2017 Kia Cerato Review

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2017 Kia Cerato Sport

Priced From $19,990Information

Overall Rating


4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

3 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars


4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProSeven-year warranty; comfortable and pleasant drive.

  2. ConAuto braking not available.

  3. The Pick: 2017 KIA Cerato S (AV) 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

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

What might bug me?

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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 Gold Star Value Awards, which compare the likely costs of owning new cars for three years. Contributing to the Cerato’s victory were a low purchase price and very long 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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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 7.0-inch touchscreen and reversing camera can be ordered on a Cerato S in an extra-cost option pack.)

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 Cerato Sport+ model was introduced during the second half of 2017, which added a few extras to 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, powered driver’s seat lumbar support, sliding centre console armrest, paddle shifters, rear air vents and carbon fibre-look trim inserts.

Pay more again for a Cerato Si and you get leather-trimmed seats, and other more appealing finishes inside the cabin. A smart key allows you to unlock the front doors and drive away without taking the key out of your pocket or bag. Puddle lights illuminate the ground near the front doors when you open them. You can power-fold the exterior mirrors, to reduce the likelihood of damage when parked. Wheels remain alloy but their diameter returns to 16 inches, with the more comfortable taller-profile tyres. And you gain some active safety aids: blind-spot detection, and a reverse cross-traffic alert.

The most expensive Cerato, the SLi, brings you in addition a power-adjusted driver’s seat that remembers your adjustments (so that you can restore your preferred setting easily after a companion has driven the car). The driver’s seat is also ventilated and heated, and the front passenger seat is heated. Dual-zone climate-control allows different temperatures to be set for each side of the cabin. Paddle shifters let you control the auto gearbox from the steering wheel. There is a power-operated sunroof. Wheel and tyre sizes match the Cerato Sport.

The Cerato SLi also adds two active driver aids: a lane-departure warning and a forward collision warning. (For more information on Cerato safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The lower-profile tyres on the Cerato Sport, Sport+ and SLi 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.

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

How comfortable is the Kia Cerato?

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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?

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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.

The Cerato Si and SLi come with active safety aids. In the Cerato Si, a blind-spot detection system warns you, when you indicate to change lanes on the highway, if another vehicle is out of view near your rear corner. A rear cross-traffic alert works when you are backing out of a parking spot: sensors look for cars, motorcycles and bicycles heading your way from behind, and trigger a warning if you are on a collision course.

The Cerato SLi adds a forward collision warning and a lane-departure warning, both camera-based. The former alerts you if it concludes you are closing too fast on an obstacle ahead – typically another car that has slowed suddenly. The latter monitors lane markings and warns you if it thinks you are drifting out of your lane on the highway – possibly because you have become distracted or sleepy.

No Cerato has autonomous emergency braking. The SLi will warn you of hazards ahead, but it will not apply the brakes for you.

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?

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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, and in an SLi you even get manual gearshift paddles on the steering wheel.

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?

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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+, Si and SLi have dedicated air-conditioning vents for rear passengers.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The boot on the sedan pops open fully when you unlock it. The sedan’s boot is deeper than the hatchback’s, providing about 25 per cent more load area. However with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats (on both body styles) folded down, the hatchback can 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?

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The Cerato is produced in South Korea.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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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 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?

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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?

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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.

An all-new Cerato sedan and hatch is expected about 2019. The next model will bring more interior space and greater engine diversity, and there could be a sporty GT version.