Car Reviews

2018 Kia Cerato Review

Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Kia Cerato Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score. 

In a nutshell: New Kia Cerato is priced marginally higher than the outgoing car but offers a whole lot more bang and sizzle for your bucks.

2018 Kia Cerato Specifications

Price $19,990-$26,190 driveaway Warranty seven-years, unlimited km Safety N/A Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 112kW at 6200rpm Torque 192Nm at 4000rpm Transmission six-speed manual or automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4640mm (L) 1800mm (W) 1440mm (H) 2700mm (WB) Seats five Boot Space 502 litres Weight 1295kg Towing 610kg-1100kg (braked) Fuel Tank 50 litres Thirst 7.4-7.6L/100km claimed combined

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ONE thousand five hundred dollars. That is the price difference between the existing Cerato S hatchback automatic, which will continue to sell until early next year for a maintained $19,990 driveaway, and the all-new Cerato S sedan that has just landed in Australia from $19,990 driveaway as a six-speed manual but $21,490 driveaway with six-speed auto.

From there, the popular South Korean will walk you up to $23,690 and $26,190 driveaway for the Cerato Sport and Sport+ sedan respectively, both auto only. And all models carry over a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine.

What is the Kia Cerato?

A third-generation small sedan, and (eventually) the delayed five-door hatchback that will arrive from early 2019. Kia has focused on value with the popular Cerato, which sold 6679 units in 2014 but a huge 15,977 in 2017. How’s that for pressure not to muck things up?

The S sedan retains 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, front and rear parking sensors, automatic on/off headlights, air-conditioning and remote central locking. It loses a full-size spare wheel, replaced by a space saver, but gains an 8.0-inch touchscreen (up from 7.0in) with digital radio, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with lane-keep assistance. The latter is an inspired move, and one Hyundai hasn’t matched with its base i30 and Elantra.

Practical Motoring says: The Sport and Sport+ enter middle-grade Mazda3 Maxx Sport territory, and it is a far more polished and premium feeling sedan. The S is the most compelling, though it does feel born to be lowered back to $19,990 driveaway with auto in time. Bargain hard and you likely won’t be too far from that figure at your local dealer now.

The Sport, for $2200 extra, adds 17in alloys, leather-wrapped steering wheel, integrated satellite navigation and illuminated vanity mirrors. And the Sport+, for another $2500, gets LED daytime running lights, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, leather trim, heated front seats, soft-touch front door plastics, rear air vents, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, plus active cruise control.

What’s the Interior Like?

Compared with its 2013-born predecessor, the 80mm-longer Cerato sedan ups its boot space from 482 litres to volume of 502L – and among the largest in the class. It is a shame about the luggage-crushing gooseneck lid hinges, but otherwise the area is big and square.

Cabin space is broadly the same as before, with 10mm of extra rear shoulder space the biggest difference. The stylish, sweeping dashboard design is also a huge step up over the slabby old version, with the new touchscreen the clear highlight – quite literally given its sparkling resolution and brilliantly quick response. Nav might not be standard, but digital radio plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring is backed by a full trio of USB ports (two for charging).

Practical Motoring says: The Sport and Sport+ enter middle-grade Mazda3 Maxx Sport territory, and it is a far more polished and premium feeling sedan. The S is the most compelling, though it does feel born to be lowered back to $19,990 driveaway with auto in time. Bargain hard and you likely won’t be too far from that figure at your local dealer now.

All ergonomics are as they should be, with easy controls and a great driving position including a plush and supportive seatbase and firmer, less amenable backrest. But there is certainly a built-to-a-price inconsistency inside the Cerato.

All-hard door trims, a plastic steering wheel on the S, and flimsy rotary-dial air-con controls on that model and the Sport add to the expanse of grey. The rear is roomy for width and legroom, but headroom can be crimped. A fold down armrest (with cupholders) is supported by door bottle holders but no map pockets (or air vents until Sport+). It looks cheap, but beyond the touchscreen another highlight of this Kia is its superb panel fit.

What’s it like to drive?

The use of high-strength steel increases in the Cerato from 34 per cent in the old car to 54 per cent in a marginally lighter (1295kg) new model. The 2.0-litre engine is, however, thirstier, with a combined-cycle fuel consumption claim of 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres (for the auto) up 0.2/100km over the five-year-old last generation sedan.

Practical Motoring says: The Sport and Sport+ enter middle-grade Mazda3 Maxx Sport territory, and it is a far more polished and premium feeling sedan. The S is the most compelling, though it does feel born to be lowered back to $19,990 driveaway with auto in time. Bargain hard and you likely won’t be too far from that figure at your local dealer now.

Thankfully, with an unchanged 112kW of power at 6200rpm and 192Nm of torque at 4000rpm, the Cerato remains a strong performer that is matched to a slick auto. Nobody could complain about the immediacy and responsiveness of this drivetrain, with the only issue being noise. Kia said it reduced Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) measures, but it only got the middle word right; the engine is loud and coarse, though decently shake-free.

Kia’s engineers also have paid attention to steering, ride and handling improvements, but in this case it’s the middle attribute that has not been improved. On standard 16in tyres the base S rides very firmly, with too much irregular jiggle and jostle for too much of the time, while the 17in Sport and Sport+ add a terse sharpness over bumps too.

Practical Motoring says: The Sport and Sport+ enter middle-grade Mazda3 Maxx Sport territory, and it is a far more polished and premium feeling sedan. The S is the most compelling, though it does feel born to be lowered back to $19,990 driveaway with auto in time. Bargain hard and you likely won’t be too far from that figure at your local dealer now.

The steering is notably improved, with greater calm on-centre and impressive linearity when turning, while Sport mode adds some weight that is well-judged. And the handling is more composed than before, if not properly sharp, with that firm suspension delivering its best through mid-corner bumps where it remains undisturbed. But is there too much emphasis on rough-road tightness rather than urban comfort and quietude? Considering the loud road noise as well, we would have to say, yes, there is.

What about ownership?

A brilliant seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is still unmatched in this business, while servicing is every year or 15,000km – which is bang-on expectation. However, the cost for the capped-price servicing plan has not yet been confirmed.

What about safety features?

Six airbags and switchable electronic stability control (ESC) are par for the course in this class, but standard AEB and an excellent lane-keep assistance are offerings that few rivals can match and for which Kia should be applauded.

The safety packages are affordable, too. AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active cruise control, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert are bundled as a $1000 safety pack option on both S (which also gets a leather wrapped steering wheel and electric-fold door mirrors) and Sport, while Sport+ adds blind-spot/cross-traffic for $500 as part of a safety pack 2. However, ANCAP has not yet tested the new Cerato.

So, what do we think?

The new Cerato hits high notes with its pricing, infotainment and active safety technology, strong performance, roomy cabin and long warranty. However, in the five years since the previous-generation model launched the small car segment has mostly pushed ahead with cabin quality, ride quality and refinement, and in these areas this Kia stalls entirely.

That Kia’s pricing strategy undercuts most rivals is reflective of the fact that this feels like a sedan built to a price. For many buyers that’s fine, though, so if roomy and reliable transport is the basic requirement then this is a slightly better Kia Cerato than before.

Practical Motoring says: The Sport and Sport+ enter middle-grade Mazda3 Maxx Sport territory, and it is a far more polished and premium feeling sedan. The S is the most compelling, though it does feel born to be lowered back to $19,990 driveaway with auto in time. Bargain hard and you likely won’t be too far from that figure at your local dealer now.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring says: The Sport and Sport+ enter middle-grade Mazda3 Maxx Sport territory, and it is a far more polished and premium feeling sedan. The S is the most compelling, though it does feel born to be lowered back to $19,990 driveaway with auto in time. Bargain hard and you likely won’t be too far from that figure at your local dealer now.

Dan DeGasperi

Dan DeGasperi