What is it?

Cerato is Kia’s most important vehicle, a small sedan that accounts for 34 per cent of local sales.

It’s been a cornerstones of the Korean brand’s success over the past few years, pushing the brand from 13th to seventh position in the sales charts in the last four years, putting it ahead of the likes of Nissan, Volkswagen and Honda — and not far behind Holden.

Now in its third generation, the just-released model, comes in three guises – S, Sport and Sport+ — Si and SLi have gone.

Kia has stuck with the trusty 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the previous model, with 112kW of power and 192Nm of torque, the latter peaking at 4000 revs.

Kia claims fuel consumption of 7.4L/100km for the auto and 7.6L for the manual.

In fact, my co-driver and I achieved 7.3L/100km on a reasonably spirited drive from the Barossa to Adelaide airport at the national launch this week.

Quite often with new models and model-updates, changes are minimal — a bit of interior trim, some new wheel designs, maybe a modified grille and some new colour choices.

Not so with the the latest 2018 Cerato. The upgrades and improvements are significant.

Kia says the new model borrows some of its looks from its drop-dead, gorgeous big brother, the V6 Stinger, which this reviewer reckons is about the best-looking sedan out there at the moment.

There’s a fresh interpretation of Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille, new body creases, and revised front air intakes.

While the new Cerato rides on the same wheelbase as its predecessor, it’s 80mm longer, with a front overhang that is 20mm longer and rear overhang that is 60mm longer.

It doesn’t sound like much but is does make the car look sleeker and improves its aerodynamic performance, with a drag coefficient of 0.27Cd.

Inside even the entry manual S variant looks stylish and, with the exception of a plastic steering wheel, more classy than its sub-$20,000 price tag would suggest.

The dash’s horizontal lay-out is 18mm wider than before and while there is plenty of hard plastic trim, it is combined with some soft-touch stuff, and the result is pretty good.

There are new eight-spoke circular air vents and what Kia calls its “floating human-machine interface (HMI)” that now sits 68mm higher in the centre of the dash.

There are USB and AUX-in ports to charge batteries and connect mobile devices, and all-three variants have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The cabin is slightly roomier overall as is the boot, which has gone from 482 to 502 litres of cargo space.

Inside there are front and rear cup holders, four door pockets, roof-mounted sunglasses holder, a storage bin under the centre arm rest, a reasonable glovebox and a couple of open cubbyholes under the centre stack.

The rear-seat backs split 60:40 and can fold nice and flat to handle bulky cargo.

What’s it cost?

Opening the batting at an unchanged $19,990 is the S manual (a six-speed auto adds $1500), the Sport auto comes in at $23,690 and the range-topping Sport+ — the one with the lot – tips the scales at $26,190.

All prices are driveaway.

Confirming the Cerato’s impressive value for money, the following is standard kit.

Autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, a rear-vision camera with dynamic guidelines, driver attention-alert warning, front-and-rear parking sensors, 16-inch steel wheels, drive-mode select, six airbags, tyre-pressure monitor, a  speed limiter, six-way driver seat adjustment, cruise control, 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice recognition, a six-speaker DAB+ digital radio, with Bluetooth connectivity, manual air-conditioning and power windows with driver auto-down.

Want more?  How about the Sport?

It adds adds 17-inch alloys, satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates and 10 year Mapcare, a premium leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, aero blade wipers and sport-patterned, cloth-trim seats.

The Sport+ takes things to a new, higher level with AEB Fusion II (pedestrian and cyclist recognition), advanced smart cruise control, LED daytime running lights, a smart key and push-button start, leather trimmed seats, electric folding door mirrors with automatic folding function, dual-zone climate control air conditioning and rear air vents.

While it comes with all the latest safety systems, new Cerato is yet to be crash tested.

What’s it go like?

My co-driver and I spent day one of an excellent drive program in the automatic S, so that’s the one I’ll highlight here.

Kia management believes this is the variant that will command 40 per cent, or the lion’s share of sales.

We drove from Adelaide Airport via an interesting, indirect route to the Barossa Valley on mostly bitumen roads with all kinds of surface conditions.

While the Cerato’s well-proven four-cylinder engine doesn’t exactly make your pulse start racing, it will be perfectly adequate for most buyers.

Like all “fours”, it does scream a bit when pushed hard, but at cruising speeds is not intrusive.

The six-speed automatic mates happily enough with the engine and you can change up and down via the main change lever.

Kia’s “drive-mode-select” system gives drivers the choice of four settings: Sport, Eco and Comfort – and now a new Smart mode.

It cleverly monitors how the driver does things and automatically adapts to their inputs as it shifts between the three settings by reading prevailing driving conditions.

Kia engineers both here and in Korea have put a great deal of thought and testing into the Cerato’s ride and handling.

The setup was initially put through its paces at the seriously impressive Kia/Hyundai Namyang proving-ground in South Korea before an extensive validation program on all kinds of Australian roads and in all types of driving conditions.

It is clearly time and money well spent, as the car sits flat with minimum body roll even in tight corners with electric power steering that delivers precise turn-in and poised handling.

Even pushing with a great deal of enthusiasm, my co-driver and I couldn’t detect a hint understeer.

The ride is actually quite Mazda-like (no bad thing) —  pretty firm and sporty but not really harsh.

The S rides on 205/55 R16 rubber while the Sport+ that we drove on day two (and the Sport) have 225/45 R17s. As is often the case, the S with its chunkier tyres was slightly more comfortable.

Cerato’s new suspension setup employs a McPherson-strut-based front setup and a coupled, torsion-beam arrangement at the rear.

Stopping power comes from 280mm ventilated discs at the front and 262mm “solids” at the rear.

While wind-noise is about the same, road-noise has been cut noticeably with the use of new subframe bushing and there is also more sound-proofing material at the base of the A, B and C pillars — plus new aluminium engine mounts that add to a quieter cabin environment.

What we like?

  • Seven-year warranty, roadside-assist and capped-price servicing
  • Ride and handling and new suspension setup
  • NVH improvements
  • Improved seating comfort
  • Handsome styling
  • Generous standard kit

 

What we don’t like?

  • Plastic steering wheel
  • Space-saver spare
  • Thirstier than some key competitors

The bottom line?

Cerato deserves to be doing well.

Over three generations the car’s ride and handling, technical specifications and standard kit have all improved markedly and it can now hold its head high against the competition.

With master stylist Peter Schreyer overseeing everything, there’s no wonder it’s a handsome thing.

There is no doubt that Kia’s industry-leading warranty is a huge selling point and that, combined with plenty of safety, creature-comfort and infotainment features and a driveway price tag of $21,490 for the automatic S variant makes a compelling value-for-money statement.

The good looking sedan is on sale now, the hatch gets here later in the year.

 

CHECKOUT: Kia ‘cracks’ top 10 for first time

CHECKOUT: Kia map updates: the final word

 

Kia Cerato, priced from $19,990
  • 8.3/10
    Looks - 8.3/10
  • 7.4/10
    Performance - 7.4/10
  • 8.5/10
    Safety - 8.5/10
  • 7.3/10
    Thirst - 7.3/10
  • 7.1/10
    Practicality - 7.1/10
  • 8.7/10
    Comfort - 8.7/10
  • 8.7/10
    Tech - 8.7/10
  • 8.7/10
    Value - 8.7/10
8.1/10

Crawf

Ian Crawford has had a life-long love affair with cars, confirmed by some of the cars he's owned, including a twin-cam MG A, Capri 3000 GT, Alfasud Ti, HK GTS V8 Monaro, BMW 633 CSI, Porsche 928 S and his current toy - a Nissan 350Z roadster. He made his debut in motoring journalism as a youthful motoring editor of the Launceston Examiner. At this time he was also Tasmanian correspondent for Wheels and Sports Car World magazines. Years later he made a comeback as motoring editor of the Canberra Times and more recently as a freelancer he has written for CarsGuide, RACQ, The Motor Report and Just 4x4s.