The Cerato 5-door offers style and comfort, with plenty of standard kit.

Kia has come on in leaps and bounds since the turn of the millennium 14 years ago.  They went from producing knock-offs of established brands, to producing boring, shoddily built cars that induced no joy whatsoever when driven, and then, somewhere in the midst of the global financial crisis, Kia managed to out-Japan the Japanese, producing stylish, reliable cars that are great fun to drive.  One of the latest models to come from the new era of Kia is the Cerato 5-door hatchback, but how would it stand up to TCR scrutiny?

I was immediately impressed upon receipt of my test vehicle, a brand new Cerato 1.6 EX, the entry level model in the range.  Build quality was top notch from the moment I touched the door handle, with a solid feel to all components, and a soft thud as the door closed.  Despite bearing the tag of being an entry level model, the 1.6 EX was loaded with features.  Soft touch materials adorned the ergonomically designed dashboard, whilst my hands found themselves positioned on a height and reach adjustable leather steering wheel with cruise control and steering wheel audio controls.  Other features that come standard on the Cerato were LED daytime running lamps, auto headlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, air-con, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and auxiliary connectivity, and a sliding arm rest for the driver and front passenger.  At a base price of R233 995, the Cerato came kitted to the hilt with extras, extras that would price competitor products nearly R100 000 more than the Kia.

Equipped with a 6-speed manual gearbox and a 1.6-litre Gamma engine, developing 95.3kW and 157Nm, I was a little let down by the Cerato’s power delivery.  Getting up to speed was relatively simple, however due to a low torque figure and slightly wayward gearing, the midrange acceleration was almost entirely non-existent, with frequent downshifts to third gear required to make any sort of overtaking manoeuvre, even at highway speeds.  The lacklustre engine would have been better off as a GDI unit, and the gearbox was sadly a huge let down for spirited driving, but the Cerato still had an ace up its sleeve.

The ride quality and cabin insulation in the Cerato were second to none.  Whilst it didn’t provide a sporty drive, the chassis refinement was honest and highly capable, constantly communicating with the driver exactly what was happening from front to rear.  The suspension rode with a pliant suppleness, yet with firm support when required – resulting in little body roll and a consistent “riding on air” feel.  Where the Kia surprised me with most though was the quiet confidence with which it performed its duties.  Due to sublime build quality, cabin insulation was top notch, offering a quite, refined drive, with little wind or road noise permeating the cabin.  Visibility was fantastic, giving the Cerato the feel of being far larger than it really was.

The Cerato, although compact in dimensions, was a smartly packaged vehicle.  Particular though was given to cabin design, resulting in an airy environment with space for all and sundry.  Even with my 6-foot frame in the driver’s seat, there was more than enough space in the back for an adult male to fit comfortably, and the boot was cleverly packaged to enable easy loading of large objects.  With the rear seats folded flat, boot space was increased to such an extent that it was perfect for a mid-week visit to the Menlyn drive-in.

The Cerato hatch was a rather comfortable vehicle to live with.  It’s striking looks and lovable character made for an easy-driving companion – and though the gearbox may have been a weak point, the comfort and relaxed nature of the Cerato resulted in smiles all round.  The simple, easy-going attitude of the Cerato directly translated to a relaxed driver and a relaxed wallet too, with the 1.6-litre engine sipping 6.8l/100km on a combined driving cycle.

While the Cerato 5-door 1.6EX may not be the liveliest of competitors in the segment, it is an honest machine with a congenial nature.  The chassis and suspension are well-sorted and sure-footed, and the insulation, ride comfort, and build-quality are unsurpassable.  Loaded with kit and style, at an affordable price, the Kia Cerato 5-door is not only easy on the eyes and wallet, but is easy to live with.  Kia has come a long way from the cheap brand we once knew, the Cerato proving to be a serious value-for-money competitor in the family hatchback arena.

The Stats:

Engine Capacity:

1591cc

No. of Cylinders:

4

Max. Power:

95.3kW @ 6300RPM

Max. Torque:

157Nm @ 4850RPM

Gearbox:

6 Speed Manual

0-100 time (As tested):

10.6 seconds

Top Speed:

200km/h

Kerb Weight:

1311Kg

Fuel Tank Capacity:

50 litres

Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):

6.8l/100km

Drivetrain

FrontWheel Drive

Price (as tested):

R233 995,00

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Author: Roger Biermann

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