The 2019 Kia Cerato Sport Hatchback lacks almost nothing, and yet mostly doesn’t over-deliver anywhere. That alone makes it, for my money, quite an interesting review subject. Why? Because a successful verdict for such a car hinges heavily on the reviewer’s perspective.
Kicking off with the topic of money, or outlay, the Korean hatch in middling Sport trim lists for $25,790, while our test car here fits a $1000 optional Safety Pack. No change from $30K on the road, then, at a pricepoint offering a fair selection of categorically small or smaller – compact, micro, light – options to choose from.
But, the value proposition changes significantly given that, at the time of writing, the Safety Pack-bolstered Sport lobs at a $25,990 drive-away offer. That’s not only a bloody decent haircut, but it dramatically reduces your list of alternatives: competitors with similarly healthy equipment lists that aren’t nearly as roomy, or rivals as large without the ‘safer’ Cerato Sport’s sheer goodies count.
Space and gear for its $26K at the kerb makes this particular Kia variant good for any of the following: your first (or second) car, an affordable grocery-getter, or a surrogate family runabout on a budget.
If penny-pinching, you might be tempted to ditch the Safety Pack, slicing $1000 off an already enticing drive-away bargain, but we don’t recommend you do that. That’s because the pack adds nifty adaptive cruise control and folding mirrors, and also adds safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and high-grade ‘Fusion II’ AEB with pedestrian and cyclist avoidance, lifting the ANCAP rating from four stars for Ceratos without the kit to five stars for versions with it fitted.
Thus equipped, the only items separating your Cerato Sport ‘Safety’ from a flagship Sport+ are leather trim (instead of cloth), climate control (rather than air-con), and LED (in lieu of halogen) driving lights.
It certainly presents well. Yes, the metallic paint wants for $590 extra, but its deep form seated over smart 17-inch alloys looks anything but penny-pinched. Inside, some of the shiny plastics appear budget-conscious – mostly on the door trims – but the Cerato is a fine example that appealing styling doesn’t necessarily cost extra to develop.
Like the sedan versions, the newly revamped hatch gets a wider dash for a greater sense of roominess. The cabin is, though, very dark, leveraging a good old premium-by-numbers design trick of finishing almost every surface ‘nearly black’, if contrasted by the odd splash of satin silver to break up the gloom.
The cabin does have a streamlined design, providing a logical and intuitive user experience. The multi-function wheel, slick auto controller and faux-Benz circular air vents are particularly neat features. Infotainment is typical for Korean motoring: not terribly hi-def’, but clear, quick and easy to use, with striking similarity to units used by Genesis, say.
There’s nothing rave-worthy about the hardy ‘sport’ fabric or firm seat padding, but the driving position is sound, the controls fall neatly to hand, and there’s a nice roomy ambience that extends through to row two, where there’s oodles of legroom providing proper comfort for four adults. The driver’s seat is an all-manual format, though it has handy six-way adjustment, including height.
The sense of quality is decent: the switchgear and infotainment controls a high point in tactility, but some of the other knobs and switches are less convincing. However, bar the glaring omission of rear air ventilation or provision for charging personal devices, for the sheer roominess alone, the Cerato makes for a genuine surrogate family hauler.
At 428L, the boot space doesn’t quite measure up against the larger 502L of the Cerato sedan, but the hatchback format does allow a much more practical load-through space once the rear 40:60-split-fold seats are stowed. This spec also fits a space-saver spare wheel.
As we’ve previously reported in numerous Cerato reviews, the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and six-speed torque converter transmission is an honest if unremarkable powertrain combination.
While its 112kW and 192Nm mightn’t make for exciting pub banter, and it works quite hard and loudly once you push on, for balanced driving around town or on the open road, both its response and energy are reasonably satisfying. Wholly adequate, then, provided you curb any expectation of sportiness this variant’s namesake might intimate.
The Australianised tune of strut front/torsion beam rear suspension offers a confident ride and handling blend that’s decent against the segment, and downright impressive at the Cerato’s buck-banging offer price. Compliance is a little shaky across the small stuff, though there's large-compression damping through potholes and settling after riding over speed bumps.
While this Sport chassis isn’t in the league of its loftier GT range mate, it’s dynamically surefooted and confidently composed in the corners, its steering direct and cooperative without any unnecessarily ‘sporty’ under-assistance, and has a decent 10.6m turning circle.
This version of the Cerato is perhaps at its best where it needs it most: servicing young drivers, the grocery-getters, and small families. In the balance of driving with any of these ownership styles, the Kia is a generally quiet, mostly cooperative, easy-to-use device that only really ever becomes unruly when its engine revs out.
There are four drive modes to choose from – Comfort, Eco, the curious Smart, and Sport – though there’s not really enough output, nor enough variation in the engine’s natural aspiration, for the latter mode to effect much change in driving character.
Driven as the car encourages you to do, quite leisurely, it returned high-eight to mid-nine litres-per-hundred consumption, which is about where you’d expect it against its 7.4L/100km combined claim and tens for around town. It runs happily on regular unleaded and is E10 compatible.
Some features, such as the guided reversing camera, are certainly above par in performance, while others, such as the late onset of rear cross-traffic indication, are a little lacklustre. But after spending a week with the ‘safer’ Cerato Sport, it’s a real struggle to find much to gripe or indeed rave about.
Capped-priced servicing for the first seven years totals a little under $3000, or a $420 per annum average for its 12-month/15,000km intervals. There’s also one year of complimentary roadside assist that gets renewed each year (for seven years) if serviced at a Kia dealership. And, of course, you do get the excellent seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – usually more ownership surety than a strict selling point per se, though at this $26K drive-away pricepoint it’ll be a deal-maker for some buyers.
No, there’s not much out there you can park up in your driveway for this kind of money that’s quite as large, practical, frankly well presented and, importantly, almost lacking for nothing. Except, perhaps, the identically priced Cerato Sport Sedan with Safety Pack. Or perhaps the cheaper Cerato S, though you lose proprietary sat-nav, 17-inch alloys or premium-grade touches inside, such as the wheel and trans selector.
Is the Cerato Sport with Safety Pack worth a look? It’s such a compelling value proposition that you’d be crazy not to, even if you’re considering spending more than its super-sharp drive-away price.