"I want a zippy car that will get me from A to B comfortably, looks good, is reliable and affordable." Most likely those words come from someone who just got their P plates, or perhaps someone who wants to downsize after the kids have moved out.
If a hatchback is on the menu, then the 2017 Kia Cerato could be a part of the recipe. It recently received a refresh from the exterior to the interior, and you have a choice of the sedan or hatch. Both are priced drive-away from $19,990 for the S variant, climbing to $32,490 for the SLi.
The one we have on test is the next model up from the S, the Sport, and has a price tag of $24,790 with a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine.
There’s a lot of competition in the small-car segment, with the Cerato eyeing off the Mazda 3 Maxx and the newly released Hyundai i30 Active X, both priced at just $100 more, and the Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport, cheaper at $23,250.
Standard features in the Cerato include a rear-view camera along with front and rear parking sensors, and electronic stability control. Although you will need to step up to the SLi variant for blind-spot monitoring. It is missing lane departure warning, however, which is included in the $23,740 Holden Astra R+.
Getting into the car for the first time – especially for tall peeps – could result in banging your head, but once inside, there is plenty of headroom. We did notice after a cold morning or some rainfall, built-up water will tend to drip from the roof on to the front and back seats when we opened the doors - not ideal.
The cabin feels far more premium than it is, with a lot of shiny black plastic, which glistens at night. There are some nice chrome surroundings around the cupholders, transmission area, climate control dials and the driver instrumentation.
The console is angled towards the driver to make reading the 7.0-inch infotainment screen simple and making adjustments using the easy-to-reach dials is easy. The screen is embedded into the console, as opposed to the i30's floating 8.0-inch screen.
Vision all around is excellent, thanks to the long passenger side windows. While the tiny front quarter window seems to be useless, it does help to overcome what would’ve been a large blind spot. The rear headrests are high, even when pushed down, and can impede a little on rearview mirror vision.
Door trims contain hard but solid plastic with padded armrests, finished in white stitching. The chrome door handles are long which you can easily fit all four fingers into, and the doors close with a decent thunk, both front and rear.
The pattern on the fabric seats can do things to your eyes, but they are comfortable to a certain extent. On longer trips, your middle back could begin to ache with not too much support there.
Shorter drivers who sit closer to the wheel, will find it difficult spinning the long sun visor around to then side window, as it will hit the headrest on the way through. They do come with a handy pull-out flap for that little bit of annoying sun that peeks through.
Removable rubber bases in virtually all of the storage compartments and cupholders are perfect for those random bits of dirt and food to get caught in.
There’s a large area to fit your phone while it’s charging (an iPhone 6s Plus fitted snuggly), which can be hidden away by a simple foldaway sliding lid. Just above it are two 12-volt ports, and one USB and auxiliary port.
The deep centre console also includes a removable plastic shelf, and the glovebox is large enough so there is still plenty of room left even with the car's operation manuals in there.
The CD player has been blanked out, as it only comes standard on the entry level Cerato. DAB radio isn’t available, but it is in the Mazda 3 Maxx. Kia’s infotainment system offers the choice of using the touchscreen or the hard buttons for navigating the menus. We found the buttons to be easier to use and require just a quick glance off the road.
However the Bluetooth connection is locked while the car is in motion, which is a tad annoying, so it’s best to turn your phone's Bluetooth on before you get in the car. Or, plug your phone in to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
For back row passengers, there is more legroom than the i30, adding to a wide foot area. The long seat base and fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders, makes a long drive comfortable and relaxing, although there is no ventilation or connections.
While there are no map pockets on the back of the front seats (Hyundai's i30 gets a tick here, with two), the quality of the door trims and upholstery gets the same treatment as upfront, which is great.
With 385 litres to fill in the boot, it is leaps ahead of the Corolla that has 25 litres fewer, and the Mazda 3, 73 litres fewer. To stretch the space out even more to 1213 litres, the split 60:40 rear seats can be folded down, but they do feel heavy to push down. Under the sturdy floor of the boot, is a full-size 17-inch spare wheel and loads of side storage.
A simple turn of the key and the Cerato’s 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine loudly rattles into life. Producing 112kW of power and 192Nm of torque, it comes in just under the Mazda 3’s 114kW and 200Nm.
There are three driving modes to choose from: Eco, Normal and Sport. Eco is more suited to heavy traffic when the car is rolling at a slow pace, as it is sluggish and revs high when pushed hard. There is a noticeable difference when shifting from the comfortable Normal to Sport mode, with it having some kick off the line. The throttle can be a bit too sensitive, though.
The Cerato is like Goldilocks when she tried the Three Bears' porridge: it’s not too fast, it’s not too slow, but it’s just right. It's the perfect amount of power for everyday driving, be it zipping around the city or stretching its legs on the highway.
Many freeway kilometres were eaten up over our time in the Cerato, with a fuel reading of 7.9-litres per one-hundred kilometres, over Kia’s claim of 7.2L. Three-quarters of its 50-litre tank was used in one week, with 550kms done on the odometer, costing $53 to add 44 litres.
The gear changes in the six-speed sport automatic transmission are smooth but slow, and a short stab on the throttle pedal can result in it changing down a gear.
On the 17-inch alloy wheels, the ride is particularly good, but bumps around the back roads are more noticeable at lower speeds, particularly in the rear. It does love the corners though, and makes handling roundabouts especially fun.
Keeping occupants safe are six airbags; driver, front passenger, front side and curtain airbags, helping the Cerato to a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Along with Kia’s famous unlimited kilometre, seven-year warranty, the Cerato also comes with seven-year capped priced servicing, with the costs for each year outlined below.
- 1 year or 15,000 km: $289
- 2 years or 30,000 km: $365
- 3 years or 45,000 km: $331
- 4 years or 60,000 km: $487
- 5 years or 75,000 km: $325
- 6 years or 90,000 km: $437
- 7 years or 105,000 km: $345
The Cerato hatch has the right amount of sporty styling on the outside, and the comfort on the inside to make the Kia a happy place to be, no matter where the drive takes you.
Packed with nice features for an affordable price, the hatchback is worth taking a look. It is starting to age a little though, and with the new Hyundai i30 recently hitting our roads, there is some stiff competition out there.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.