What is the Kia Cerato S like to drive?
The Kia Cerato S hatch is a fun car to drive. It represents excellent value, is well-equipped, has a great warranty and is engaging to drive.
Before you set foot inside the new Kia Cerato, the car makes a strong impression with one of the coolest key fobs in the category. Even for the base model Cerato S the high-quality unit creates a nice connection between car and driver. It’s the sort of thing you’d feel confident plopping on a table at a restaurant.
Oh, and the lock button is on the top of the fob, like a detonator, which makes locking the car improbably satisfying.
Once up and running, the 2.0-litre engine that occupies the engine bay of all models except the GT is a willing performer, its 112kW/192Nm output more than enough pepper to hustle quickly.
Perhaps the most impressive element of the engine when tested with the six-speed manual is its tractability, able to smoothly accelerate from low revs (1200rpm) without bogging down. The refined nature of the engine will surprise newcomers to the brand and the six-speed manual is likewise a lovely unit to manipulate.
Despite being a ‘big’ 2.0-litre unit, the engine can be frugal if driven in a relaxed fashion. The claimed fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km appeared optimistic but after a week of commuting a couple of 100km-plus freeway drives the end result was a rather impressive 6.7L/100km.
But what I really like about the Kia Cerato is the local suspension tune, which gives the car a more dynamic, confident feel when navigating corners, yet without compromising ride comfort. The responsive handling will also come in handy should you have to perform an evasive manoeuver in an emergency.
Everyday driving in the entry-level Kia Cerato S is aided by the fitment of well-padded seats that feature manual height adjustment, which is great for those who prefer a high-and-mighty view of the road.
What is the Kia Cerato GT like to drive?
Step up to the new turbo-petrol Kia Cerato GT and everyday function improves over the bog-standard model grade. The standard fitment of front and rear parking sensors makes it easy to slot into supermarket carparks, as does the reversing camera.
The main difference with the Cerato GT is that it gets more luxury, more standard equipment, more power and firmer suspension, not to mention a sportier body kit and 18-inch wheels, both featuring tasteful red highlights.
Keyless entry and push-button starting make life a little easier in the Cerato GT, as do auto-folding side mirrors, dual-zone climate control and the fitment of a turbocharged petrol engine. The 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine transfers a useful 150kW and 265Nm to the front wheels, channeled through a seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission.
‘Dual-clutch’ means it shifts a little quicker than most conventional automatic transmissions and also delivers slightly better fuel economy. Claimed fuel consumption is 6.8L/100km and although the best I could manage was 7.1L/100km, I’m happy with that result given the enthusiasm with which it was driven.
The 265Nm of torque is well matched to the seven-speed cog swapper, but more than getting up to speed rapidly, the fiery Kia steers beautifully. The stiffer suspension affords better body control through corners and this results in more grip from the bigger 18-inch alloy wheels shod with sticky Michelin tyres.
Peeling into corners with the confidence of a premiership-winning team playing the wooden spooners, the Cerato GT is rather entertaining when pushed along snaking ribbons of bitumen at speed. The steering is responsive (and the flat bottom wheel is a nice touch), the chassis is predictable and settled, and although the brakes are nothing to write home about, they are dependable.
Perhaps the only quibble with the suspension is that, at times, it’s almost too firm, bumping a little harshly over deeper ruts and pot holes in the road. All models have a space-saver spare too, which will be frustrating if you get a puncture.
The car also makes more engine noise than expected, although most of it comes from an electronic sound generator. Generally I don’t mind this but at around 2000rpm it sounds so fake it feels like you’re driving in a Gran Turismo videogame.
The Kia Cerato GT is kind of like the Jason Bateman of the car world. Very likeable and with just enough charisma to appeal, but not so much bravado as to appear vain and egotistical.
Both the entry-level Cerato S and top-spec GT are good freeway buddies but the lane-centering steering assistant is very average and way off the mark of the Europeans and even some Japanese brands. Adaptive radar cruise control on the GT models was very good, however.
Little touches made journeys that much nicer too, such as wireless charging in the GT and good cup holders in all models, with spring loaded pegs to keep drinks secure.
The trip computers are great, with lots of easy-to-digest information on how long you’ve been driving, the distance, how much fuel you’ve used, how much you have left and so on. The instrument dials are highly legible and the steering wheel controls won’t bamboozle you with their complexity either.
All models are equipped with a high level of safety features as standard, including six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist, auto headlights, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors.
However the low-grade Cerato S and Cerato Sport get a four-star ANCAP safety rating because they miss out on advanced AEB sensors, while the Sport Plus and GT models get a five-star rating.
What’s the Kia Cerato like inside?
All models are equipped as standard with two USB ports, an 8.0-inch LCD touch-screen infotainment system, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality – which means voice recognition for a lot things – among them sending texts or requesting calls.
Sensibly placed controls make fiddling with the temperature or infotainment easy and add a certain classiness to the cabin too. This is not the Kia you might remember from the early 2000s!
Digital radio is standard on all models (which is slowly becoming the norm now) piped through a six-speaker stereo on all models except the GT. The high-spec trim level gets an eight-speaker JBL system that delivers an impressive level of audio fidelity.
The cloth upholstery on the Cerato S seats is durable but not entirely without comfort. If seats are important to you, however, the Cerato GT has you covered. The leather sports seats have a more premium look and feel, featuring heating and cooling and the driver gets eight-way power adjustability.
To be honest, the entire cabin of the GT turbo models looks and feels fantastic, with red stitching everywhere, leather-covered dashboard, a flat bottom leather steering wheel, sliding centre armrest, wireless phone charging, automatic defogging – the list goes on. Suffice to say it’s an exceedingly well-equipped vehicle for the money.
Rear seat room is ample for two adults and up-spec models come with rear air vents too. I had no trouble getting a baby seat in the back of both hatch and sedan models. Boot space is also surprisingly good and the Cerato sedan is perilously close to snatching sales from its bigger sibling, the Optima, with its 502 litres of cargo space.
While the hatch has less space at 428 litres, I can vouch for its ability to swallow a six-foot surfboard with the rear seats folded down – and that’s without the nose of the board protruding into the front occupant cabin space. Versatile? Impressively so.
With a class-leading seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, reasonably-priced (and capped) service costs with 12-month or 15,000km intervals and an improving reputation, the Kia Cerato is a genuine contender in the small car segment.
With a more mature design, improved standard features and impressive value for money, it’s not hard to see why. It’s a bit like a kimchi pancake in some ways. It sounds a bit weird and unappetising but it’s tastiness may shock you.
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