Kia manufactures one of the few warmed-up sedans that can actually put its money where its mouth is. You see, while some rivals are all too happy to slap a couple of N badges or stick an assuming ST logo on the body, Kia respectably goes the extra mile with the 2021 Cerato GT and ups the power stakes to go with the extra sporty body kit.
But that also presents a problem, because a boost in power and sporty intentions invariably leads to expectations. Can the Cerato GT do sports just as well as it does the everyday – and importantly, does its performance detract from its useability?
That’s what I’m most interested in after Kia handed us the keys to a soon-to-be-superseded (we’ll get to that later) Cerato GT sedan finished in Runway Red ($520).
Against a $34,190 list price excluding on-road costs, Kia is currently offering a runout $35,990 drive-away deal that represents a saving of about $2500 on the full-priced car.
Within its competitive set, which includes cars like the Ford Focus ST-Line ($30,990), Hyundai i30 sedan N Line ($32,290) and the Honda Civic RS ($34,090), the comparative $34,190 retail price of the Cerato GT sedan could be construed as expensive. Consider, though, that these rivals don’t have more powerful engines than the rest of their respective ranges.
For that spend, you’re well catered for in terms of kit. The Cerato GT features a leather-appointed interior with power-adjustable sports seats, alloy sports pedals, dual-zone climate control, rear air vents, heated front seats, wireless phone charging, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with digital radio and native satellite navigation, and an eight-speaker JBL sound system.
Safety is paramount too. Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist avoidance is included, as are front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and even a driver-attention alert system.
The party piece is a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 150kW/265Nm to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Those figures are neither eyebrow-raising nor disappointing – perfect warm-sedan territory.
We’ll get stuck into how those figures translate to the real world soon, but first port of call was to see how the Cerato GT handles the everyday.
|2021 Kia Cerato GT|
|Engine||1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power||150kW @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||265Nm @ 1500-4500rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel consumption (claimed)||6.8L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.4L/100km|
|Boot size (five-seat/two-seat)||502L|
|ANCAP safety rating (year)||Five-star (tested 2019) - ANCAP report|
|Warranty (years/km)||Seven years/unlimited kilometres|
|Main competitors||Ford Focus ST-Line | Hyundai i30 N-Line | Honda Civic RS|
|Price as tested (Drive-away)||$34,190|
Step through the keyless entry door and into the pleather-clad interior and the cabin presents well on first impression. The seats are comfortable and all-round fit and finish is up to par. There are nice satin chrome-effect trim accents, and most touchpoints are covered in soft material, though there’s no shortage of hard plastics below the dash and around the transmission tunnel.
Features-wise, you could do a lot worse than the Cerato GT. The Qi-certified wireless charging is a handy feature and holds your phone in place nicely, and the heated seats received a good workout through Melbourne’s most recent cold snap. Curiously, Kia has dropped the ventilated seats that used to come standard on previous-model-year Cerato GTs.
In an ideal world, the Cerato GT’s wireless phone charger would be joined by wireless smartphone mirroring, though at least the standard wired set-up is offered. Connecting to the native infotainment system itself through Bluetooth is straightforward and features all the functionality you could feasibly need. There are shortcuts for key functions along the bottom of the touchscreen, though telephony mustn’t be a key importance for Kia’s planners as it’s annoyingly absent.
Factory satellite maps are well detailed and will helpfully point out speed changes and upcoming speed or red-light cameras. The sound system is decently capable with a resounding bass, though JBL isn’t one of the best branded stereo systems in my experience.
There are a number of storage ports in the front to cater to loose items like keys, phone and wallets, while the door cards also contain enough space for water bottles and larger items.
Space in the first row is comfortable and all controls are at hand, and the driving position affords good vision throughout.
Interior room isn’t quite as generous in the second row, especially when it comes to leg room. I’m quite tall, but I can’t imagine anyone over 180cm fitting comfortably enough without having to side-straddle the seat in front. That said, head room and foot room are perfectly fine.
Continuing on the space theme, the sedan body style of the Cerato allows for a huge 502L cavity to store your stuff. Under the boot floor is a temporary space-saver spare wheel.
There are a few everyday issues that irked, such as the gutterless roofline that throws water through an open window after a rainy night, but most annoyances related to the Cerato GT’s sporty enhancements in an urban setting.
It’s a far firmer ride than it should be. It thuds through potholes and jitters over road imperfections like a highly sprung sports car, erring a bit too far on the side of performance in comparison to comfortable daily driver.
Kia’s also engineered in some sport fake induction noise through the cabin that sounds awful, at least to my ears. The sad thing is that it’s unnecessary. The Cerato GT starts up in the mornings with a respectable bark that continues throughout a spirited drive.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is a lightning-quick unit, but is annoyingly slow to react around town and in traffic. You must pre-empt certain situations more carefully than you would with a standard torque converter gearbox, and there’s a level of hesitation on hills and inclines that needs to be managed.
However, get the Cerato GT out and onto a quiet back road and the attributes that make it a pain around town turn it into a handy little steerer. Its turbocharged engine exerts a perfectly warm 150kW/265Nm, which provides enough poke for strong overtakes and a nice little blast between corners, though it’s not going to wow like a fully-fledged hot hatch.
There’s a strong hold of grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres and multi-link rear suspension set-up, allowing you to hook into bends confidently without fear of understeer.
Even the brakes come to the party to rein things in when it all gets a bit much. The fronts are 25mm larger than the standard Cerato and provide good, consistent pedal feel.
The steering feel is best described as go-kart firm. It’s far weightier than a small sedan’s should be, which is noticeable when manoeuvring about town, but its pointed and direct nature is entertaining through a series of bends.
Kia notes an official fuel consumption figure of 6.8L/100km, though a city-skewed week of driving returned an 8.4L/100km consumption on test. Previous more balanced drives of the Cerato GT, including a combined highway and urban cycle, have netted us fuel figures of around 7.5L/100km. The Cerato GT can be filled with regular unleaded fuel.
Kia backs its Cerato GT with an industry-strong seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. The warranty is accompanied by a complimentary 12 months of roadside assistance and can be renewed in 12-month intervals (up to eight years) by simply returning the Cerato GT to a Kia dealership for servicing.
Speaking of servicing, Kia offers a capped-price program that sees the first seven services cost $3295 in total. Services must be completed each year or 10,000km, whichever comes first.
Consider, too, Kia will begin shipping the facelifted 2021 Kia Cerato in May. Styling has been subtly refreshed to keep the Cerato in line with the rest of the broader Kia range, while other new items for 2021 include an electric parking brake, an updated Krell sound system, remote start (from the key) and a sunroof.
Kia's Australian arm hasn’t announced pricing for the new iteration as yet, though expect it to come in a few thousand dollars over what you can currently purchase a pre-facelift Cerato GT for.
The Cerato GT sedan was last tested by ANCAP in 2018 where it achieved a full five-star safety rating.
So, is it worth waiting for the new model, or is a current-gen car a better buy if you can get a discount?
If you’re not one to fuss over having the latest and greatest, it’s arguably a better decision to get a good deal on the outgoing Cerato GT. The change in specification between 2020-spec and 2021-spec cars is relatively light, and if you can get even more off Kia’s $35,990 discounted drive-away price, then I’d consider that the smarter move.