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2019 Kia Cerato GT slides in as performance-focused, value-rich small car flagship

By Ash Westerman, 18 Jan 2019 Car News

2019 Kia Cerato GT slides in as performance-focused, value-rich small car flagship

Turbo power for the top-spec GT transforms the Kia Cerato, while hatch and sedan are now identically priced across the range

If you’ve ever wondered why many manufacturers charge more for a sedan over their otherwise identical hatch, then you’re not alone. Kia’s product planners have clearly given this some thought too, and come up with a response: it’s bollocks.

Which is the why the Cerato hatch range, which joins the sedan that launched in the middle of last year, is priced identically, model for model.

Read next: 2018 Kia Cerato Hatchback Range Review

The one we’re interested in, however, is the newly launched flagship GT. Rather than just a glitter and equipment range-topper, the GT is a genuinely improved, higher-performance variant deserving of the GT badge, and likely deserving of your attention. Its $31,990 drive-away pricetag is certainly compelling, in itself.

But perhaps more alluring is the engine change. Rather than running the dated, noisey atmo 2.0-litre petrol four used across the rest of the range, the Cerato GT is fitted with the the so-called Gamma 1.6-litre, direct-injected turbo-petrol four that is used in the Hyundai i30 N-Line (formerly known as i30 SR.) It produces 150kW and 265Nm, and makes a world of difference to how the Cerato drives. Instead of a fairly hollow and languid midrange delivered by the 2.0 atmo, the 1.6 turbo digs in early and feels eager and strong. Also aiding its response is the move to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, replacing the six-speed conventional automatic used elsewhere in the range (a six-speed manual is offered only on the entry-level S model).

Read next: 2019 Kia Cerato GT set for January launch with turbo power

Further driver satisfaction comes from the revised chassis tune and improved wheel and tyre package. Regarding the former, Kia’s local suspension tuning division arrived at a set-up that is significantly firmer than that run by the rest of the line-up, featuring stiffer springs, upgraded dampers, and thicker anti-roll bars. The software for the steering power assistance has also been recalibrated to deliver more weighty, driver-centric feel through the wheel. Appreciably more grip is delivered by larger 18-inch wheels (up from 17s on the Sport+ model one model rung below) running 225/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.

In terms of exterior changes, you’ll quickly pick the GT via its body-coloured sideskirts with black accent strips, a revised rear fascia with twin exhaust tips, while the spotters will note the move to LED headlights at the front and the high-gloss-finished exterior mirrors.

Read next: Split ANCAP score for 2019 Kia Cerato

Inside, the GT is an appreciably more sporty, visually appealing offering. The seats are far more deeply bolstered, trimmed in perforated leather with red accent stitching, and offer extra adjustability and two-position memory function. They also also feature three-speed ventilation (as well as the heating provided in the Sport+ spec.) The wheel is a nicer flat-bottom item, the pedals are finished in aluminium, and wireless phone charging is there to avoid cable-spaghetti syndrome. Music fans will also instantly hear the improvement delivered by the eight-speaker JBL audio system, which replaces the regular six-speaker set-up, and features separate amplification and rear-mounted subwoofer. The 8.0-inch central touchscreen is home to factory satellite navigation.

As with the Sport + model (or lower-spec cars fitted with the optional safety pack), the GT gets autonomous emergency braking as standard (the more advanced system using radar and camera that detects pedestrians and cyclists) along with rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist.

For the regular Cerato hatch range, specification levels mirror those of their sedan counterparts.

Read next: Kia Cerato GT warm hatch to benefit from i30 N program

So GT is fairly well loaded, leaving metallic paint, at a reasonable $520, the only item on the option list. 

2019 Kia Cerato pricing

Note: all prices are drive-away, with seven-year warranty.

  • Cerato S manual - $19,990
  • Cerato S auto - $21,990
  • Cerato Sport auto - $24,190
  • Cerato Sport+ auto - $27,740
  • Cerato GT - $31,990