Car reviews - Kia - Cerato - sedan
Value, warranty, dashboard layout, spacious cabin, practicality, ease, functionality, handling, body control, manual gearshift lightness
Room for improvement
Firm-ish ride, road noise, raucous 2.0L at higher revs, light steering, little driver engagement, no exterior boot release on base S, no full-sized spare
New Kia Cerato sedan stakes its claim as safe, spacious, assured and unexciting
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7 Jun 2018
KIA’S unassuming Cerato might be a small car, but it’s big business, accounting for about one-third of the brand’s overall sales.
So the company isn’t messing with the all-new fourth-gen BD-series, building on its popular predecessor’s low price, spacious cabin, long warranty and easy functionality attributes with even more room, excellent standard safety and much improved interior presentation.
Like before, Cerato is neither exciting to behold nor engaging to drive, but it does deliver dependable and secure family transportation with impressive focus.
Deep inside Kia there’s probably a whiteboard somewhere with a Venn diagram showing Corolla on one side, Camry on the other, and the word ‘2018 Cerato’ in the overlapping bit in between.
Now, given how competitive both Toyotas have become over the last few months in their latest iterations, elevating a Cerato to such heights would be a massive leap forward indeed, particularly considering how perfunctory the outgoing version was.
Pleasantly styled, affordable, roomy, dependable, practical, quick, capable and economical? Sure. Exciting, desirable, refined and engaging? Not so much.
On sale now in sedan-only guise ahead of the yet-to-be-revealed hatchback version due late in the fourth quarter of this year, the Cerato is, frankly, more of the same, but better.
Much better, in a few key areas, including standard safety features (with AEB), interior space, front seat comfort, handling control at speed, dashboard design, multimedia functionality and – crucially – value. Because previously, a low price didn’t always automatically translate to high value.
Visually, the preceding model’s soft and sleek design gives way to an elegant if conservative fastback silhouette that hints to the extra length (and width) offered inside. Not that the last one was cramped.
We only managed to drive the S (which will account for the largest share of sales out of the S, Sport and Sport+ triumvirate). But even this base Cerato is a pleasant place to spend time in, with a stylised German-like minimalism to the dash layout that looks smart, works well and still scores high marks for practicality or ease.
On-brand instrumentation clarity (with digital speedo), improved all-round vision afforded by the low cowl, great multimedia, supportive front seats and sufficient driving-position adjustability really lift the cabin.
Moving to the back, the Kia feels longer than regular small sedans, with generous rear-seat legroom and Camry-esque width.
There’s a welcome lack of squeaks, ample vision brought on by deep side windows, and even a centre armrest with cupholders. And as the styling suggests, the boot is massive.
On the flipside, the base Cerato is missing rear air vents and seat-back map pockets, while the amount of dark grey in the back is a constant reminder that you’ve bought the least expensive version – compounded by a strong off-gas odour that smells cheap, a cushion base that’s too short for adults, suspension thump and a tad too much road noise intrusion, probably from the tyres.
Key fob aside, having no exterior luggage release in the S is a bit of a pain too.
It’s a pity Kia chose to carryover the 2.0-litre atmo four-cylinder engine as well, because though it is a fairly lusty performer in either featherweight six-speed manual or quick-shifting six-speed auto guises, with more than ample throttle response in the lower ranges, this isn’t the most refined powertrain available, undermining all the hard work carried out to make the rest of the Cerato quieter and more civilised.
Yes, it’s more than acceptably hushed when tootling about, but plenty of revs are required to really get the Nu-series engine to hustle along when overtaking, for example, which in turn brings with it quite a racket and some harshness when extended. Imagine how much better the Cerato would be with a smaller-displacement turbo heart instead?
The chassis deserves it. Not the last word in feel or feedback, the light steering is at least consistent and easy; through fast corners the chassis’ sporty tune results in surprisingly flat and planted road-holding, while the ride – at least on the S’ 16-inch steelies – is on the acceptable side of firm, up front anyway.
We feel that higher-quality tyres than the Kuhmo and Nexen rubber as fitted to the launch vehicles as sampled would help transform the dynamics, reducing road drone and maybe even adding a layer of comfort.
Over a couple of hundred kilometres of urban and rural driving through Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, it is clear that the fourth-generation Cerato is a massive leap forward for the series.
The added safety gear, intuitive multimedia, maturity of design, attractive dash, easy controls, improved seating, capable dynamics and roomier cabin, collectively, are enough to put many small sedan competitors on notice.
They build on the model’s traditional low price and long warranty attributes to make the new Cerato the most rounded Kia in this class ever.
But the chassis deserves keener steering as well as an engine that is sweeter and livelier. The ride isn’t as smooth as it could be and the rear-seat experience isn’t quite as grand as all that space promises, for adults at least.
The Cerato sedan, then, is one of the most improved vehicles we’ve driven this year. Exciting it is not, but as dependable and capable small sedan, it makes for an interesting bargain-basement Corolla/Camry in-betweener.
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