2018 Kia Cerato Hatchback

The Cerato has a stylish cabin and a long feature list. It drives nicely and is comfortable, and Kia offers a seven-year warranty.

Kia Cerato Sport+
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Seven-year warranty
  •   Comfortable and pleasant drive
Not so much
  •   Auto braking not available

What stands out?

The Cerato is Kia’s alternative to the popular Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30 small cars. The smart hatchback has a stylish cabin and drives nicely, especially since Kia improved its ride and steering as part of a May 2016 update. The warranty is seven years, and the more expensive Ceratos offer active safety aids among a long list of features.

The hatchback on sale now is a third generation Cerato. It is on sale alongside the new Cerato sedan, that is an all-new model and the subject of a separate range review.

An all-new Cerato hatch is expected by early 2019.

What might bug me?

The price you get when it comes time to sell your Cerato. Because it is not as well known as alternatives such as the Toyota Corolla or Mazda3, it is likely that potential buyers will be well placed to bargain. Nevertheless, Wheels magazine adjudged the Cerato S the best small car under $24,000 in its 2016 and 2017 Gold Star Value Awards, which compare the likely costs of owning new cars for three years. Contributing to the Cerato’s high rankings were a low purchase price and long seven-year warranty.

Perhaps that you can’t play CDs – only the least costly version, the Cerato S, has a player. The others treat the Compact Disc as an obsolete technology.

What body styles are there?

Four-door sedan and five-door hatchback.

The Cerato drives the front wheels, and is classed as a small car, lower priced.

What features do all Ceratos have?

Cruise control, and Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and music streaming. Parking sensors front and rear, which help you judge how close you are to obstacles.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, and height adjustment for the driver’s seat. A footrest for the driver.

Controls on the steering wheel for the cruise control, the audio system and your phone.

Seatbelt reminders for all five seat positions. Windows tinted to reduce sun penetration.

A full-sized spare wheel and tyre.

Hill-start assist, which controls the brakes automatically to help you start from rest on an uphill slope.

Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid or slide. All new cars must have this feature.

Six airbags: two at the front; one on each side to protect front-seat occupants in side crashes; and a curtain airbag down each side to protect heads in a side impact.

The Cerato has a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

All Ceratos use a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre petrol engine and on the official test consume 7.1 litres/100km (city and country combined).

In real-world driving, expect about 9.0 litres/100km on average. A Cerato with this engine recorded that figure when driven alongside 11 other popular small cars for a review published in the January 2017 issue of Wheels magazine. That put the Cerato mid-field for fuel use – similar figures were recorded for the Toyota Corolla, 2017 Subaru Impreza, and Mazda3.

The 2.0-litre is a flexible engine that performs well in the city and cruises comfortably on the highway.

The least costly Cerato – the Cerato S – comes with a six-speed manual gearbox but offers a six-speed conventional auto as an option. All other Ceratos have the six-speed auto as standard.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Spending as little as possible on a Cerato will get you a Cerato S, which has a radio and CD player, cloth seat trim, and 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers.

The Cerato S with AV loses the CD player but gains a reversing camera, displayed on a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen. You also get support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – which allow you to display apps from your phone on the touchscreen and control them from there. Automatic transmission is standard.

Spend more for a Cerato Sport and you lose the CD player but gain a reversing camera, displayed on a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen. You also get satellite navigation, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – which allow you to display apps from your phone on the touchscreen and control them from there. Your headlamps switch on automatically at night or in tunnels. The steering wheel is wrapped, for a nicer feel, and there is leather-look trim on the instrument-cluster. Wheels are made from aluminium alloy, which looks nicer and does not need the plastic trim, and they are an inch bigger at 17 inches. Tyres are lower in profile and slightly wider, for a bit more cornering grip and precision.

A Sport+ model was introduced as the new top-of-the-range Cerato in the second half of 2017, replacing the SLi. It has a few extras over the Sport specification including automatic folding door mirrors, puddle lights and chrome exterior highlights.

Inside, the Sport+ gains an electrochromatic rear view mirror, which automatically dims so you’re not dazzled by the headlights of the car behind you, leather appointed seats, powered driver’s seat lumbar support, sliding centre console armrest, paddle shifters, rear air vents and carbon fibre-look trim inserts.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The lower-profile tyres on the Cerato Sport, Sport+ don’t smother bumps quite as well, because there is less air between the wheel and the road. They could also cost a bit more to replace.

Spending more for a Cerato with a central touchscreen and reversing camera means you lose the CD player: only the Cerato S has one.

You don’t have an option of a cheaper manual transmission if you upgrade to the Cerato S with AV, Sport or Sport+.

Clear White is only standard colour. All other colours cost extra.

How comfortable is the Kia Cerato?

The Cerato interior design is clean and elegant, with chrome highlights and crisp instruments that lift the look. It’s also ergonomically friendly, from the buttons and switches on the steering wheel to the main audio and circular ventilation controls placed quite high on the dash.

The S looks a bit underdone with its monochrome audio display; the colour touchscreen on other models is more vibrant.

The seats offer good support and are comfortable, which makes long stints at the wheel easy.

The Cerato is an easy car to drive. A new 2.0-litre four-cylinder replaced 1.8-litre and direct fuel injected 2.0-litre fours as part of a mid-2016 model update. The new engine is more economical than the old 2.0 and more powerful than the 1.8. It’s not quite as zesty as the old 2.0-litre – it’s slightly less powerful – and gets noisy if you drive it hard. However, it works well in the city and cruises comfortably on the highway, with enough oomph for overtaking.

A local suspension calibration as part of the mid-2016 facelift brought a more mature blend of ride and handling. The suspension is not stiff and can comfortably absorb both urban and highway bumps and imperfections, and yet the Cerato is now more enjoyable to drive.

What about safety in a Cerato?

Six airbags contribute to good occupant protection in a crash, and rear-seat seatbelt reminders add security for people travelling with children or forgetful adults. The reversing camera standard on all but the S version improves rear vision, while the auto headlamps (again, fitted to all but the S) can switch on before the driver notices they’re required, enhancing visibility.

No Cerato has autonomous emergency braking. Active safety features such as forward collision alert, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert were available in the Cerato Si and SLi variants (which were deleted from the range in the latter half of 2017) but were not added to the Sport or Sport+.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Cerato its maximum five stars for safety in May 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Kia Cerato matured in a mid-2016 facelift that gave it a new steering set-up and an Australian chassis calibration.

A faster computer processor has made the Cerato’s electric power steering more precise, with more agreeable weighting than before, but the Kia still doesn’t turn as engagingly as small-car standard-setters the Ford Focus and Mazda3.

The reworked suspension has made the handling more cohesive and the ride more compliant. The Cerato now feels at home soaking up bumpy Australian roads, and handles corners with good grip and a satisfying sense of balance.

The 2.0-litre engine is a willing worker, even if it is not an inspiring element of the Cerato driving experience. It gets vocal when you ask for all of its performance.

The six-speed automatic transmission in most Ceratos is smooth and decisive.

The six-speed manual available in a Cerato S is an agreeable gearbox with a light shift action.

How is life in the rear seats?

The Cerato has a spacious back seat that’s welcoming for two – or for three small people. Head room is adult-friendly and leg room very good, too. For times when only two passengers are in the back, there is a fold-out arm rest with a pair of cupholders.

The Cerato Sport+ has dedicated air-conditioning vents for rear passengers.

How is Cerato for carrying stuff?

The Cerato hatch has one of the biggest boot spaces in its class, which expands to 657 litres with 60/40 split-fold rear seats folded down, allowing it to accept bulky items such as a bicycle more easily.

Storage is good elsewhere in the Cerato too, with bottle-friendly door pockets up front and a binnacle at the base of the dash that has a classy sliding door to keep valuables out of view (the USB plug is housed here).

The covered centre console is quite spacious, and the generous storage story concludes with a large glovebox.

Where does Kia make the Cerato?

The Cerato is produced in South Korea.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Mainly, autonomous emergency braking, which will apply the brakes automatically to prevent your rear-ending a car ahead that has slowed suddenly. This is standard on the new Cerato sedan and on a Mazda3, Volkswagen Golfor Skoda Octavia, for example, and optional on any Toyota Corolla.

Perhaps the greater security in slippery conditions of all-wheel drive, which is standard on a Subaru Impreza.

Perhaps the stronger response to the accelerator that you might enjoy in a turbocharged small car such as a Golf, Octavia, Ford Focus or Holden Astra.

Other cars you might consider include the Honda Civic, and the Hyundai Elantra or I30.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Our reviewers think the Cerato S, optioned with the larger touchscreen infotainment interface and reversing camera (about $500), is the best buy.

Are there plans to update the Cerato soon?

The current Cerato went on sale in 2013. A facelift in the middle of 2016 gave it more polished steering and handling and put a new 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder in every version.

About April 2017 Kia replaced Cerato S Premium variants with the Cerato Sport, substituting slightly bigger wheels and tyres.

It added a Sport+ version around September, with some additional features including automatic folding mirrors, powered driver’s seat lumbar support and paddle shifters. This coincided with the deletion of the pricier Si and SLi variants from the range and with them active safety such as blind sport alert and rear cross traffic alert.

An all-new Cerato hatch is expected about 2019. The next model will bring more interior space, auto-braking as standard, and there could be a sporty GT version.

The new Cerato sedan went on sale in June 2018 with a host of new standard features including autonomous emergency braking and 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Seven-year warranty
  •   Comfortable and pleasant drive
Not so much
  •   Auto braking not available


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