Kia is the latest maker to move away from bargain drive-away pricing on small cars, launching an updated Cerato sedan and hatch that starts at $25,990 for the auto.
Just two years ago, you could pick up a Cerato auto for $21,990 drive-away.
The new price still undercuts the rival Toyota Corolla by about $1700 and the Mazda3 by about $3000, though, and the generous standard equipment list and class leading seven-year warranty coverage remain, complemented by a fresh new look, more safety and better technology.
The maker has ditched the cheapest manual option, which only accounted for one per cent of sales.
The new Cerato has standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both accessed through an eight-inch touchscreen. Strangely, only Android Auto will work with a cord connection.
The Cerato will brake automatically for cars and pedestrians and will keep you in your lane, gently tugging the steering wheel if you wander.
If you want radar cruise control, blind-spot warning or rear cross-traffic alert, you’ll need to add the optional safety pack costing an extra $1500.
The base model gets cloth seats, hard wearing plastic surfaces and 16-inch steel wheels, as well as rear airconditioning vents and three USB charging points.
The Sport grade costs $27,990 drive-away and has a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, 17-inch alloy wheels and a nicer steering wheel, but the safety pack is still optional.
Sport+ versions get all the safety tech as standard, as well as comfy heated leather-appointed seats and auto folding side mirrors for $31,690.
Top-spec GT versions – priced at $36,990 – dial up the power with a 1.6-litre turbo engine in lieu of the standard 2.0-litre and a sportier suspension tune. There are also heated, cooled and powered adjustable sports seats, wireless device charging, 18-inch alloy wheels and a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel.
The Cerato has a spacious cabin with plenty of room for adults in the rear seats. Cargo space is above average at 502 litres for the sedan and 434 litres for the hatch.
The lack of a digital instrument display on any model is disappointing, though.
The standard 2.0-litre engine makes a respectable 112kW and 192Nm and is paired to a six-speed auto, while the GT’s 1.6-litre unit makes a lively 150kW and 265Nm, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
The 2.0-litre engine in the cheaper variants has more than enough grunt for city commuting and freeway cruising, although it needs to be revved reasonably hard when overtaking.
Kia’s local suspension tune is excellent. It soaks up bumps and corrugations of all shapes and sizes, while the cabin is well insulated from road and tyre noise.
The steering can feel a bit numb, though.
Claimed fuel use is 7.4L/100km, but we managed about 8.3L/100km on a mix of urban and twisting country roads.
The GT is noticeably sharper to drive, with strong low-down urge from the turbo engine and rapid-fire gear shifts from the dual-clutch auto. It’s not as thirsty either, drinking just 6.9L/100km.
The steering feels more direct and the stiffer suspension helps to keep it reassuringly planted through corners. The trade off is a less comfortable ride over pockmarked inner-city streets.
It may be more expensive than before, but the Cerato still represents good value for money, especially when you consider the seven-year/unlimited km warranty and seven years’ free roadside assistance.
Capped price servicing is on the expensive side, though, costing about $3000 for seven years on the cheaper models and $3300 for the GT.
Handsomely styled, packed with equipment and sharply priced, the Cerato doesn’t do much wrong.
KIA CERATO S VITALS
Price: From $27,490 drive-away
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, 112kW/192Nm
Warranty/servicing: Seven years/unlimited km, $2015 over five years.
Safety: Five stars, six airbags, auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist. Blind-spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert in optional safety pack.
Spare: Temporary steel
Cargo: 502L (sedan), 434L (hatch)