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15 September, 2021

Cerato shows its edge

A staple of the KIA mid-size line-up in recent years, the Cerato range has just had a makeover, and is set to continue winning hearts and minds as a value proposition that also offers a genuine sporty driving experience.

The upgraded Kia Cerato Sport Plus offers a mix of performance and luxury

A staple of the KIA mid-size line-up in recent years, the Cerato range has just had a makeover, and is set to continue winning hearts and minds as a value proposition that also offers a genuine sporty driving experience.

The first surprise about the Cerato is its size, it is one of the larger mid-sized sedan/hatches, offering plenty of room for four adults, while still retaining a decently-sized cargo area.

The Cerato also has the honour of being the first model to showcase the new, blockier ‘KIA’ logo, the first restyling of the corporate brand in Australia, and representing a bolder approach from the junior Korean manufacturer.

This is represented by the ‘tiger nose’ grille, the two distinctive ‘nostrils’ delivering a purposeful frontal aspect, while the integrated headlights continue the aggressive from around and along the top of the guard line.

There are a number of design touches present in the Cerato reinforcing KIA’s new found market assertiveness, not the least the bonnet ridges that act as ‘eyebrows’ for the headlights.

While they undoubtedly look good, these ridge lines present a tremendous challenge to the manufacturing department, who must make every one of the hundreds of thousands of  production cars look as good as the design study signed off by management.

The challenge is the ridge lines continue to match up with the base of the A-Pillar, and any misalignment becomes immediately obvious, seriously impacting the overall design. With a number of these design line continuations used in the Cerato, it is a credit to the quality of the manufacturing process that these design aspects work as well as they do in the Cerato.

At the risk of parroting myself, it is a sign of the work done by KIA and the confidence in the manufacturing department that these design features are made such a key part of the finished product.

Our test car was the Cerato Sports Plus, the second-highest model in the range, behind the GT and ahead of the S and the Sport.

Shared with the S and Sport models is the 2-litre GDI engine producing a reasonable 112kW and 192Nm of torque, driving the front wheels through a six-speed auto transmission.

Admittedly, it doesn’t sound much, but a solid week’s worth of testing soon convinced us the overall performance was not lacking in any areas, and despite the high power delivery, running all the way to 6000rpm for peak power, it returned decent average fuel consumption of 7-7.5 litres per 100km.

The interior is as attractive as the exterior is eye-catching, offering a mix of high-tech and clever design, with intelligent use of space to create a cabin that is as welcoming as it is functional.

A 10.25-inch AV screen dominates the dash, including the Apple CarPlay and Android functions, as well as the reverse camera display, along with the AM/FM/DAB radio, navigation, media and more.

The driver gets a twin dial display for revs and road speed, flanking the 4-inch multi-function display covering the major vehicle functions, including trip meters, fuel remaining and car set-up screens.

Seats are supportive, with thick padding in the important areas of back and thighs, particularly when playing through corners, holding the driver and front passenger tight as the car dances from apex to apex.

The interior features leather touches throughout, including seat facings and shifter boot, while the steering wheel is wrapped and has a thick, chunky feel, again a combination of comfort and sportiness, with handholds at 9 and 3 encouraging the driver to have some fun.

Despite the budget price that comes with chasing one of the most popular market segments, he fit and finish on the Cerato impresses, even the cabin plastics feel high class, and the cabin soundproofing does a tremendous job of eliminating outside noise.

The driving experience is totally on par with the rest of the Cerato, exceeding expectation in all areas.

For a long time, sustained high rpm running in a KIA engine was viewed as a dangerous proposition, with the company lacking the knowledge and experience to design and build power units capable of this type of driving.

In the modern era, anything post-2006, each successive design has set the bar higher, and the current multi-point injected engine is a great example, cheerfully revving all the way to 6,500rpm, with a delightful inlet roar that builds as the revs pass 4,000rpm, peaking in a mechanical snarl at the red line.

The Cerato uses electric Motor Driven Power Steering, providing good feedback and response to inputs, eliminating lag and any sense of a steering dead spot around the straight ahead position.

Instead, even the smallest of turns on the wheel gets the front wheels turning, making the Cerato super-responsive to driver requests.

Early versions of electric steering were often vague, with no real sense of what was happening under the car, and a total lack of feedback, so the driver was unsure of just how much lock was actually being applied at the road.

KIA is one of a number of manufacturers to address this problem, and the Cerato is one to benefit, with fast, sweeping corners something to be relished, the car handles rapid direction changes with ease, feeling settled and in control at all times.

While the steering is a highlight, it is working in conjunction with a well sorted suspension that copes well with typical Queensland back roads, full of holes and corrugations.

Helped by a taut chassis and a reasonably long wheelbase at 2700mm, the front has time to absorb impacts and distribute them through the chassis before the rear hits the same bump, preventing nasty harmonics and vibrations from developing and upsetting the car’s balance.

Brakes are another strength, the Sport Plus version gets 280mm ventilated discs up front and 284mm solid discs at the rear, assisted by ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist technologies to step up when the going gets tough and lightning fast activations are needed in emergency situations.

The safety suite includes stability control, traction control, vehicle stability management, blind spot detection and avoidance, lane keep assist, autonomous emergency braking and high beam assist, forward collision warning and pedestrian detection.

The Cerato makes a strong claim to earn a spot on the shopping list of car buyers, with a good all-round performance, a decent standard features list, and a price point that is affordable to most buyers.

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