If you'd asked me 4 years ago if I'd own a Kia I would have laughed in your face. But the rocketing improvements of the Kia range from design, technology and handling made me reconsider my perceptions. And now I own a Kia Cerato...
The small car segment in Australia is chock full of potential cars and as a buyer, that means plenty of choice and plenty of incentive for manufacturers to get their cars right.
Kia finally delivered with the YD Cerato. It looks great, as do all the latest Kia products and is full of kit. Features that stood out for me were the LED DRLs, LED tail lamps, front corner and rear parking sensors (with rear camera) and for something completely different, a ventilated driver's seat. As a Queenslander, the concept of heated seats seems ridiculous as did leather upholstery, but a seat that cools is just what I've always wanted but never thought to have.
Sat Nav, oddly is an option on only the top spec SLi and it's a shame that it's not standard. The infotainment system has also been one of the few gripes I have with the car. It often takes a while to load and if I time selecting 'D' right, the system won't load at all. I need to stop the car for a couple of minutes to get it to boot again. A reflash failed to fix the problem too.
There's plenty of adjustment in the electronic driver's seat and it's a pretty comfortable place to be however the lack of proper seat bolsters combined with my slim frame means I'm sliding around in the corners.
Speaking of corners, Kia's 'Flex Steer' system is a piece of gimmicky genius. There are three settings to adjust the weight of the steering; Comfort, Normal and Sport. You can feel the difference between the settings and at times I do change it up but despite that added weight in 'Sport' mode, it doesn't actually feel very sporty with no feedback translating through the wheel.
To drive, the car is pretty well planted. I'm sure it's not Golf standard but I think it's above average. You do feel the bumps through the lower profile rubber on the 17" alloys (of which you get a full size spare) but it's never uncomfortable. The Cerato is also a very quiet cruiser.
The engine is a 2.0L with direct injection pumping out 129kw and 209Nm torque and mine is mated to a six speed auto gearbox. Performance is pretty good actually and the combination of paddle shifters means you can easily knock a gear down if needed on the run.
Where the car suffers compared to the competition is fuel economy. Around town, you're looking at 10L/100km easily and highway 'kays' will reward you with a return of roughly 7L/100km. But as a whole, those numbers line up with Kia's advertised stats of 7.5L/100km combined however this is higher than the figures advertised for other cars in the class.
You do save some money by having the option to use 91 octane petrol and the 5yr capped price servicing (every 12mths/15,000klm) combined with the 5yr warranty mean that it's a smart choice in car ownership terms. To top it off, if you have your car serviced at Kia, you get roadside assist for 5 years too.
Price wise, the RRP for my top spec SLi hatch with Nav and metallic paint would be around $32,000 which could lead to some sticker shock but you can easily haggle that down. Another perk of the packed small car class.
Bear in mind too that while Kia's brand perception is improving, their resale values are still behind the other major brands.
As a whole I'm really impressed with the Cerato. Gone are the days that Kia were just a low cost but rather rubbish brand. The Cerato is a mature, good looking and feature heavy car with some of the best in class ownership costs available. If you're looking to buy a small car, bypass the Kia dealership at your own peril.