5 / 10
A to B cars usually aren’t this good
It has been my experience that most people baulk at the idea of owning a Kia, though I’m not quite sure why, for as I found out this week the all-new Kia Cerato is a solid contender when it comes to shopping the small/mid-sized sedan market.
Traditionally style and Kia aren’t two words usually synonymous with one another, unless “lack thereof” is somewhere in between, but the 2009 Kia Cerato has changed all that.
Clean, flowing angular lines, high shoulders and a more purposefully modern perspective have made this car an attractive and well proportioned vehicle seemingly no matter the angle from which it is viewed from.
Inside too a blend of colour and materials lifts the ambiance for a more bright and airy feel, complimenting the sense of available space nicely.
Layout, although rather simple, is very practical and almost elegant, though personally the large urethane steering wheel and instrument cluster design do tend to cheapen an otherwise pleasing decor.
Red and white back lighting makes night vision sharp and easy, with all information from the dated-looking instrument cluster easily read at a brief glance. The centre stack, clock and audio control buttons are uniformly illuminated in red. Additionally the multi-reflector halogen headlamps provide an excellent field of vision on country roads.
At the heart of the all-new Kia Cerato is Kia’s 2.0-litre, DOHC, Theta II engine, which provides class-leading power, 115kW at 6200rpm, and adequate torque, 194Nm at 4300rpm, for just about any situation.
The engine loves to rev and is free flowing, offering a linear spread of power delivery across the entire rev range. Consequently the car feels quicker zero to 100km/h than the claimed 10.5 seconds and manages excellent performance both around town and on the open road.
Unfortunately there is one slight let down in this equation, and that’s the automatic transmission.
Coupled to a somewhat antiquated four-speed unit, the Kia Cerato suffers from being disallowed a ratio between third and the upper limit of fourth, the result of which is a large gap that leads to over zealous kick-down under even slight throttle input.
This calibration issue does not pose any great bearing on the car’s overall performance, and the tall fourth ratio certainly improves Cerato’s fuel economy, but for the sake of a smooth transition both when up and down shifting, the six-speed unit currently in development will make what is already a very good car great.
Otherwise Cerato is surprisingly smooth to drive and the longer wheelbase, compared to the previous model, certainly helps to iron out bumps. Handling levels are fluid and capable while highway cruising is both comfortable and quiet – on all but the roughest coarse chip asphalt.
If you really get enthusiastic the front-wheel-drive’s tendency to understeer will become apparent, but as this is an issue confined to sudden high-speed cornering, it is not something I should imagine too many Cerato owners experiencing.
Kia utilises a strut front/torsion beam rear suspension arrangement under the Cerato, and despite some competitors offering a more modern multi-link rear end, this is one car that actually manages to make the most of its more basic set-up, and it’s this smooth ride that enhances what is already a comfortable and generously proportioned cabin.
Seating is well cushioned and very supportive with the associated adjustment from both the seat and the tilt/slide steering column being well thought out. In turn an enjoyable driving position has been created that, coupled with well placed primary and auxiliary controls, makes the whole driving experience a far more rewarding than the bargain price tag would have you believe.
Rear seat passengers too are afforded comfortable seating and generous leg-room – as well as excellent visibility – which makes long distance travel more enjoyable, especially if your little ones are prone to car sickness.
As far as the specification list in concerned Cerato S features cloth trim, manual air-conditioning, MP3 compatible CD tuner with iPod interface, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking with panic alarm and can also be fitted with optional cruise control.
I’d be rather inclined to tick the cruise control box as Kia Cerato can tend to roll over the speed limit with very little fuss. Similarly I’d also opt for reverse parking sensors as shorter drivers may find the higher rear window a little bit of a hindrance when backing up.
Safety equipment is surprising in standard form with dual front, side and curtain airbags included in the list price. ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution is also on the included check list though you will have to find an extra $1000 to have the peace of mind of ESP(coupled with traction control, cruise control and remote audio controls), which in my opinion is well worth the additional outlay.
Cargo capacity is a generous 415 litres, and with the added benefit of one-touch 60:40 split fold rear seats, this can be increased two-fold from inside the boot area meaning no more awkward jumping in and out of the back seat. Kia Cerato can also tow up to 1200kg, braked.
So if you manage to set aside what ever brand bias you might have, and a small/mid-sized sedan is on your shopping list, then jump into a Cerato and take it for a test drive. I’m sure that just like me you’ll come to the same conclusion: A to B cars usually aren’t this good.
It’s a pleasant drive, is good on fuel and has adequate power for just about any situation. What’s more it’s roomy, comfortable, quiet, well built and, most of all, affordable, making the new Cerato pretty hard to pass up.
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