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First drive: Sleek new Kia Cerato sedan arrives

Energiser: Kia’s new Cerato takes the Korean brand’s image further upmarket, with smart looks and a strong package overall.

Fully redesigned Kia Cerato small sedan arrives in Australia – and ticks most boxes

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9 Apr 2013

THE third generation of Kia’s all-important small car has come a long way from the sedan it has replaced, evolving into a model the Korean brand hopes will help it grow market share as buyers step up from lighter cars, or down from larger ones.

As expected, Kia has maintained a starting price of $19,990 for the four-door, matching key rivals such as the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Pulsar – and slightly undercutting others in Australia’s biggest market segment – while adding value with more equipment and other selling points.

Indeed, the Cerato is now longer, wider and lower to the ground than the model it replaces, while outside it has matured into something you could imagine showing off proudly to the neighbours.

For the same-as-before money, you now get Kia’s 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 110kW of power and 178Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed manual, or for $2000 extra, a six-speed automatic gearbox.

In one respect that is a backward step from the previous model, which kicked the range off with a 115kW version of the now-superseded 2.0-litre engine, but a big leap forward in terms of official combined-cycle fuel economy, which falls from 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres for the manual and 7.7L/100km for the auto to just 6.6L/100km for the manual, or 7.1L/100km for the auto.

Kia says the new 1.8-litre engine, which does not include more bowser-friendly direct injection technology, was included in the Australian line-up because it is sold in other markets where fuel quality is an issue. Dirty fuel and fuel injection, it appears, don’t mix.

The base S model sits on 16-inch steel wheels sporting Nexus tyres, and unusually for an entry-level car in this segment, standard kit also includes foglights, front corner and rear parking sensors, cruise control and a folding key.

New across the range is what Kia calls a “flex steer” steering system. It uses an electrically assisted steering servo to help lighten the load for drivers, but Kia has given it three different settings – comfort, normal and sport – so drivers can determine how much assistance they need.

Like the suspension, the flex steer system has been tuned specifically to Australian tastes, Kia says.

The cheapest model also gets enhancements that have traditionally been reserved for higher-priced versions, including body-coloured bumpers, doorhandles and (heated) wing mirrors, and power windows all around, including an auto up-down function for the driver.

The driver’s seat has six-way manual adjustment, while the steering wheel includes adjustment for both reach and rake.

The audio system feeds out to six speakers, and includes a USB with auxiliary input, and a Bluetooth phone connection that the driver can control from the steering wheel.

Kia claims the boot of the new Cerato is larger than before, gaining six litres over the sedan it replaces to post a 421-litre space. It is made more useful using a 60/40 split-fold rear seatback that rolls forward at the pull of a lever hidden in the boot.

While boot room has increased, the use of more high-strength steel has helped Kia to shed between 42 to 67 kilograms of bulk, depending on the model variant.

For safety, six airbags, including head-protecting side curtain airbags, are standard across the Cerato sedan range, while every seat has a seatbelt reminder that can alert the driver if someone is not plugged in.

Kia says it expects the new-generation Cerato sedan to improve on the previous generation’s four-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) crash rating by scoring the maximum five stars when it is tested.

Stepping up to the $23,990 mid-range Si replaces the utilitarian interior of the entry-level model with something a bit more special, plus a new 2.0-litre direct-injection engine.

The four-cylinder “GDi” engine produces 129kW/209Nm and returns fuel economy of 7.4L/100km with either the standard manual gearbox or optional automatic.

Naturally, the 2.0 GDi also offers improved acceleration over the 1.8, reaching 100km/h from standstill in 8.5 seconds (auto: 9.0s) compared to the 1.8’s 9.3 seconds (auto: 10.2). Top speed is 210km/h, up from 205/202km/h (manual/auto) on the 1.8.

Inside, it gets a so-called “premium” interior, which replaces the plastics in the cheaper car with some carbon-fibre-look surfaces, but also adds genuine cowhide to the steering wheel and gearbox boot. There is also some faux leather trim on the front doors to soften the experience and match the top of the instrument cluster.

While only single-zone air-conditioning if fitted, it feeds out through a pair of vents to rear passengers.

Other niceties include dusk-sensing headlights and puddle lights that illuminate around the Cerato when it is unlocked, keyless push-button start, folding exterior mirrors, a rear pocket on the passenger-side seat, chrome highlights on the outside (including exhaust tip) and automatic window function for the front passenger, while a colour touchscreen that includes a reversing camera replaces the entry model’s dash-mounted monochromatic screen.

The Si also sits on 16-inch wheels, although this time around they are alloy and clad in Continental ContiSportContact rubber.

At the top of the pile, for now, is the $27,990 SLi version, which also features the 2.0-litre engine, with paddle shifters available for automatic versions.

The extra spend for the SLi also attracts equipment including 17-inch alloy wheels (again clad in Nexen rubber), an automatically dimming rearview mirror, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, Xenon headlights, leather-trim seats (including eight-way electric adjustment with lumbar support for the driver), a sunroof, alloy pedal trim, colour LCD screen in the instrument cluster, a chilled glovebox, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, and heated front seats with a cooling function for the driver.

A sat-nav system that takes advantage of the colour seven-inch screen mounted high on the dash of the top-spec SLi will be available soon as a $1000 option.

Kia’s new sedan will sell alongside the current hatchback version until the latter is replaced mid-year. Meanwhile, the current Cerato Koup two-door version will remain on sale in Australia until late this year, when the new model recently rolled out at the New York auto show reaches our shores.

Kia Cerato sedan pricing*
Cerato S$19,990
Cerato S (a)$21,990
Cerato Si$23,990
Cerato Si (a)$25,990
Cerato SLi$27,990
Cerato SLi (a)$29,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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