­ally larger all around. The front and rear over­hangs have grown with the rear stretch­ing by 60mm, a change which boosts boot space by 20 litres to a large­car-ri­valling 502 litres, seats-up.

The new Cerato’s dash also lifts the cabin am­bi­ence markedly. More up­right with soft-touch up­pers and fea­tur­ing a large tomb­stone-style in­fo­tain­ment screen front and cen­tre, the blobby aes­thetic of the old Cerato’s dash has been ban­ished in favour of a more sat­is­fy­ing de­sign.

The rear seat is spa­cious with gen­er­ous leg and foot room, plus rear win­dows that are low enough for kids to see out of due to Kia’s con­scious move to avoid an up­swept belt­line. Head­room is also de­cent, and a fold-down cen­tre arm­rest houses two cuphold­ers. That said, rock-hard rear door card up­pers and the lack of rear air vents on all but the range-top­ping Sport+ im­part a low-rent vibe to the back seat.

Else­where around the Sport+ you’ll find heated seats, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol in­stead of man­ual air-con­di­tion­ing, a self-dim­ming rear-view mir­ror, key­less ig­ni­tion, power-fold­ing wing mir­rors and ac­tive cruise con­trol. That’s on top of the al­ready-gen­er­ous stan­dard equip­ment level of the base Cerato sedan.

Un­for­tu­nately, lift­ing the bon­net re­veals a carry-over 2.0-litre petrol four-cylin­der that makes 112kw and 192Nm – iden­ti­cal num­bers to the out­go­ing car. And thanks to a kerb weight that’s 19kg heftier than be­fore, fuel econ­omy acu­tally wors­ens to 7.4L/100km.

That’s 0.2L/100km more than the car it re­places, mak­ing the Cerato sedan’s pow­er­train story not just a case of “noth­ing to see here”, but one that ac­tu­ally comes with a penalty. It’s clear that Kia has tried to com­pen­sate by mak­ing the auto’s ‘smart’ shift pro­gram­ming pref­er­ence high gears as of­ten as pos­si­ble, but the end re­sult is a car that feels dozy and slug­gish un­til you re­ally sink the right pedal. In Sport mode it feels rea­son­ably perky, but it’s a shame that’s not its de­fault mode. For­tu­nately, the chas­sis

makes more progress than the engine. A stiffer bodyshell com­bined with lo­cally-honed han­dling gifts the new Cerato sedan with di­rect steer­ing (al­beit de­void of feel or feed­back) and a ride that feels sta­ble and tied­down in reg­u­lar driv­ing. It grips fairly well, but its cor­ner­ing per­for­mance is typ­i­cal FWD Korean – safe, but un­ex­cit­ing.

Be­sides some thump­ing on rough-edged asphalt, the Cerato’s sus­pen­sion is fairly well con­tained, though can bor­der on floaty when the speed gets up and big com­pres­sions are en­coun­tered.

There are some great leaps for­ward with the new Cerato sedan, and ar­guably they’re the most im­por­tant ones to the av­er­age small car buyer – cabin com­fort, fea­tures and de­sign.

It’s just a shame that the big im­prove­ments con­tained within its well-kit­ted in­te­rior haven’t been matched on the other side of the fire­wall.

Good-look­ing in­te­rior; in­fo­tain­ment; back seat; com­fort­able ride

Lack­lus­tre carry-over engine; high-spec AEB only on top-spec Model Kia Cerato Sport+ sedan Engine 1999cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v Max power 112kw @ 6200rpm Max torque 192Nm @ 4000rpm Trans­mis­sion 6-speed au­to­matic Weight 1320kg 0-100km/h 9.0sec (es­ti­mated) Econ­omy 7.4 L/100km Price $26,190 (drive­away) On sale Now

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