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Chicago show: Turbo five-door Kia Cerato hatched

Slinky: The Korean-designed Cerato (nee Forte) hatch appeared for the first time today in Chicago.

Potent petrol engines headline US launch of Kia Cerato hatch due in Australia July


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8 Feb 2013


KIA has staged the world premiere of its new-generation, Korean-designed Cerato five-door hatch ahead of its local debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne in July.

The stylish new model picks up a pair of potent petrol engine options (at least in the US, where it is called Forte), an extensive list of standard features and styling reminiscent of the upmarket European Cee’d – albeit with a slimmer version of Kia’s signature pinched grille design.

The unveiling in Chicago overnight is phase two in a series of Cerato world debuts to be held in the US, following the sedan in Los Angeles last November and ahead of the two-door coupe (Koup) in New York in late March.

The sleek hatch follows the stylistic trend set by the sedan, and continues Kia’s recent track record of injecting a more premium design into its mainstream models – notably the Rio and Optima.

Leading the charge for the US market’s locally built hatchback range will be a hot turbocharged SX variant using the 1.6-litre force-fed four from the European Kia Pro_Cee’d and sister company’s Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo.

The Korean company has long been expected to introduce this 150kW/265Nm engine to the new Cerato, although not from the first day of production. The SX will be sold in the US alongside an entry variant using a still-above-class-average 2.0-litre GDI petrol engine producing 129kW and 209Nm.

However, do not expect to see the 150kW turbo engine in Australia when the hatch launches in July (three months after the sedan first arrives), with Kia’s local arm to instead offering and an entry variant using the current-generation’s 2.0-litre 115kW/194Nm MPI engine priced from around $20,000, alongside the warmer 129kW GDI.

Unlike the US market, Australia will again source its Cerato range from South Korea, hence the opportunity for the smaller and cheaper price-leading MPI powertrain.

Both engines will be available with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, the latter with paddle shifters.

As we have reported, Kia Australia is instead pursuing the European Pro_Ce’ed GT as a standalone turbocharged performance leader.

The company’s local arm is understood to have been unaware of its parent company’s plan to introduce the turbo Cerato to the US this early.

Kia Australia public relations general manager Kevin Hepworth said this week in Chicago that while a hotter Cerato would be considered, no firm plans were in place.

Although, as we reported this week, this could change should its pitch to import the Pro_Cee’d GT here fall over.

The current, soon-to-be-replaced Cerato was Kia Australia’s biggest selling model in 2012, with most private buyers opting for the hatch rather than the fleet-friendly sedan.

Kia Australia said pricing for the new model would be class-competitive and close to the current model, which is one of the segment’s cheapest offerings, priced from $19,390 plus on-roads (sedan) and $19,640 (hatch).

Mr Hepworth said the car would continue to be offered in S, Si and SLi trim versions, all of which would be “loaded” with features and priced where the market dictates.

“It’s not hard to look at what cars are coming out at, and it will be absolutely price competitive and value-plussed (sic),” he said.

This points to a price around $20,000 which would keep the Kia sharp against rivals such as the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Pulsar (both from $19,990), Hyundai i30 ($20,990), Mazda3 (from $20,330) and Ford Focus (from $20,290).

The base Forte in the US comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear camera display, Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio and cruise control buttons, tilt and telescoping steering column, power windows and LED positioning headlights with fog lights.

The SX ups the ante with standard 18-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips and LED tail lights. The hot version gets an aggressive front fascia with larger bumper and grille openings, black gloss grille inserts, larger front brakes, alloy sport pedals, front and rear seats with carbon fibre-style accents. The lower front fascia and rear valance also feature mock carbon fibre trim.

Underneath, the Cerato features “sport-tuned” suspension with a MacPherson front struts and multi link at the rear. Also standard is Hyundai/Kia’s adjustable Flex-Steer system that adds or removes weight from the steering depending on the mode.

Australian version will – like all local Kias – have suspension and steering tunes calibrated on Australian roads and adjusted specifically for our unique conditions.

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