KIA BRAND MAKES ITS MARK, BUT . . .


Is it not unchallengeable that a car with a name like a wood-fired Italian pizza – Cerato – should come in for some spicing up, especially if it takes on a ‘sport’ suffix?

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating and in the case of the upgraded small hatch and sedan from Kia it sadly falls short of sporting expectations. In line with its recent rebranding, Kia has juggled, sort of, what had become its best-selling vehicle.

Four models – S, Sport, Sport + and GT – are carried over, with S and Sport gaining an optional Safety Pack at $1000, which consists of autonomous emergency braking with cyclist detection, enhanced solid rear disc brakes, blind sport warning, rear cross-traffic alert and power folding mirrors.

Thrown in for the S are a premium steering wheel and shift knob, bringing it in line with Sport.

The S, Sport and Sport are powered by the carryover 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine producing 112 kW and 192 Nm, while the GT continues with the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder motor with 150 kW and 265 Nm.

The six-speed manual transmission has been deleted, replaced by a six-speed automatic, driving the front wheels. The GT stays with the seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT).

Prices start at $25,990, drive away, for the entry-level S, $27,990 for the Sport, $31,960 the Sport+ and $36,990 for the GT. All apply to sedan and hatches. Premium paint adds $520.

Seven years on, Kia’s seven-year warranty, seven-year fixed price servicing and seven-year roadside assist still applies. On test was the Cerato Sport + hatch.

STYLING
If the designers’ intention is to present a platform for the company’s rebranding, the new Cerato upgrade works, with a stylised version of the name ‘Kia’ literally front and centre of the bonnet.

Thereafter, subtlety takes control, with a new headlamp design extending the grille pattern out to the car’s flanks, the reworked front bumper adding a sleek sporty character.

Front foglamps are slotted into the restyled air intake grille, sharpening the looks up front. In profile the Cerato Hatch is a model of restraint, with one exception, a new 17-inch alloy wheel design, differentiating the Sport and Sport + from the rest of the range.

It’s as you were at the rear, with the exhaust the only change, being concealed for an up-to-date hatchback appearance.

INTERIOR
Sport+ retains leather-appointed seats, heated upfront, that are comfortable without being supportive in a lateral context.

Other carryover features include electrochromic mirror, and power exterior folding mirrors, soft-touch trim, illuminated glovebox and passenger-side seat-back pocket.

Luggage space in the hatch is unchanged at 428 litres, expanded to 741 litres with 60:40 seat backs folded.

INFOTAINMENT
New features across the Cerato range are highlighted by a 10.25-inch audio-visual unit with LCD screen. Built-in satellite navigation, with ten-year MapCare and SUNA traffic updates, also allows access to DAB digital radio, voice recognition, wired Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, plus the dial-up soothing Sounds of Nature.

To maintain occupant aural pleasure all round, a rear-seat sleep mode can be called on to limit the speaker level in the back for occupants to enjoy a more restful environment.

A 4.2-inch TFT LCD cluster is standard across the model range setting out information such as drive mode – normal, eco, sport, smart – average and instantaneous fuel consumption, trip meter and odometer, plus fuel range, lane keep assist status driver attention level and compass bearing.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The Kia Cerato Sport + upgrade does not go as far as the powertrain, with the carryover 2.0-litre MPI four-cylinder engine, producing 112 kW and 192 Nm, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, driving the front wheels.

There is no longer a manual option.

SAFETY
Active safety is high on the list for the Cerato, with anti-skid braking and electronic stability control, plus autonomous emergency braking programmed for pedestrian and cyclist.

All models feature lane keep assist, now with lane follow assist added, lane departure warning and driver attention alert. Sport + and GT blind spot detection is standard with the addition of blind spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist and safe exit warning.

Across the range are parking sensors (front and rear), high beam assist and reversing camera.

DRIVING
As mentioned previously, performance is where the Cerato, with sporting pretensions, is wanting. The Sport and Sport + 2.0-litre claiming a mere trot from zero to 100km/h in around 10 seconds. It’s left to the GT with 1.6-litre its turbo power to carry the sporty flag, with the same speed from a standstill coming up in roughly seven seconds.

Fuel consumption is claimed to be 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres in the combined urban / highway cycle, while on test the Sport + Hatch recorded 11.9 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres on a highway run.

Ride and handling remain pleasantly unchanged, with the Sport + keeping the tried-and-true McPherson Strut front end and couple torsion beam axle at the back tuned especially for Australia by our own engineers.

Steering is also a carryover motor-driven power system providing quick response from good feedback. All models utilise ventilated front discs.

SUMMARY
Sorry for resorting to semantics, Kia, but my idea of a car tagged with the word ‘sport’, especially a hatchback, is generally a ‘hot’ act. Unfortunately, the Cerato Sport +, as a performer, left me cold.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL LINE-UP
Kia Cerato S: $25,490
Kia Cerato S Safety: $26,490
Kia Cerato Sport: $27,590
Kia Cerato Sport Safety: $28,590:
Kia Cerato Sport +: $30,640
Kia Cerato GT: $35,290
Note: These are driveaway prices and include all government charges and dealer delivery costs.

SPECIFICATIONS (Kia Cerato Sport + 2.0L 4-cylinder petrol, 6sp automatic, FWD Hatch)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.999 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 112 kW
Maximum Torque: 192 Nm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.4 L/100km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4510 mm
Wheelbase: 2700 mm
Width: 1860 mm
Height: 1440 mm
Turning Circle: N/A
Kerb Mass: 1320 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Seven years / unlimited kilometres

RATINGS
Looks: 8/10
Performance: 5/10
Safety: 6/10
Thirst: 7/10
Practicality: 7/10
Comfort: 6/10
Tech: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: 6.9/10

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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