KIA has added a good dose of pepper to its passenger car line-up with keenly-priced GT versions of its popular Cerato and Picanto models.
Turbochargers on the cars lift the Cerato’s output from 112kW/192Nm to 150/265 with a new 1.6-litre GT and the perky Picanto’s from 62kW/122Nm to 74/172.
But both cars get a lot more than just a turbo under their bonnets.
The Cerato GT also gets independent rear suspension, a distinctive body kit, dual exhausts, paddle shifters, alloy sports pedals and a flat-bottomed leather sports steering wheel.
Transmission is via a 7-speed DCT gearbox with sport mode, the steering has been made sharper and Kia’s local ride and handling team has optimised the multi-link independent rear suspension to provide confidence-inspiring grip and balance.
New Cerato Hatch is 160mm longer and 20mm wider than the previous generation and in GT form it’s 10mm lower.
Wheelbase, however, is unchanged. The extra millimetres increase boot capacity by 84 litres to 741 litres.
At $31,990 driveaway for sedan and hatch, the GT looks pretty appealing.
It comes with a heap of standard gear, including Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Reversing Camera, Driver Attention Alert, front and rear parking sensors and runs on 18-inch alloys.
As well there’s Drive Mode Select, six airbags, tyre pressure monitor, speed limiter, 8-way driver seat adjustment, smart cruise control, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice recognition, wireless phone charger, 8-speaker JBL Premium sound with Bluetooth connectivity, climate control air and ventilated front sport seats.
Engineers increased the body’s rigidity for safety and also to create a quieter cabin.
Sport mapping for steering sharpness and weighting, coupled with more precise gear shift points in Sport Mode, sit hand-in-glove with the more aggressive suspension tune, with the overall result aided by larger 305mm by 25mm ventilated front discs and 225/40Z R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber on the 18-inch wheels.
The colour palette for the GT is Clear White, but for an extra $520 buyers can choose from Snow White Pearl, Silky Silver, Steel Grey, Platinum Graphite, Horizon Blue, Gravity Blue, Aurora Black Pearl, Runway Red and the Sunset Orange .
The class-leading Picanto also got a sporty alternative with a turbo for its three-cylinder 1.0-litre motor, again with attention to its suspension and other bits.
With 74kW and 172Nm channeling through the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox, the GT version has been given a more aggressive tune for the shock absorbers and a stiffer spring rate, resulting in greater body control with better road feedback and improved ride comfort.
Changes to the steering mapping give a quicker response and enhanced stability when under load.
The addition of a lower profile 195/45 R 16 tyre to the 16-inch alloys improve both grip and predictability.
The 1.0-litre 12-valve T-GDi engine develops its 74kW at 4500rpm and 171Nm of torque continuously from 1500rpm to 4000rpm, and features a single-scroll turbocharger with an electric wastegate.
This improves turbo performance while scavenging clean air for the engine to re-use for combustion. At the same time, it allows the wastegate to open to improve the flow of spent exhaust gases.
For added durability, the cylinder block has been heat-treated and the crankshaft, pistons and connecting rods have been strengthened.
The efficiency of the engine is highlighted by the combined cycle fuel efficiency of 4.8L/100km.
The GT shares all the benefits of the current generation Picanto, such as the ultra-stiff body shell, and a chassis with greater torsional and bending rigidity than the previous model.
The new, stronger steel has been used to strengthen the floor pan, roof rails and engine bay, as well as the A and B pillars, creating a rigid core structure.
The extensive safety kit includes AEB, six airbags, ABS, ESC, Hill Assist Control, Vehicle Stability Management, Torque Vectoring Brake Based, Forward Collision Warning and Straight Line Stability.
Comfort and convenience features in the Picanto GT are also extensive with Bluetooth connectivity, four-speaker audio with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, air-conditioning, driver seat height adjustment, power windows front and rear with auto-up on driver’s window.
You can spot a Picanto GT by its contrast body accents, twin exhaust, body kit and GT badge. It will be available in Clear White and premium colours Titanium Silver, Aurora Black and Signal Red.
The cost? $17,990 drive away, with that huge 7-year warranty.
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