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Kia set for new Cerato chassis workout

Tune up: An example of Kia’s new third-generation Cerato small car is already in Australia, ready for local chassis development.

Hand-built 2018 Kia Cerato test car arrives secretly in Australia for local tuning

Kia logo22 Jan 2018

By RON HAMMERTON

A PRE-PRODUCTION 2018 Kia Cerato sedan has arrived at Kia Motors Australia’s (KMAu) headquarters in Sydney, ready for an immediate start on local chassis tuning ahead of the Australian sales launch of the all-important new-generation small car this year.

The so-called SUTI – industry jargon for Single Unit Type Inspection homologation vehicle – touched down in Australia under cover this month, just days before the third-generation Cerato was publicly unveiled in its American Forte form at the Detroit motor show last week.

The example hidden in Kia’s basement in Sydney has already been inspected and given the tick of approval by federal transport officials for Australian design rule (ADR) compliance, and so can be registered, ready to hit the road.

Now that the car has been revealed globally, there is no need for camouflage when consultant engineer Graeme Gambold starts testing, firstly on roads within Sydney and then further afield, in places such as the Hunter Valley.

It is the usual treatment for Kia vehicles sold in Australia where the company’s cars have won acclaim for their standards of ride and handling, despite being regarded as budget buys.

Mr Gambold has already laid the groundwork for the tuning process, receiving detailed suspension and steering data and travelling to Hyundai Group’s vehicle development centre at Namyang, South Korea, before Christmas to drive the car and consult with Kia engineers, as well as Kia’s suspension component suppliers.

The latter will send technicians to Australia during the testing process to turn out revised components, such as dampers, to order as Mr Gambold homes in on appropriate suspension and steering settings for Australian conditions and tastes.

The Cerato sedan – to be built in South Korea for Australia – will be launched locally about June, with the Cerato hatch to follow in the fourth quarter.

KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith got his first in-the-flesh look at the Cerato in Sydney just 24 hours before the rest of the world saw the vehicle in live webcasts from Detroit.

Mr Meredith told GoAuto that the new, slightly bigger Cerato with its Stinger-inspired design should make a contribution to increased sales for Kia again in 2018.

Last year, Kia sales soared 28.3 per cent to 54,737 vehicles, with sales of the top-selling Cerato rocketing up 42.9 per cent, to 18,731 units in the year to December 31.

Mr Meredith said he expected that hectic growth of Kia sales – averaging 23 per cent for three years – to slow somewhat this year, to about 10 per cent, giving Kia a sales target of 60,000 in 2018.

Based on 2017 figures, this is likely to result in a four-way race between Kia, Volkswagen, Nissan and Subaru for the minor placings in the VFACTS top 10.

Mr Meredith said he saw potential for incremental growth in a number of Kia models this year, including Stinger, Picanto and Cerato.

He said he also would like to see further growth in sales of the Sportage medium SUV which is set to get “a bit of a tweak” this year.

Mr Meredith said he hoped Cerato this year would improve on its 18,731 sales in 2017 before growing beyond 20,000 in the first full year of the new model in 2019.

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