It’s the Korean brand’s biggest-selling car in Australia, accounting for nearly 33 per cent of Kia’s local sales so far in 2018. Yet, the Kia Cerato remains relatively anonymous on our roads. Roads drowning in a sea of mid-sized SUVs and dual-cab utes, not to mention big-selling rivals from Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai in the small-car segment.
Still, the Kia Cerato makes the top five in that segment behind the ubiquitous Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Hyundai i30 and Volkswagen Golf. We’d venture most of these take the shape of the hatchback, especially considering some pretty sharp runout pricing ahead of the all-new hatch lobbing early next year. That makes this, the 2018 Kia Cerato Sedan Sport, undoubtedly a rare car on Australia’s roads.
Kia launched the all-new Cerato earlier this year, in sedan guise only. There’s a new hatch coming, but for now, the new-gen Cerato is a three-boxer. To keep things simple, there are just three grades – Cerato S, Sport and Sport+ – and they continue Kia’s tradition of offering plenty of gear at a sharp pricepoint.
Sitting in the middle of that range is our test car that asks for $23,690 drive-away, and in true Kia fashion, the options list is mercifully short, with our example finished in Horizon Blue, a $520 premium paint option. That’s it.
The Californian-design Cerato sedan presents a stylish take on the small-sedan format, borrowing styling cues, Kia claims, from its larger Stinger sibling. There’s certainly a hint of Kia’s flagship, especially when viewed from the front, more Stinger, less Optima. And that’s no bad thing. The roof line slopes gently backwards, lending it an air of ‘liftback’. It’s not, of course, with a small boot lid completing the rear end, lending the Cerato a sleek profile.
As is Kia’s way, the Cerato is brimming with standard inclusions that underline its value proposition. Even in base S trim, the Cerato is equipped with autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines, parking sensors front and rear, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio, tyre pressure monitoring, and six airbags. However, the new-gen Cerato is yet to be ANCAP tested so it wears no rating, for now.
Stepping into the Sport we have on test adds 17-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation with traffic updates, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter as well as cloth-trimmed sports seats. Leather-appointed isn’t an option in this grade, and requires a step up into Sport+ if you prefer your seating of the fake-cow variety. The Sport+ adds some extra safety kit too, including AEB ‘Fusion II’ with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, and LED daytime-running lights.
You can option these features into the Sport with Safety Pack 1 – a $1000 proposition that adds the above as well as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and auto-folding mirrors.
The clean, modern design of the Cerato’s exterior continues through to the interior, which is a vast improvement over the previous-generation Cerato. There’s a clean, uncluttered feel to the cabin, even if it does feel a little dark thanks to acres of monotone black. Thankfully, there are brushed-aluminium accents offering some contrast.
Some will decry the abundance of harder plastics, but I’m not one of them, not at this pricepoint. The top of the dash is covered in the soft stuff and the overall fit and finish are excellent, as are the ergonomics. That 8.0-inch touchscreen sits nice and high and is within easy reach, and pleasingly is complemented by an array of buttons controlling the infotainment’s functions. The display itself is sharp and the screen responds to inputs quickly – no lag, no waiting.
The air-con is of the manual variety (only the Sport+ scores climate control) and there are no air vents in the rear, not even as an option, but again, at this pricepoint that’s probably par for the course.
There’s not a lot in the way of creature comforts in the back – just a bottle holder in each door and two cupholders in a flip-down armrest, but the two outboard seats are comfortable enough and offer a reasonable amount of knee and leg room. It’s not the last word in spaciousness, but it’s on a par with its rivals.
Up front, there are a few storage cubbies, including a cavernous cubby ahead of the gear shifter that can swallow most of daily life’s accoutrements. There are two cupholders in the centre console, while the centre armrest hides another deep storage bin. Bottle holders in each door complete the complement of cubbies.
Out back, boot space is a generous-for-the-class 520L, thanks in part to the growth spurt the Cerato has undergone in this new generation, now some 80mm longer than the model it replaces. The rear seats fold down in 60:40 split fashion to free up more space, but Kia doesn’t quote a capacity. The seats don’t fold flat either, with a step between the main boot and the folded seat backs. Under the boot floor lives a temporary spare.
The Cerato Sport, like the S and the Sport+, is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. With power and torque numbers of 112kW at 6200rpm and 192Nm (4000rpm), the Cerato Sport isn’t exactly breathtaking. Interestingly, that drivetrain is carried over from the previous-generation Cerato, and while it remains adequate, it’s not the last word in refinement.
Thanks to peak torque not coming on song until 4000rpm, to get any meaningful motion out of the Cerato Sport requires liberal use of the right foot, and the resulting high-revving thrashiness that comes with it can be bothersome, if not outright annoying.
The six-speed auto, too, is adequate at best, oft times taking its time to upshift, which only exacerbates the thrashy nature of the 2.0-litre under the snout.
There are switchable drive modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart – that calibrate throttle response and steering weight according to the mode selected. Smart mode automatically switches between the three modes based on how you are driving.
Unsurprisingly, switching to Eco mode dulls everything down in the search for fuel economy, and it’s not pleasant. Comfort mode is perfectly fine for most driving situations around town, where we’d venture most Ceratos will spend the bulk of their time. Toggling through to Sport mode does add a little pep, and is especially useful for bombing around town or darting in and out of traffic.
Out on the highway, the Cerato Sport is perfectly happy cruising at 110km/h, with minimal fuss and noise coming from under the bonnet. Yes, it takes a bit of high-revving antics to get up to speed, but once there, the Cerato is quite adept at behaving quietly.
No doubt Kia’s local suspension tune plays its part here. We have long lauded the Koreans for recognising the need to adapt their product to suit local conditions, and the Cerato is the latest example to benefit. There’s nothing tricky about the Cerato’s suspension set-up – simple MacPherson struts up front with a torsion beam layout bringing up the rear – but the company’s Australian team has tuned that set-up to provide a quiet and refined ride, although there is some tyre roar when the surface is on the coarse side of normal.
Long stretches of highway cruising with our test car resulted in a decent return on fuel consumption. Against Kia’s claim of 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle, we saw an indicated 7.6L. Considering that included five days of Sydney peak-hour grind, that’s a decent return.
As it has done for some time now, Kia continues to lead the way in terms of ownership with its industry-leading seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. That’s on top of a pretty reasonable capped-price servicing plan for the first seven years/105,000km of ownership, which will set you back $2869 over that time.
With its sharp pricing and cornucopia of standard inclusions, the Cerato will undoubtedly continue to fly the volume-selling flag for Kia in Australia. And the launch of the new-gen hatch early next year should bolster the range’s sales further. Then there’s the tantalising Cerato GT, due locally early next year in both sedan and hatch, with its Hyundai-sourced 1.6-litre turbo four with outputs of 150kW and 265Nm that should add a bit more spunk to the brand’s image.
For now, though, the Kia Cerato Sedan Sport offers an affordable take on the small-car segment. While it’s no performance monster, the Cerato’s blend of practicality and included features will see the range continue to fly the Kia flag.