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Driven: Kia charges forward with new Cerato

Confidence: Kia is confident the value story it has to tell with the facelifted Cerato will see it overtake Holden’s Cruze and become a top-five player in the all-important small-car sales segment.

Fresh styling, driver-assist tech, suspension tweaks headline Kia Cerato update

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Kia logo24 May 2016

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) is aiming to overtake Holden’s Cruze and position the Cerato as a top-five member of the small-car brigade – the biggest-selling segment in the marketplace – with the facelifted series launched this week.

According to KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith, the Cerato is a key component of the South Korean brand’s overall 39,000-unit sales target this year, and the company is working to ensure the small sedan and hatch range becomes a major consideration for buyers.

“The market for the small (car) segment continues to go down but the major players – with the exception of the Mazda3 – there’s been growth in volume for Corolla, Hyundai’s i30, VW Golf and ourselves,” he said.

“In 2013, Cerato was number 12 in the small segment this year our expectation is to be number five. Currently we are number six behind Cruze (and) we are relatively confident we will surpass Cruze this year to take the number-five position.”

The nameplate is one of Kia’s most successful global models, with more than three million sales globally, while in Australia the Cerato is the top-selling model for the brand – notwithstanding the fast-approaching Sportage SUV.

Last year, KMAu recorded 10,392 Cerato sales (not including the niche Koup) – up 52 per cent over 2014 – and to the end of April this year the main Cerato line is up 11.5 per cent with 3465 new registrations.

The brand calls the Cerato a “key plank” in its quest to become a permanent member of the top-10 car brands in Australia – a position that Mercedes currently occupies, and which Honda is determined to regain – and it has largely held pricing firm for the facelifted version of the third generation, which brings a host of improvements.

These include styling revisions, cabin updates, fresh tweaks to the locally tuned suspension, a ‘Drive Mode Select’ system for automatic variants and, depending on the model grade, advanced driver-assist systems such as blind-spot detection (with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert), lane departure warning and forward collision warning.

As part of the launch, KMAu has set a driveaway price of $19,990 for the entry-level S variant with free automatic – the only model grade with the option of a six-speed manual gearbox (over a six-speed auto) and which accounts for around 60 per cent of all Cerato sales.

The pricetag keeps it close to the segment-leading Toyota Corolla (from $19,790 in manual form) and other members of the top five: the Mazda3 (from $20,490), Hyundai i30 (from $20,990), Volkswagen Golf (from $22,490) and the Cruze (from $19,890).

Most of these rivals are currently offering high-value deals such as the i30’s $19,990 with free auto.

Both sedan and hatch body styles are still offered across four model variants – S, S Premium, Si and SLi – with driveaway pricing set at $24,990 for the S Premium, $28,990 for Si and $32,490 for SLi. The latter is the only model to cop a price rise (up $500).

Standard fare on the entry-level S includes 16-inch steel wheels (including a full-size spare), reach- and rake-adjustable steering, cloth trim, manual height adjustment for the driver’s seat, heated and power-adjustable mirrors, cruise control, a trip computer, power windows, two 12-volt sockets, Bluetooth and USB inputs for the six-speaker sound system and manual air-conditioning.

For an extra $500, Kia is offering an upgraded 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit that brings with it a rearview camera, smartphone integration and automatic headlights.

While there are front and rear parking sensors to offset the absent reversing camera (standard on Corolla, i30 and Golf), Mr Meredith said it was a pricing issue.

“Specifically if we could get a reversing camera in under $20,000 we would, but it’s virtually impossible at this point in time,” he said.

The S Premium is fitted standard with 16-inch alloys (including full-size alloy spare), 7.0-inch LCD touchscreen with satellite navigation and rearview camera, along with upgraded interior surfaces.

Stepping up to the Si upgrades the seat trim to leather and adds rear air vents, keyless entry/start, power-folding mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors, chrome exterior doorhandles and window surrounds and, not least of all, driver-assist technology in the form of blind-spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert.

The flagship SLi has 17-inch alloy wheels (with full-size spare), aluminium sport pedals, paddle shifters, dual-zone climate control, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable driver’s seat (with heating and ventilation), seat heating for the front passenger, a sunroof, Xenon headlights, auto-dipping rearview mirror, lane departure warning and forward collision warning.

The upgraded touchscreen infotainment/sat-nav system has the hardware installed for the smartphone-integrating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and KMAu is aiming to be able to “software flash” the vehicles once the licensing agreements are in place, hopefully by July 2016 production.

Standard safety equipment range-wide includes six airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, auto door locking (with emergency unlock), front and rear foglights, front and rear parking sensors with a visual display, electronic stability and traction control and hill start assist.

The exterior has been refreshed by Kia’s California-based design team in line with family styling cues, with updated black or gloss-black trim for the Kia ‘tiger-nose’ grille, as well as updated headlights, bumper and foglamps, and a reprofiled bonnet. Sedan models also receive get a new rear bumper and tail-light design.

Overall dimensions for both the sedan and the hatch – the latter accounting for 60 per cent of sales – are unchanged but the cabin has been given a tweak, with a redesigned gearshifter and new trim materials throughout.

Suspension changes include the installation of revised (stiffer) front springs with the aim of improving the balance between ride comfort and handling, as well as improved damper compliance.

The upgraded dampers utilise new valving technology by way of square orifice pistons, which KMAu claims allows for more focused local tuning to achieve improved ride quality without sacrificing handling.

The brand is also claiming improved steering weight and feel with revised steering tuning and hardware improvements.

An upgraded steering motor, more powerful ECU – up from 16bit to 32bit – and increased stiffness in the column shaft, bushings and steering gear combine for a better connection between the driver and the road, Kia says.

The new Drive Mode Select system on the auto has three steering modes – Normal, Eco and Sport.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine powering the entire range remains unchanged, producing 112kW at 6200rpm and 192Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Fuel economy is a claimed 7.1L/100km for all models, regardless of body style or transmission.

2016 Kia Cerato driveaway pricing
S$19,990
S (a)$19,990
S with AV (a)$20,490
S Premium (a)$24,990
Si (a)$28,990
SLi (a)$32,490

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