The Kia Cerato is one of Australia’s top-selling passenger cars, even if it isn’t the sharpest knife in the small-car block.
However, Kia aims to change that. It’s done so by removing one mid-specification car – the $24,990 S Premium – and replacing it with another, the $24,790 Sport. It hopes the change of name, shift in price and roll-out of even more gear will help boost Cerato hatch and sedan sales even higher.
But there’s a slight problem, and it’s largely down to that “Sport” badge.
● It’s a decent handler. It wasn’t so long ago that Kia was a byword for sloppy dynamics and vague steering, but it seems those days are behind us. This new Cerato is a competent handler with decent road holding and a well-judged ride.
● A big part of this is down to the Cerato’s chassis, which is tuned for Australia’s pockmarked roads by local experts. The old Cerato was locally-tuned too, but this new one has even stiffer springs, different bushes and a new type of damper to further improve its ride and handling
● Its new engine is a highlight too. Kia has ditched the old car’s hard-working 1.8-litre petrol for a larger and more powerful 2.0-litre unit. The new engine is strong and offers decent performance for easy overtakes, yet is no thirstier than the smaller engine it replaces.
● Value has long been a Cerato strength, but this new model ups the ante ever further thanks to sharp drive away pricing and boosted equipment levels, including new safety systems such as blind-spot detection and lane departure warning.
● The Sport is an improvement over the S premium it replaces. It gets a leather-look steering wheel and shifter knob, can project both Android and Apple smartphones onto the multimedia screen, and chrome-look door handles.
● Despite its badge, the Cerato Sport has no sporting pedigree. It does have a driving mode switch that pushes it into a sport mode, but all that does is make the engine slightly more responsive, the gear changes arrive later and the steering feel slightly more weighty, but without extra feel.
● The ride could be a little firm for some. I know, we listed the way the Cerato handles as a strength, but the pay-off for such superb body control and taut dynamics is suspension that can feel overly stiff over big bumps, especially in higher-spec Si and SLi models that roll on large 17-inch wheels.
● The seating position is too high in models fitted with leather electric seats. It’s strange, especially given the seating position in models fitted with manual cloth seats is excellent.
● There’s no AEB on any Cerato. And the entry-level model doesn’t score a reverse camera as standard either, which seems mean.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
And if you’re chasing something with European charm, we’re on the cusp of a significant update to the Volkswagen Golf, which like its predecessor should be a hugely competent all-rounder with a beautifully made interior, well-judged handling and high levels of standard equipment.