ARE you the type of person that’s perfectly satisfied with your iPhone SE? It’s not that you’re frugal, it’s just that it still does a good job and it still looks good, right? Slide behind the the wheel of the new Kia Cerato sedan and you’ll be equally satisfied.
Now in its third generation, the Cerato has long counted price as one of its main attractions. But don’t mistake this all-new sedan for a bargain basement choice – you get a whole lot of car for not a lot of cash, with just the right amount of tech.
Somehow Kia have managed to retain the entry price of $19,990 drive away on the redesigned Cerato and, while that price is more about getting you into the showroom, it comes with some really impressive standard kit.
If you’re determined to spend less than $20K on a new, small sedan you could do a lot worse than the entry level S model. It comes with a six-speed manual gearbox or you can blow the budget and chuck an auto transmission in for an extra $1,500.
Let’s list off those inclusions before going into detail, because they’re truly impressive; front and rear parking sensors, reverse camera, auto headlights, auto door lock and impact-sensing unlock, cruise control, and a rear window defroster.
There’s also autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, lane keep assist, four cup holders and bottle holders, a 12V power outlet and two USB chargers, along with a large 8-inch LCD touch display.
And there’s smart phone connectivity with voice recognition and Bluetooth, and that’s just the highlights reel. For the base model. That can be yours for less than $20,000.
Most punters will settle on the Sport model though, at $23,690 drive away, and it’s worth the extra for a good SatNav system with SUNA live traffic updates, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and an upgraded interior.
The new Cerato sedan is impressive on the inclusions but it’s also had an extensive redesign. The exterior has had a fairly comprehensive up-styling, making it a handsome little beast.
Unsurprisingly, Kia has taken its lead from this year’s Stinger, Kia’s stylish large sport sedan. The Stinger-inspired, chrome ‘Schreyer’ grille and wide, sweeping headlights bring some aggro up front.
The bonnet swoops nicely and some extra curves on the door panels make for an aerodynamic look. Add a fast-back roof line and GPS fin and it looks good!
Inside it’s had an overhaul too. Even the standard S, with the most basic interior, feels good quality for the price point. The Sport comes with the Sport Pattern cloth trim, a suitably sporty steering wheel and shift knob, plus ‘soft-touch’ door trim.
All of this makes the Cerato Sport feel a little bit luxe and quite on point. The seats are comfortable and hug nicely. The plastics used throughout are practical but look and feel great.
The steering wheel is satisfyingly chunky, with controls that are solid and simple to operate. Toggle switches for volume and tuning are particularly nice to fiddle with.
The dash is satiny and leather-ish with stylish gauges. Although the dash shape is a little too straight for our tastes (memories of grandma’s 80s-era Ford Laser). It feels a little dated compared to the rest of the interior. A bit of curve would have been great.
The huge 8-inch touchscreen takes pride of place, sitting high at the centre of the dash. It’s easy to view, being both large and elevated, and features digital radio and a good reverse camera.
You also get smart phone connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (standard!), opening up a Pandora’s Box-full of potential touchscreen fun, and the Cerato tech pixies wont scoff at your SE either. Select CarPlay, or plug it in, and you’re good to go.
Head room and leg room are generous – this Cerato is slightly longer than the previous model and the interior is surprisingly spacious. The back seats are comfortable with good visibility and can easily accommodate older kids or a couple of adults.
Storage throughout is good too, with generous map pockets and sunglasses storage. The glove box is a practical size and the centre console also has good capacity. And you can literally host a cocktail party, with four cup holders and four bottle holders.
The boot is also surprisingly generous, increasing in this model to 502 litres – for comparison the Mazda 3 gives you 408 litres. It can easily take a family-sized load of shopping or mini-break paraphernalia (there’s now only a temporary spare tyre).
Access is good at 1-metre wide and 710mm high, and it’s simple to load items like a bulky pram. Also, with the back seats folding 60:40, assuming you can offload your passengers you can actually carry a fair bit of gear.
On the road the Kia is no drag racer’s dream but it offers a nice drive. The 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated, four-cylinder petrol engine (112kW and 192Nm) is a carry-over from the previous model, one of very few ghost-of-Ceratos-past components that remain.
This might have been to keep that all-important price point in line and it will be interesting to see whether the next model offers up a revised engine. It definitely feels a little sluggish through the lower gears but finds its groove once up and running.
All three variants in the Cerato sedan family are built around a new platform, another upgrade from the previous model, which has significantly reduced cabin noise and improved the on-road dynamics, making for a comfortable, if slightly stiff, ride.
It’s a nimble little beast with good manoeuvrability and responsive steering. And, while it doesn’t exactly have the engine to call it sporty, it is a car you can have some fun driving, all while feeling safe, solid and well weighted.
You get two drive modes to chose from – Smart and Eco. We mostly left it in Smart which probably accounted for some of the enjoyment we got from this sedan. It felt good in both town cruising and freeway driving, planting nicely to the road at speed.
That might have also contributed to our issues with fuel economy. The new model is thirstier, thanks to an increase in weight, with Kia claiming 7.4-litres/100km; more than plenty of Kia’s competition.
We managed 9.1-litres/100km, but with the engine producing a nice little roar when prodded we weren’t exactly driving conservatively. It’s worth noting too that Kia aren’t pushing premium fuels on you, so that might even the playing field a little.
Safety features are a real seller for the 5-star ANCAP rated Cerato with an impressive range of active and passive technology as standard. There’s additional kit offered by way of two options packages as well.
The options packs are well worth looking at on the S or Sport as you can add AEB Fusion II (for cars, pedestrians and cyclists), smart cruise control, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and electric folding mirrors to the already impressive standard kit.
The second option pack is aimed at the premium model in the range, the Sport+, and throws in the missing safety features such as blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. It hits the road at $26,190 drive away and is a pretty tasty little car for that price.
The Sport+ also upgrades to key-less press button ignition, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, LED running lights, auto release boot, auto defog and a stylish ‘leather’ interior trim.
When you add these niceties to the standard Cerato features you’re yet again getting a car that over delivers for the price. The combination of impressive inclusions and pocket friendliness makes all three Cerato variants the perfect small sedan to suit any need.
And that’s what it’s all about with the Cerato. Value for money, and plenty of choice. There are nine colours in the range, with a fairly predictable palette of neutrals and greys with a red, a light, and a dark blue.
Our test vehicles were the Sport in Horizon Blue and the Sport+ in Snow White Pearl. The 2019 Kia Cerato hatchback is also scheduled to land before the end of 2018 and includes a much-anticipated GT warm hatch.
Our test vehicles were provided by Kia Australia. To find out more about the 2019 Kia Cerato Sport and Sport+ sedan, contact your local Kia dealer. Images courtesy of Tim Brand Photography.