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Car reviews - Kia - Cerato - GT hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Sharp pricing, high specification level, sporty looks, premium cabin, generous rear legroom, turbo-petrol punch, responsive automatic transmission, strong body control, surprising grip
Room for improvement
No manual transmission or sunroof option, limited rear headroom, could be even warmer, fake induction sound, firm ride on country roads, numb steering, stereotypical understeer

Kia warms up sharply priced Cerato hatch line-up with turbocharged GT flagship

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Kia logo17 Jan 2019

Overview
 
IGNORING the ill-fated and awkwardly named Pro_cee’d GT that lasted less than two years on the Australian market, it’s become easy to imagine Kia as the humble brand that doesn’t have a performance-focused small car … until now.
 
With the release of the fourth-generation Cerato, the Korean marque has stepped up to the plate, reusing the GT badge on a hatch and sedan that usher in turbocharged power for the first time.
 
We’ve put the former through its paces to see how it stacks up, but with it positioned as a warmed-over offering and not a fully fledged hot hatch like its Hyundai i30 N cousin, does it go far enough? Read on to find out. 
 
Drive impressions
 
The easiest way to add some spice to a model that has long been naturally aspirated is to turn to a turbocharger, and that’s exactly what Kia did with the Cerato’s new GT flagship.
 
Out is the regular model’s 112kW/192Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, with it replaced by the Hyundai i30 N-Line’s 1.6-litre unit that produces a much healthier 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1500 to 4500rpm.
 
As these outputs suggest, performance is plentiful, with turbo lag kept brief and a strong band of mid-range torque quickly leading to a fleeting moment of peak power, making for much better performance than the atmo engine can muster.
 
In fact, this is a turbo-petrol unit that is keen to rev, so it pays to make use of every revolution, but just don’t expect a nice ‘hot hatch’ sound when you’re accelerating.
 
Kia has gone down the uninspiring route of adding a fake induction sound to the GT when it is warm and under load. The loud noise is just silly and isn’t even that aurally pleasing.
 
Exclusively harnessing the engine’s outputs is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Yes, there is no manual option to be found here, which is disappointing considering the mechanically related i30 N-Line has an optional six-speed unit.
 
The seven-speeder provides quick, smooth gear changes and is very responsive to heavy acceleration, quickly kicking down a ratio or two when called upon.
 
Shift across to its sport mode and the transmission calibration changes on the fly, with shift points noticeably moved to higher engine speeds. This is very useful during spirited driving.
 
Also useful are the paddle-shifters that engage the dual-clutch automatic’s manual mode that is more than happy to bounce off the redline with no override in sight.
 
With the engine and transmission sorted, Kia turned their attention to the Cerato’s ride and handling, making significant changes that are unique to the Australian market.
 
Significantly, the GT rides on a more sophisticated independent multi-link rear suspension, as opposed to the regular Cerato’s torsion beam.
 
Limited by its single damper tune, the local engineering team favoured dynamics over comfort, benchmarking the GT against European hot hatches, such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 308 GTi.
 
In reality, the firm Australian tuning is evident, with the bumps and lumps of country roads felt by occupants. It’s not unforgiving like some sportscars, but it’s certainly less comfortable than the i30 N-Line’s predecessor, the SR.
 
However, it’s not all bad news as the trade-off is exceptional body control through the twisty stuff. A hint of body roll is experienced when pushing hard, but that’s it.
 
While the GT’s motor-driven power steering remains electric, it has been remapped for this sportier application.
 
As a result, it is quick and direct when darting through tighter corners, while its well-balanced weight can be increased when shifting the transmission into its sport mode.
 
The steering set-up’s only main shortcoming is its numbness, which is a key issue for a model that’s benchmarked against higher-performing hot hatches.
 
The Cerato’s chassis is definitely capable of managing the GT’s extra punch, but its communication levels are just not quite there, limiting driver confidence.
 
Being a front-wheel-drive vehicle, stereotypical understeer also undermines dynamics at times, but only when taking on more challenging bends with intent.
 
Either way, the grip provided by the GT’s 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres is immense, with them holding onto the tarmac with ease.
 
So, the GT is fairly comprehensive package, which must mean it commands a hefty premium over the regular Cerato, right? Not quite.
 
Priced from $31,990 driveaway, the GT is only dearer $5800 dearer than Sport+ variant below it, and it significantly undercuts the similarly equipped i30 N-Line Premium that retails for $34,990 before on-road costs.
 
This bang for your buck is, of course, punctuated by Kia’s industry-leading seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with seven years of capped-price serving and roadside assistance.
 
Despite its sharp price, the GT does not rob buyers of standard equipment, with standout features including wireless smartphone charging, heated and ventilated front seats, and much more.
 
However, for those that enjoy a few extra rays of sunshine, a sunroof is not available with the GT due to the unavailability of a panoramic-style unit that Kia views as being a more competitive offering in the Australian market.
 
Advanced driver-assist systems are also plentiful, with highlights including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
 
Overall, the hatch experience is very similar to that of the sedan that launched in June last year, with the exception of the GT that noticeably ups the exterior styling ante with its pleasing bodykit and red and black accents.
 
Inside, the cabin is also a familiar space, with nice soft-touch materials adorning the dashboard and front upper door trims, while the hard plastics used elsewhere don’t look or feel cheap.
 
Elsewhere, the GT delights with its supportive front sports seats that feature red stitching and accents to hammer home its sporting intent, while Brushed Silver trim increases the ambience.
 
The Cerato’s 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system remains one of the best executions of the ‘floating’ design yet, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support sure to also please technology lovers alongside the GT’s unique 4.2-inch multi-function display.
 
Up the back, a slightly different story is told as the hatch’s fastback-style roofline comes into play to detrimental effect.
 
Behind our 184cm driving position, legroom is very generous, but headroom is limited to about an inch, having decreased by 23mm between generation three and four.
 
Conversely, shoulder-room is up 10mm, but this gain does little to counteract how difficult it is to sit three adults abreast in the second row, with the tight toe-room on offer making matters worse.
 
With 140mm added to the hatch’s rear overhang, cargo capacity has made a sizeable jump, up 43L to 428L. The low sill and wide aperture of the tailgate make loading bulkier items really easy.
 
Given its price, specification, aftersales offering and level of performance, buyers in the market for a warm hatch should find the Cerato GT really hard to ignore. Its i30 N-Line cousin has a thing or two to think about.
 
As such, it’s easy to look past the GT’s numb steering and firm ride to appreciate how comprehensive of a package it is, particularly from a vehicle dynamics perspective.
 
However, the GT just makes you wonder what Kia could do to hot the Cerato up even more in the future. The i30 N’s spare parts bin is only a stone’s throw away, after all…

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