2021 Kia Cerato Review
Our independent 2022 Kia Cerato review in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.
It may come as a surprise to learn just how much of a quiet achiever the Kia Cerato is. Launched several years after the Kia Rio, the Cerato has now edged aside its smaller sibling to become Kia’s best-selling nameplate of all time in Australia – notching up over 155,000 sales since 2003.
It’s also become quite the player in the small-car segment. Now entrenched firmly in the number three sales position (behind Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30, and ahead of Mazda 3), Kia can thank this current-generation BD Cerato for really supercharging its sales fortunes. In 2014, the Cerato was ranked 11th…
So it’s fitting that the first car to carry Kia’s new corporate logo is the refreshed MY22 Cerato (followed in quick succession by Rio, Stonic and Seltos MY22 models). But don’t be fooled by the updated Cerato’s stylish new face – this is mostly a cosmetic makeover rather an overhaul both on and underneath the skin.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Compared to the mechanically near-identical MY21 model it replaces, recommended retail pricing for the MY22 Cerato has increased slightly – $500 for the Cerato S auto, $600 for Sport and Sport+ auto, and $1100 for Cerato GT – with hatch and sedan bodystyles continuing to be priced the same.
Kia is offering permanent drive-away pricing across the range, however, spanning Cerato S ($25,990 drive-away), Cerato S with Safety Pack ($27,490 drive-away), Cerato Sport ($27,990 drive-away), Cerato Sport with Safety Pack ($29,490 drive-away), Cerato Sport+ ($31,690 drive-away) and Cerato GT ($36,990 drive-away).
Six-speed manual S and Sport models have been discontinued, which may disappoint some diehards though the take-up rate was barely one percent. The least expensive Cerato S is now a six-speed automatic.
Equipment upgrades justifying the price increase on Cerato S include LED daytime running lights and positioning lamps, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 4.2-inch LCD instrument display and rear air vents, in conjunction with keyless entry, heated door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines.
The Sport adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and digital radio, premium cloth trim, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, and an auto up/down driver’s window.
Sport+ gains an electronic park brake with auto-hold, push-button start, auto-folding electric mirrors, dual-zone climate control, leather-appointed upholstery, heated front seats, soft-touch upper trim materials, illuminated glovebox, and a passenger-side seatback map pocket.
The turbocharged GT gains 18-inch alloys, a bodykit, gloss-black mirrors, LED front fog lights, an electric sunroof, leather sports front seats with fan-cooled ventilation, eight-way electric driver’s adjustment with two-position memory, height-adjustable front passenger’s seat, sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, alloy sports pedals, wireless phone charging and an eight-speaker JBL stereo.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO OWN?
Kia’s warranty coverage is seven-years/unlimited-kilometres. If you service the Cerato at a Kia dealer according to its recommended schedule, you get the 12-month, 24-hour roadside assistance extended up to eight years.
Recommended service intervals for the 2.0-litre Cerato S, Sport and Sport+ are every 12 months or 15,000km, with pricing capped for the first seven years. The accumulative totals are $1083 for three years, $2015 for five years, and $2939 for seven years.
Recommended service intervals for the 1.6-litre turbo Cerato GT are every 12 months or 10,000km. Its accumulative totals are $1104 for three years, $2051 for five years, and $3295 for seven years.
WHAT’S THE EXTERIOR LIKE?
For the most part, much the same as before – meaning neatly proportioned and inoffensively handsome – but with a stylish new face and Kia’s enormously improved new logo.
Both hatch and sedan boast a fresh front-end with classy new headlights featuring ‘dotted-line’ LED daytime running lights, combined with LED headlights on Cerato GT.
All Ceratos get new front bumper designs, though the GT stands out with jazzy red detailing in its grille and in the lower air intake outlining its new diagonal LED fog lights.
The wheelcovers on the S model’s 16-inch steel wheels and the 18-inch alloys on the GT remain the same, as does the rear styling on the Cerato hatch.
Sport and Sport+ models get new 17-inch multi-spoke alloys (with 225/45R17 tyres) while all sedan models feature a redesigned bootlid shape, new rear bumper (with dual exhaust pipes on GT and a hidden single outlet on S, Sport and Sport+), plus new tail-lights mirroring the double-layer ‘dotted-line’ effect of the new headlights.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
The main change inside the MY22 Cerato is to multimedia (see ‘What’s the Infotainment Like?’), though nothing really needed to change in terms of presentation.
Not surprisingly, the range-topping GT has the finest interior of the Cerato clan. Ribbed and perforated leather seats with red stitching garnish a classy, well laid-out cabin with several neat details. The outer ‘eyeball’ air vents are a funky but functional point of difference, the flat-bottomed steering wheel feels great and the driving position is spot on.
While the S, Sport, and Sport+ don’t have the GT’s razzle-dazzle, they all have their good points. The S’s black and grey cloth trim looks and feels good (though it needs the optional Safety Pack to get a leather-clad steering wheel and gearknob) and the Sport’s striped cloth is better again. The Sport+ gets leather with diamond-pattern perforations that also have an air of quality.
There’s loads of leg room but the seat backrest is too reclined for genuine comfort. You end up craning your neck forward in an attempt to sit more upright, which is what the Cerato’s seat should be helping with, though smaller children and kids in booster seats should be okay.
HOW SAFE IS THE MY22 KIA CERATO?
The MY22 Cerato S now features lane-follow assist, driver attention alert with leading vehicle departure alert, auto high-beam and safe-exit warning, in conjunction with lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection – all of which is also standard on Cerato Sport.
An optional $1000 Safety Pack for both models adds cyclist detection for the AEB system, an electronic park brake, larger rear disc brakes (284mm solid discs instead of 262mm), adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, electric folding mirrors, and on the S (because they’re already standard on the Sport), a leather wheel and gearknob.
Sport+ and GT models feature new blindspot collision avoidance assist, and rear AEB (in conjunction with rear cross-traffic alert).
When fitted with the Safety Pack, all Ceratos receive a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.
WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE?
The Cerato S gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, three USB ports and six speakers, while the rest of the range scores a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sat-nav, digital radio, rear-seat sleep mode and 10-year MapCare and Suna live-traffic updates.
To that newly expanded 10.25-inch touchscreen, the GT adds wireless phone charging and eight-speaker JBL premium audio that sounds reasonably strong, though even the standard six-speaker stereo is a decent unit.
WHAT IS THE STORAGE LIKE?
Pretty good… until you need to use any of the door bins for anything larger than a throwaway 600ml plastic bottle. This means many enviro-friendly reusable bottles won’t fit.
At least the centre console is intelligently arranged, with a lidded bin between the seats (that also incorporates a sliding armrest in Sport+ and GT). And Cerato’s generous boot sizes are on the money – 428 litres for the hatch, 502 litres for the sedan.
WHAT ENGINES ARE AVAILABLE?
Besides the now-deleted 2.0-litre manual, the drivetrains are carry-over. That means Hyundai-Kia’s venerable ‘Nu’ 2.0-litre multi-point-injected four with six-speed automatic continues in S, Sport and Sport+, producing 112kW at 6200rpm and 192Nm at 4000rpm.
The Cerato GT carries over the ‘Gamma II’ 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. As before, it produces 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1500-4500rpm.
WHAT ABOUT FUEL ECONOMY?
Both Cerato engines are tuned to run on 91-octane regular unleaded and are reasonably fuel-efficient.
Based on the official ADR81/02 combined fuel number, the economy star of the range is the GT hatch (6.8L/100km), followed by the GT sedan (6.9L/100km), then the S, Sport and Sport+ hatch/sedan (all on 7.4L/100km).
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The only MY22 Cerato to undergo any mechanical changes is the GT, though it’s only minor suspension tweaking.
To improve Cerato GT’s ride without affecting its keen handling to any degree, Kia Australia has softened its damping tune slightly. The outcome is a modest improvement, though the GT still feels firm and can become jiggly on lumpy country roads.
Thankfully, the GT’s other dynamic abilities haven’t been affected. It turns into a corner with verve, handling balance is terrific and twisty roads are an opportunity for driver reward.
With just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, the steering is sharp and feels impressively natural in Sport mode (for an older electric system), though with less weighting consistency, Comfort mode feels comparatively artificial.
So is the GT’s manufactured induction noise – a synthesised gargle that only appears when the Drive Mode is in Sport, or when the transmission lever is shifted into ‘S’. It’s quite prominent, and not entirely pleasant, though it somehow manages to become less annoying once you’re used to it.
In terms of its drivetrain, the Cerato GT doesn’t get the new-generation 1598cc ‘Smartstream-G’ turbo four from the facelifted Hyundai Kona and latest Tucson. Instead, it uses that engine’s decade-old 1591cc predecessor, which is no bad thing, as it turns out.
There’s plenty of muscle to keep the Cerato GT on the boil, though the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission isn’t always on the same page. On more than one occasion the DCT failed to provide proper kickdown when overtaking, despite being in Sport mode. It merely dropped a gear, had a think, then decided an even lower gear might work better. It’s not ideal when you’re exposed to oncoming traffic.
We also drove a base Cerato S with optional Safety Pack. With high-profile 205/55R16 tyres and standard suspension, it’s much better-riding than the GT on most surfaces. And while it doesn’t have the panache, the power, or the encouragement of the GT, it’s still a decent car to drive.
The regular Cerato’s well-sorted suspension delivers a good balance between ride and handling, and because it’s much lighter than Sportage and Tucson medium SUVs that shares its ageing 2.0-litre engine, overall performance is stronger.
But a lack of engine refinement and a sometimes-ditsy transmission calibration do take the shine off the 2.0-litre Cerato somewhat. It’s at its best just pottering about town under minimal strain, rather than carrying a full load over a long distance – especially if there are hills.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
We’re right in the thick of the small-car class here so all the big names – Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30, as well as Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Skoda’s Scala and Octavia, and Volkswagen’s forthcoming Mk8 Golf.
The Hyundai i30 is older, and has a shorter warranty, though its back seat is more comfortable than the Cerato’s. The Corolla is quieter and more comfortable but has a small boot, while the Mazda 3 is firmer and sportier though compromises the rear-end for styling.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In stylish MY22 form, the Kia Cerato continues to offer no-nonsense, hassle-free motoring for an affordable price and with the longest warranty.
It doesn’t have the finesse or the refinement to be a class leader, yet it has a likeable personality, plenty of design class and loads of space. If only that weirdly flawed back seat comfort was on the same page as the rest of the car.