Car reviews - Kia - Cerato
Classy new styling details and Kia logo; increased equipment and safety features; spritely handling; build quality
Room for improvement
Lagging engine refinement; GT ride quality still not great; awkward rear-seat backrest angle
Visual improvements disguise same-again driving experience for Kia’s solid Cerato
10 Jun 2021
THERE’S a lot to be said for Kia Australia’s approach to the Cerato.
Offer a handsome, spacious, well-priced small hatch or sedan with leading warranty coverage and a solid reputation for reliability and it’s inevitable that buyers will come. Eventually.
The BD Cerato’s MY22 visual and equipment makeover will surely cement its position on the small-car sales podium seeing that it’s new where it counts and continues to offer persuasive value for money.
However, the only MY22 model to feature anything tangibly different in terms of driving experience is the Cerato GT, and even then, ‘tangible’ seems a bit strong.
WITH Kia’s range-wide design excellence really making an impression over the last few years, its corporate logo has now finally caught up. And the vessel to debut this modernised face of Kia is the refreshed Cerato – the brand’s biggest seller in Australia.
Perhaps ‘refreshed’ is too strong a word – the updated Cerato amounts to little more than model-year tweaking – though the MY22 iteration does bring a (mostly) new look, and it’s a good one.
Both hatch and sedan feature an all-new front-end with new headlights that flow into the razor-blade-like grille, each featuring distinctive ‘dotted-line’ LED daytime running lights, plus LED headlights on GT models.
While all Ceratos get new bumpers, the GT goes one step further with classy red detailing in its grille and in the lower air intake outlining new diagonal LED fog lights.
Under the skin, Kia Australia has attempted to improve the Cerato GT’s firm ride without detracting from its well-liked handling ability by softening its damping tune slightly, though pandemic-related restrictions prevented any changes to spring rates.
The outcome is better by degrees, seeing the GT still offers a far from supple ride, and can feel quite jiggly over broken country-road surfaces. It’s now tolerably firm, rather than finessed.
As for the GT’s other dynamic attributes, it’s as appealing as it always was. Turn in is rewardingly keen, handling balance is excellent and its ability to impress down a twisty road remains unchanged.
At 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, the steering is quick and offers nicely consistent feel in Sport mode, though the electric assistance feels comparatively artificial in Comfort mode.
Speaking of artificial, there’s the GT’s engine ‘noise’. It’s a synthesised overlay that appears when either the drive mode is in Sport, or you flick the transmission lever into ‘S’.
It’s quite vocal yet manages to be neither unpleasant nor particularly inspiring. You just accept it.
Same goes for the GT’s carry-over drivetrain. It misses out on the new-generation 1598cc ‘Smartstream-G’ turbo four from the facelifted Hyundai Kona and new-gen Tucson, instead dusting off that engine’s decade-old 1591cc predecessor.
There’s ample power and decent torque to kick the Cerato GT along, though its union with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission isn’t always slick.
On several occasions we stomped the GT’s throttle (when in Sport mode) to overtake and the DCT shifted down, took a moment to think, then selected an even lower gear.
While that behaviour essentially protects the transmission, it undermines driver confidence and leaves the Cerato potentially exposed to oncoming traffic.
We also drove a base Cerato S with optional Safety Pack.
Wearing high-profile 205/55R16 Kumho Ecsta tyres in conjunction with (unchanged) standard suspension, it’s much more compliant than the GT (wearing very adhesive 225/40ZR18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres) on scarred surfaces.
And while it doesn’t have the grip, the torque, or the driver connection of the GT to deliver similar thrills, it still offers keen steering response (with 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, just like the GT).
Viewed from a pure shopping-trolley perspective, the Cerato S auto is arguably one of the greatest ‘Nanna’s cars’ there is.
Its engine specification is even more basic than the steel wheels it rides on, yet because the Cerato is much lighter than the Hyundai-Kia medium SUVs still blighted by the 2.0-litre MPi, it’s nowhere near as disappointing.
Sure, engine refinement in the Cerato S is an oxymoron, and its transmission isn’t always on its game when choosing an appropriate gear ratio, yet there’s an easy-going honesty about the way it drives.
Cabin-wise, the S with optional Safety Pack is much-improved by its leather-clad steering wheel and gear knob, while the rest of its interior remains nicely designed. Pleasant two-tone cloth upholstery, crisp analogue instrument dials, and decent build quality make it feel satisfyingly solid.
At the other end of the model spectrum, the GT continues to impress with its terrific front seating, classy look and feel, upgraded audio quality and all-round presence – not to mention impressively vast boot space, particularly on the sedan, regardless of model variant.
But what continues to bring all Ceratos down – completely undermining their inherent interior space – is rear-seat comfort.
Children in baby seats or on boosters will be fine but for everyone else, including today’s super-sized teenagers, the awkward backrest angle (it’s way too far reclined) forces a similarly awkward neck angle.
Compared to the really good front pair, it’s a jarring flaw, and one that can’t be cured until the next-generation Cerato (currently under development) appears in several years’ time.
Pity, because otherwise the Kia Cerato – especially in pretty MY22 guise – is a solid thing.
It’s far from being class-leading, yet it’s also unobtrusive enough (apart from that contorted back seat) to deliver painless, pragmatic, satisfying motoring.
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