The Kia Cerato Hatch joins the small car space at a time when competition is the fiercest it has ever been.
The third-generation, hatchbacked version of the Kia Cerato is, like the sedan that launched earlier this year, offered in three grades – S, Si and SLi. Prices follow the sedan, too, starting from $19,990 drive-away for a base model manual to $29,990 for the range-topping automatic.
From the outside the Kia Cerato Hatch confirms that the Korean brand’s design team has found its stride and is sticking to it. There’s nothing outlandish about the exterior, and on the base model Kia Cerato the rear-end design is rather similar to that of other models on the market, but it is clean and classy.
The range topping Cerato SLi hatch is especially good looking with its 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and most importantly, the LED rear tail lamps, which lifts the look of the Cerato hatch as it flies past bystanders.
Sit inside and the Cerato Hatch is instantly recognisable as a Kia. It’s a relatively dark interior with occasional chrome and silver highlights, but there are more hard plastics found than in its competitors, and on the based model even hard plastic door trim inserts.
From a design and ergonomics point of view it works well, however.
There’s great storage space (four cup holders and four bottle holders) and the Cerato hatch can easily accommodate four large adults with no issue. ISOFIX child seat anchor points are also standard across the range, which makes the lives of parents that little bit easier.
The base model misses out on a proper infotainment screen but the mid and high spec come with a 4.3-inch full colour LCD screen that controls the six-speaker audio system as well as act as a reversing camera monitor.
Our biggest grievance with the base model car, which Kia expects will be the most popular, was the basic steering wheel that felt too plasticky to hold for long periods of time. The ‘premium’ faux-leather steering wheel in the mid and top spec is significantly better and certainly enhances the driving experience.
Interestingly, the base model Kia Cerato Hatch is powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine (110kW of power and 178Nm of torque) instead of the 2.0-litre (129kW of power and 209Nm of torque) that powers the rest of the range.
To save the time of having to go through each feature at a time, the prime point here is to bypass the base model and go for the mid-spec Si.
Some car companies charge extra just for an engine upgrade, but in Kia’s case, the $3000 price difference between the S and Si not only gets you a bigger engine but 16-inch alloy wheels (205/55 R16) with full-size alloy spare, rear view camera, automatic headlights, smart key with push button, chrome highlights on the waist-line & door handles, UV cut glass for the windscreen, premium steering wheel and gearshift knob as well as instrument cluster and a more upmarket interior trim.
There are also air vents and seat pockets for the rear passengers and the already-mentioned 4.3-inch full touch colour LCD screen. The value proposition is so good that if you were to add all those features up, you’d be mad not to pay the extra for the Si.
The top-spec SLi is yet another $4000 on top of that and buys bigger wheels, auto dimming rear view mirror, LED daytime running lights (DRL) and HID type front headlamps as well as LED rear tail lights. On the inside there’s leather trim seats, powered driver’s seat, a sunroof, alloy sports pedals, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, cooled and heated driver’s seat (heated passenger seat).
Not a bad value for money proposition but not as exciting as the jump from S to Si.
Furthermore, Kia has notably made the seven-inch full-touch colour LCD screen with satellite navigation system a $1000 option available only on the SLi. This is disappointing given other cars in its segment, particularly the Hyundai i30, offer the same system standard on both mid- and high-spec variants.
Moving on from features and options, the Cerato Hatch is a very competent drive. Kia Australia’s localisation program has helped the Cerato range accustom itself to Australian roads, meaning the Cerato is firm but compliant and during our road test through the Gold Coast hinterland it felt pleasantly surprising.
Bumps or potholes were easily absorbed and the Continental tyres do a superb job of providing grip. The Cerato’s cabin does let in a fair bit of road noise, which is disappointing particularly as Kia emphasizes its ‘noise-deadening’ enhancements.
Steering feel and feedback is surprisingly good. The little Kia uses the same Flex-Steer system found in Hyundais, which allows the driver to adjust the steering weight from ‘comfort’ to ‘normal’ and ‘sport’. We found it to be very direct and the weight, particularly in normal or sport, is close to ideal for both inner city or highway driving respectively.
The base model’s 1.8-litre engine is certainly more than good enough for a daily commuter and the six-speed automatic is well matched for power extraction. It goes from 0-100km/h in 10.2 seconds in auto (9.3 seconds for manual) and uses 7.1L of fuel per 100km (6.6L for manual).
Nonetheless, it’s hard to go past the 2.0-litre engine, which is the perfect sweet spot for the power-to-weight ratio, with the same six-speed automatic transmission doing a fine job. The 0-100km/h acceleration time is improved by 1.2 seconds in automatic form and 0.8 seconds in manual form. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.4L/100km.
We didn’t get the chance to test the six-speed manual transmission with either engine.
On the safety front the Kia Cerato gets six airbags and all the active electronic safety features to keep you going where you intend to go. In the ANCAP safety test it scores an impressive 35.51 out of 37, one of the better scores in the segment, for a five-star performance.
The pick of the bunch is by and large the mid-spec Kia Cerato Hatch Si, which gets the bigger engine, the better interior and heaps of additional features for a $23,990 starting price ($25,990 for the automatic).
Although a 3.5/5 score is given to both the S because of its basic and less powerful engine, and the flagship SLi because it lacks satellite navigation despite being relatively pricey, the mid-spec Si gets a solid 4/5 score.
Particularly with that grade, the Kia Cerato hatch is a terrific small car. Add a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and fixed-priced servicing, and it’s an absolute must-test for every smart small car buyer.