Twelve months on after the new-look Cerato sedan and hatchback hit local showrooms, Kia has made some adjustment to the middle of the ranges to add some shine, boost buyer appeal and to add a sense of improved value. The result is the 2017 Kia Cerato Sport.
After a commendable eight our of ten in our recent review of the hatch version, we've decided to put the four-door sedan version through its paces.
As we’ve detailed in an earlier report, the Sport essentially replaces the outgoing S Premium variant, which was priced at $24,990 driveaway and represented a five grand stretch in outlay over the $19,990 base, manual-equipped S.
With an automatic transmission, 7.0-inch infotainment, rear-view camera and sat-nav; the added features stack up to what appears to be a five grand well spent.
The Cerato Sedan Sport lists as a $24,790 prospect before on-roads and options, the latter of which is a sole $520 ask for Snow White Pearl paintwork (bringing it up to $25,310 list). But our first piece of advice when shopping for any Kia is to first check out the public website for current deals.
It transpires, too, that the new Sport differs in specification little to the old S Premium, too, while introducing a number of key features Kia reckons buyers at this price point will find quite attractive.
A cursory glance suggests the Sport really does lift the value quotient. The 7.0-inch infotainment is fitted, as is proprietary sat-nav and a rear-view camera.
Given the Sport only comes with an automatic transmission, it seems not to have lost anything on the (effectively) $2500-pricer variant it replaces. Yes, the must-have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is standard fitment, though the case is the same for any Cerato variant bar the base S (where it’s optional).
There’s more, such as 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with 215mm tyres as found on the top-shelf SLi. Meanwhile, everything else in the Cerato stable gets 16s steel or alloy wheels with narrower 205s.
There’s no other gains in power, precision or poise to boost its Sport credentials, though dig through the addenda and this new variant is 23 kilograms more lightweight than four of the six available Cerato sedan variants.
So what other parts-binning is in the Sport specification mix? Fitted are dusk-sensing auto headlights, a rear spoiler, aero-blade wipers, and the higher-specification multifunction steering wheel and instrumentation only otherwise available in the higher-grade Si and SLi variants. Left off the menu are the active safety smarts, push-button start, leather trim, electric folding mirrors and various other niceties in the leap up to $28,990 (Si) and $32,490 (SLi) driveaway.
In short, the Sport includes highly appealing, higher-end upgrades that will undoubtedly entice many buyers and omits extravagances the same buyers will hardly call deal-breakers.
One area where this version scales back choice is paint colour: the Sport can be had in a limited four hues of two whites, a grey and a silver, and misses out on the black, vibrant red and blues available on any other Cerato.
There no extra performance under the bonnet, the Sport propelled by the same naturally aspirated 112kW and 192Nm 2.0-litre four cylinder engine offered right across the Cerato range and the same six-speed-automatic transmission shared with every variant bar the base manual S version.
Despite peak torque arriving well up in the rev range (4000rpm), it’s quite a gutsy performer, responsive off idle and quite eager to break traction of the front wheels, especially in the wet. Under load, it is a noisy operator, if one that doesn’t necessarily feel strained, and the six-speed automatic’s self-shifting calibration is responsive and intuitive, making for a more satisfying around town experience than a great many CVT-type transmissions popular in the small-car segment.
If the provision of three drive modes – Normal, Eco and Sport – affects the Cerato’s driving characteristics, it is by subtle shades.
Sport injects a little more purpose in the powertrain, granted, though if there’s any differences between Eco and Normal it’s difficult to detect. It was the Eco mode chosen to record the car’s urban average fuel consumption, a figure that teetered around the high nines, right on Kia Australia’s advertised claim.
Consumption really is at the mercy of driving style, too, as extended highway running saw thrust drop markedly to the middling sixes, if not quite matching the official 5.5L stats.
I’m not a great fan of the steering feel. That’s not in some high-brow, driver-centric measure, as it's direct and quite faithful in pointing in the desired direction. Instead, its weight seems to fluctuate depending on road speed, sometimes becoming unnecessarily heavy, particularly off centre, and could simply do with more assistance, particularly making the sorts of minor correction required tracking straight along the motorway. Kia fits a switchable assistance system to models such as its Rondo people mover, a system of real-world day-to-day benefits, but has chosen not provide Cerato Sport with same smarts.
Ride comfort, and the balance between suspension ride compliance and road-holding, is quite impressive. The torsion beam rear design is hardly the last word in suspension sophistication, but local input into the ride/handling tuning has paid handsome dividends.
As we discovered at the range launch last year, the 16-inch-wheeled variants are a shade softer and more supple over bumps and potholes but any inherent firmness, frankly, suits the Sport badge on the sedan’s rump.
Inside, the cabin is drowned in Kia’s ever-fashionable black treatment, which is suitably stylish if oh-so-predictable. The block-out effect is broken up by smattering of glossy piano black and chrome highlights, and the high-spec wheel, instrumentation and infotainment system frame a picture of classiness a few cuts above the car’s wallet-friendly pricing.
Materials and textures, too, are the result of some effort to escape the car’s cut-priced nature, though you won’t find a skerrick of leather anywhere – that wheel is trimmed with synthetic material.
The general design is neat, clean and all of the instrumentation and controls are reasonably clear and legible… at least in daytime. The brand favours orange feature-lighting for low-light illumination and, at night, the control are tougher to decipher than if they were white- or blue-lit.
The touchscreen-only infotainment system has decent software, is easy to negotiate and is reasonably quick in responses. Apple CarPlay hooks up quickly enough and the navigation system is reasonably powerful, amply detailed and reroutes quickly on the fly.
If there’s a gripe in this department, it’s that the audio from the radio refused to reconnect after disconnecting Apple CarPlay for some reason. Oh, and the tiresome need to jab the Accept button at the start-up warning screen (“Yes, I’ve read the damn safety manual already…”)
The Cerato offers a decent driving position, with supportive front bucket seats of a semi-sports design that are comfortable and purposeful enough. The cloth trim, too, isn’t as coarse as you’d expect in a price-busting package and there are few cut corners or compromises to be found under close inspection anywhere in the cabin.
Equally, Kia’s designers have a knack for scooping out optimum roominess from a given body structure and it’s commodious in both rows for what's categorically a small car. If there’s clunkiness to the overall design, it’s the terribly thick A-pillars that obscure driving vision through right-hand corners, as well as pedestrians arrive from the right at crossings, despite the small quarter windows below the pillar.
It is, however, very basic in the rear seating. You do get dual cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, but that’s about it. Rear vent? Forget it. It does have spaciousness as a plus, and the sedan will seat four adults in reasonable comfort and for decent trip durations.
Boot space, too, is deep and commodious, though the small-ish boot aperture might push some buyers more towards the hatchback version in search of more loading flexibility. That there's no external boot release apart from a button on the key – at least none we could find – is a minor annoyance.
Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with seven-year capped-price servicing and roadside assistance always deserves a specific shout out. Logically, the more affordable the purchasing prospect, the more heavily this high level of long-term surety weighs positively into the ownership equation.
The servicing schedule is 12 months or 15,000kms, whichever comes first. Our test car costs between $289 and $487 per service, averaging out to $368.42 per year.
In short, this Sport variant makes for well-equipped, family friendly and surprisingly upmarket package. Taken at its $24,790 list price, the value pitch is very good. At its $22,490 drive-away price currently on offer, it's nothing short of a bargain.
The new sweet spot in a range that spirals up into the thirties from its top-shelf SLi version? You bet.
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