Wearing a new face and the brand’s shiny new badge, the Kia Cerato has swung in for a subtle facelift that brings a few key upgrades and enhances an already capable package.
Take a short drive just about anywhere in Australia and you are sure to spot a current generation Kia Cerato – and there is a very good reason for that.
Recently overtaking its smaller Rio hatch sibling sales, the Cerato has proven popular with both fleet and private buyers primarily due to the fact that it doesn’t cost much to buy – and simply ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people.
Kia offers a choice of four grades for the Cerato, with entry-level models able to tack on an added safety pack but the one we’ve opted for is the Sport+ in hatchback form factor.
For just a little bit more cash, the Cerato Sport+ includes the aforementioned features and sits at the top of the tree of the ‘normal’ grades but underneath the Cerato GT which offers more of a performance flavour.
Priced at $31,690 driveaway the Cerato Sport+ is an enticing deal, particularly when Kia throws in a seven-year warranty, beating coverage provided by most rival brands by at least two years. That’s good peace of mind.
The facelifted Cerato becomes the first Kia to adopt the brand’s new logo. The restyled mark strikes a more youthful appearance and makes more difference to the look of this small car than you might think.
The Cerato had a conventional but handsome appearance when it came out in 2018 which now wears a slightly more modern look with sharper LED daytime running lights and a redesigned front grille.
Our hatch has left the appearance at the rear untouched but those who opt for the sedan may notice the exhaust has now been hidden, the bumper restyled and Kia has inserted an LED rear fog lamp at the rear for some added peace of mind.
Driving the Cerato Sport+ remains a pleasant experience overall, with a fairly compact size that affords good visibility for easier parking and the ability to thread through backstreets in an agile manner.
This inherent strength doesn’t mean country buyers will be left with a twitching mess on the highway, however, as the Cerato is a confident cruiser that sits quite comfortably at 110km/h for long distances.
Less inspiring is the 2.0L four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet which is perfectly adequate for this class with 112kW of power and 192Nm of torque on tap.
Matched to this engine is the six-speed torque converter automatic transmission which is now the sole option after Kia deleted the manual across the entire range due to a combination of lack of interest from buyers and incompatibility with modern safety systems.
The two-litre entry engine offered on the Cerato is no match for the high-grade 1.6-litre turbo petrol that remains an exclusive privilege of the sporty GT grades.
While the two-litre tested in the Sport+ grade is adequate around town, it becomes noisy when you ask more of it, quickly running out of puff when launching onto a highway on-ramp – and overtakes need to be properly planned.
It should be noted that the closely related i30 from sister brand Hyundai develops slightly more grunt from its 2.0L engine at 120kW/203Nm, thanks to direct injection missing from the Kia’s port-injected motor.
Kia has retained the suspension settings for the Cerato Sport+ from the pre-facelift version, with a McPherson strut arrangement at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. This setup blends cost-effectiveness with a relatively comfortable ride.
The Cerato is not as compliant as the Toyota Corolla, which is fitted with independent rear suspension across the range, but it is as compliant as its i30 cousin on city roads.
When hustling the Cerato Sport+ along a country road, we found the car stayed confident underfoot until you pushed past seven-tenths or so, at which point the soft suspension started to become overwhelmed.
If you want more athletic ability from your Cerato, consider the turbocharged Cerato GT, which is more capable in the corners – but keep in mind the GT’s independent suspension runs a pretty firm tune that may be too stiff for some.
As part of a safety update to the Cerato, engineers have fitted larger 284mm disc brakes at the rear along with big 305mm rotors at the front. Pedal feel is relatively vague but the stoppers pack a punch when you need their full force.
Kia has carried over the five-star ANCAP safety rating from the pre-facelifted Cerato but has thrown in a slew of extra equipment that brings it up to scratch with its rivals and make it more ideal for young and inexperienced drivers.
The all-important autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system has been updated to include pedestrian and cyclist detection, and all grades are fitted with front and rear parking sensors alongside a reversing camera.
Opting for the Cerato Sport+ means buyers snag handy features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, safe exit assist and an adaptive cruise control system that is reasonably well-tuned for highway driving.
Other notable features include lane departure warning and driver attention alert which appeared attentive during our testing.
Kia has carried over the six airbag setup but lacks a centre airbag that stops the front occupants from slamming together and would be required for five stars if ANCAP was to retest the Cerato today.
The interior of the Kia Cerato is a smart and logical cabin that offers a good driving position and a well-placed door armrest that keeps you supported on long journeys.
Somewhat limiting this is the Cerato’s seats which are comfortable but firmer than I’d like – though the six-way manual adjustability for the driver, plus standard seat heating, goes some way to easing fatigue on a long drive.
It’s a shame that the Sport+ misses out on the two-way electric lumbar support found in the GT which does provide better back support. Also of note is the fact that no matter the grade, no Cerato offers passenger-side electric seats.
The most exciting addition to the Cerato Sport+’s interior for 2021 is the fitment of a crisp 10.25-inch touchscreen display that is reasonably responsive and is bigger than others in this class.
While the Sport+ grade doesn’t get the wireless phone charger found inside the Cerato GT, it’s largely not missed as the Sport+ is fitted with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – so you’ll likely have your phone plugged in anyway.
Kia’s infotainment system is reasonably easy to use, but the in-built satellite navigation system did struggle to locate a common address. But if you find the system to your liking, you have 10 years of map updates included with the purchase price – which is a nice touch.
Missing from the Cerato lineup is a digital driver’s display, though the cockpit does house a 4.2-inch display between the two analogue dials that gives simple readouts such as fuel economy and a digital speedo.
Rear passengers will love the recent fitment of rear air vents to the Cerato, though the back row can be tight to get in and out of if the driver is particularly tall – but it’s bigger than most, and perfectly acceptable for shorter trips.
Boot volume is generous for the small car segment, measuring 502 litres in the sedan and 428 litres in the hatch. There is a fairly low load lip and deep storage area that makes stowing most items fairly easy.
Owning a Kia Cerato won’t be an exorbitant hit to your monthly balance and that’s for a few reasons.
While a claimed 7.4L fuel economy rating isn’t brilliant for a modern small hatch it certainly isn’t terrible. During our testing along some country roads we found it drank around the mid-8.0L range and would no doubt improve with some more sensible driving.
Kia has a seven-year capped price serving program for the Cerato and isn’t too demanding with a service schedule of one a year or every 15,000km, whichever comes first.
Over the first five years the Cerato Sport+ will cost $2,015 to service, which sits towards the pricier end of this segment. In particular, the Toyota Corolla costs just $900 to service over five years.
The Kia Cerato Sport+ is a car that is a jack of all trades. It’s well suited to the needs of many Australians, with a compliant ride around town, a spacious cabin, and plenty of useful tech.
This point is only proven further with the latest facelift that adds some important safety improvements and alluring convenience features to the budget-smart hatch.
It isn’t the most sophisticated car in the segment due to its more basic petrol engine and rear suspension, but the Cerato is likely to be reliable – and with a low $31,690 driveaway price, the Sport+ grade offers a lot of kit for the cash.
With rear air vents now in the back seat and increased safety, this is a car more parents can consider and would also be a good for a younger driver embarking on the most testing years of their licence. It would also suit a downsizer not wanting to skimp on tech.
Like many of its rivals, the Cerato shows why small cars continue to be well-suited to Australian tastes and driving styles. You don’t always need a SUV!
Key specs (as tested)
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