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Driven: Kia’s cornerstone Cerato hatch lands sub-$20k

Hatched: The Kia Cerato hatch will almost certainly be the top-selling variant in the range.

New-gen, Corolla-rivalling Kia Cerato five-door arrives, joining its sedan sibling


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15 Aug 2013

PHASE two of Kia Australia’s third-generation Cerato small-car roll-out commences this week with the launch of the “cornerstone” five-door hatch variant, priced from $19,990 drive-away.

The arrival complements the sedan, which went on sale in April, and precedes the new-generation Koup, due by year’s end. By that time, Kia says it will have a refreshed range fit to steal more sales from the small-car segment’s dominant players.

And while the volume hatch arrives late to the party, the Korean brand hopes it will make up for lost time by becoming the most popular bodystyle on offer. The previous-shape hatch accounted for up to 70 per cent of sales, and this trend is earmarked to continue.

Of the roughly 250,000 small-cars sold in the total Australian market in 2012, 61 per cent of these were hatchbacks.

Kia will offer three specification grades from launch - S, Si and SLi - two petrol engines (entry grade and high-grade) and either manual or automatic transmissions. There’s no diesel available anywhere in the world, with the Cerato’s European sibling the Ce’ed flying the oil-burner flag.

Base S variants are powered by a 1.8-litre ‘MPI’ petrol engine producing 110kW (5kW fewer than the old one) and 178Nm at a high 4700rpm, matched to either six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. Fuel consumption depending on transmission is 6.6 litres per 100km or 7.1L/100km respectively.

As mentioned, the S kicks off at $19,990 ($2000 extra for the auto), on par with the Toyota Corolla, $500 more expensive than the base Holden Cruze (made in Australia) and $1000 more than Nissan’s cut-price new Pulsar.

However, the base S will be available on a driveaway basis from launch, making it cheaper in real terms. The mid-range Si and flagship SLi will will not be sold driveaway, with the prices mentioned being the list prices.

Standard equipment includes steel wheels, electric front & rear windows, keyless entry with burglar alarm, cruise control, power steering, trip computer with external temperature display, chrome exhaust pipe tips, a USB/iPod-compatible radio/CD player with six speakers and Bluetooth hands-free, and front corner and rear parking sensors.

Step up to Si and SLi model grades (from $23,990 and $27,990 respectively), and you upgrade to a 129kW/209Nm direct-injected 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine, bringing the zero to 100km/h sprint time down to 8.5 seconds in manual guise.

These power outputs are just shy of ‘warmed-up’ rials such as the 132kW Cruze SRi and SRi-V and the 140kW Pulsar ST-S and SSS, and about on a par for pricing. These so-called ‘warm hatches’ are de rigeur at the moment, with Hyundai also entering the fray next week with its locally-tuned i30 SR.

Again, six-speed manual or a $2000 more expensive auto are offer, both of which return claimed combined fuel economy of 7.4L/100km. SLi auto versions get paddle shifters.

Si versions get extra standard equipment such as 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior highlights (belt-line and exterior door handles) electric folding exterior mirrors, auto headlights, adjustable rear seat air vents, a 4.3-inch touch-screen audio system with LCD display, push button start and smart key, and a rear view reversing camera.

The flagship SLi comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, leather-trimmed, front-heated seats with eight-way power adjustment, LED daytime running lights and HID headlamps, LED rear light clusters, dual-zone climate control with automatic windscreen de-fogging, a titl-and-slide sunroof, a TFT LCD cluster display and a cooling glovebox.

Kia will sell you a version with satellite-navigation and a seven-inch screen for an extra $1000, but only on the flagship SLi variant. Several other rivals come with sat-nav as standard for less.

On the safety front, there’s more high-tensile steel and six airbags on all variants. ANCAP won't publish the result of its Cerato test until Monday, but it is expected to be a five-star car. Kia says this will translate to more fleet sales than the old model, which was restricted by its four-star rating.

The new Cerato hatch is 10mm longer than its predecessor (4350mm), 10mm lower (1450 mm) and 5mm wider (1780 mm). The wheelbase has been extended by 50 mm (to 2700 mm) and - incongruously - is now the same as the Sorento SUV.

This long wheelbase adds extra rear legroom, and because the cabin floor is lower and the seat ‘hip-points’ have been dropped, passengers will find increased headroom (12mm in the front and 10mm in the rear) as well. Luggage space is a good 385 litres, more than 100L than before. The rear seats fold flat 60:40.

A stiffer bodyshell and new vibration-damping subframe mountings are said help NVH levels, alongside a new engine-bay bulkhead design and more sound-deadening materials. Kia claims to have cut steering wheel vibrations and reduced cabin clamour by up to 3 dB.

Under the engine is a fully-independent MacPherson strut suspensions set-up, with a simple, cheap and space-saving torsion beam at the rear. Electric power steering with three adjustable levels of resistance is standard, and as with most Kias, the suspension tune is calibrated just for Australian roads.

The result of 42 months design, engineering and development work and an investment of more than 300 billion Korean Won ($256 million), the third-generation Cerato models will be manufactured at Kia’s Hwasung facility in Korea.

All Kias get a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing.

Kia Cerato hatch pricing

1.8 S manual - $19,990 d/a
1.8 S auto - $21,990 d/a
2.0 Si manual - $23,990 plus ORC
2.0 Si auto - $25,990 plus ORC
2.0 SLi manual - $27,990 plus ORC
2.0 SLi auto - $29,990 plus ORC*SLi an extra $1000 for navigation

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