All grown up. Que cera Cerato.
No one has perhaps been as on the ball when it comes to meteoric rise of SUVs than Korean marque Kia. Its Sportage has been around in various iterations since the 90s, and the larger Sorento arrived just in time for the SUV boom, and it’s since bookended its high-riding family car lineup with the American-market Telluride and compact Stonic. But despite their clear capability and willingness to capitalise on the rise of SUVs, they haven’t forgotten one of their strongest-selling family cars that has sold strongly in markets all across the globe, including right here in Australia.
The Kia Cerato, frankly, took too long to be replaced. While we were all gasping and applauding every new Kia that arrived for their greater appeal, sharper design and great value, the Cerato seemed to soldier on largely unchanged for an unusually lengthy period, so we’re very happy to see a new one finally fill the space. Not only does it look properly updated, as befitting an all-new model, but the Cerato has underscored and underlined all the things that Australians have come to love from the nameplate. It looks the part, it has a fetching cabin that’s big enough for you and four others, and offers a ride balanced seemingly perfectly for Australian conditions. And with prices starting at $19,990 with autonomous emergency braking as standard, you can’t help but wonder, is the Cerato really all that it seems to be?
“Like many small sedans, it’s a pretty conservative thing to look at from the outside, as frankly befits its older demographic. Well, it is once you get past that aggressive grille, headlight and front bumper ensemble that draws from the Stinger’s playbook.” — CarAdvice
Kia’s design revolution is one that’s been talked about so long that the cows really have come home, but its passenger cars haven’t been shown the same kind of love as its SUVs. But the Stinger changed that for Kia’s saloons, and the Cerato is the first after the flagship saloon to be inspired by this second-wind of sorts.
The sloping roofline and three-window profile are critical parallels here, and the Cerato certainly looks dynamic and sporty. Even the base Cerato S, which loses out look-at-me items like the four-point LED daytime running lights and alloy wheels, still manages to turn heads for the right reasons. Complex surfacing down the flanks, an aggressive face, and a distinctive rear light cluster are the kind of design cues that stay in your head for a while.
The only real issue we take with the exterior of the Cerato is the inclusion of just ‘Clear White’ as a no-cost option. The Cerato looks best in a metallic hue, and while there are eight ‘premium’ finishes to choose from, all of them will demand a $520 addition to the cost price. Ouch.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The Kia Cerato range is powered by the company’s 2.0-litre Nu multipoint-injected petrol engine, familiar to the outgoing model.” — Motoring
The Cerato powertrain lineup remains familiar and simple with the latest-generation, carrying over the oily bits from the outgoing car wholesale. When the new-generation Cerato debuted in North America, it came with it a new Atkinson-cycle mill with less power & torque as well as a CVT automatic gearbox, but mercifully we were spared the more economical engine in favour of more power.
The 2.0-litre MPI petrol engine produces 112kW and 192Nm, identical to the outgoing car, with power going to the front wheels with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto employed. The manual’s limited to the S model only though, with the automatic available on the price-leading model for $1500 extra.
Fuel consumption on the Cerato is rated at a miserly 7.4L/100km for the automatic models, while 7.6L/100km is claimed for the manual. Either way it’s still pretty good and the claimed figures aren’t all that hard to achieve. A further boon of the older engine is that it’s quite refined in this application, and as far as powertrains go, it’s a pretty responsive mill.
“The stylish, sweeping dashboard design is also a huge step up over the slabby old version, with the new touchscreen the clear highlight.” — Practical Motoring
Kia’s cabins have been aesthetically-pleasing and ergonomically-sensible for some time now, but perceived quality’s been trailing somewhat, though the new Cerato’s made huge headway in that respect. There’s relatively-yielding materials employed on the dash and door cards, and the overall aesthetic inside is more mature than previous iterations. We’re happy to say goodbye to the ‘scalloped’ dashboard design over on the passengers’ side, something we could never escape in the older car that used to drive the CarShowroom team up the wall.
There’s a lot of space in the Cerato, both in the cabin and in the boot. The latter has grown quite some bit to a voluminous 502L, considerably larger than the outgoing car. The opening is wider now, which means it’s easier to move things in and out, and the rear seats can be folded down too. There’s also plenty of room for people, with generous shoulder- and leg-room for all 5 passengers inside. There’s also plenty of kit aboard, like the freestanding touchscreen infotainment unit that offers smartphone mirroring as standard.
The Cerato Sport benefits from nicer interior fittings (like improved fabric upholstery), but the Cerato Sport+ and its leather trim, dual-zone climate control and rear-seat A/C vents definitely feels like the range-topper that it is.
Behind The Wheel
“… the driving experience is a solid one. A stiffer body shell combined with Kia Australia’s policy of honing the handling of all its vehicles gifts the new Cerato saloon with direct steering and a ride that feels stable. Safe, but unexciting.” — WhichCar
Australia benefits from particularly varied driving conditions, and Kia goes to an extensive length to ensure that its cars are tuned specifically for our roads. The Cerato really benefits from this, as there’s a certain resolve and poise with which it handles the challenging conditions that Australia can sometimes pose with… well, resolve and poise.
But those hoping that there’d be some Albert Biermann-isms sprinkled into the mix, please look away: The Cerato’s been tuned to appease the masses, not the enthusiasts. As a result, it’s comfortable and predictable, putting driver engagement as a very low priority (if that). There’s a good amount of grip and balance to be had in the chassis, but that’s about the extent of it.
Another one of the main contributors to the uninspiring driving experience is the engine. The 2.0-litre mill is entirely carried-over from the previous generation car, and while that means it’s dependable, it also means that the kind of ongoing-refinements that might bring the best out of an engine were given a miss here. It’d also have benefitted from a turbocharger, like the one fitted to the Hyundai i30 N…
Nevertheless, if you want a car that’s the Jack of all trades but the master of none, then the Cerato’s got you covered.
Safety & Technology
“All of the models in the range now come with features like AEB, lane guidance assist and forward collision alert as standard, even in the base model.” — CarsGuide
The 1st-gen Cerato has been a firm family favourite on our shores, and so this new model builds upon that legacy wholeheartedly. Six airbags, AEB, lane-keep assist, and collision warning are all standard kit in the Cerato, which could perhaps sweeten the deal for buyers considering the base Cerato S and its unflattering 16-inch steelies.
All-round parking sensors, six-way drivers-seat adjustment, 8-inch infotainment system (with smartphone mirroring) and DAB digital radio are all as standard, while satellite-navigation remains the reserve of Sport models upward. The Sport+ gets all the bells and whistles, like a more advanced AEB system, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and go, dual-zone climate control, and electric folding exterior mirrors.
All cars also get three ISOFIX points in the rear, which would be great, if the rear door apertures weren’t so restrictive.
The Kia Cerato once again cements its position as a strong and compelling family saloon option. With commendable safety specifications as standard, a generous kit list, and borderline-obsessive fixation on practicality, the new Cerato really has its key buyers pegged right on the nose.
Car journalists will jabber on about lack of driver involvement and a lacklustre powertrain, but really, the extent most will care will be as far as the slightly-worsened fuel economy. But hey, standard AEB, so does it really matter?
At the end of the day, family cars are demanded to do so many different things that they never really shine in any particular area. In that respect, the Kia Cerato lacks the involving drive that the Mazda 3 offers, or the sheer-style that the Toyota Corolla (Hatch) proposes. But that being said, it’s in its inability to shine in any particular regard that the Cerato takes the limelight, as the sum of its parts make it a consummate family hauler.
As long as you don’t get suckered into a Sportage like everyone else.
CarsGuide — 7.6/10 — “The third generation Cerato is small, nimble, looks handsome and can carry four in absolute comfort. It’s safe as houses, great value and cheap to look after, too.”
WhichCar — 4.0/5.0 — “The Cerato sedan is Kia’s alternative to the popular Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3 small sedans. It has a stylish cabin, strong infotainment suite, and drives nicely, and all versions feature some kind of autonomous emergency braking and seven-year warranty.”
Practical Motoring — 3.5/5.0 — “The [Cerato] Sport & Sport+ enter middle-grade Mazda3 Maxx Sport territory, and it is a far more polished and premium-feeling saloon. The S is the most compelling, though it does feel born to be lowered back to $19,990 drive-away with auto in time. Bargain hard and you likely won’t be too far from that figure at your local dealer now.”
CarAdvice — 7.9/10 — “What the new [Cerato] lacks in excitement and flair, it makes up for with value and top customer care.”