Kia bites with Stinger junior

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Words: Peter Louisson
22 Feb 2019

Cerato returns to our shores, now in sleek fourth-generation guise, and with an expanded line-up, in both sedan and hatch formats. With the gradual decline of the small car sector, how come Kia is extending its range?

The company sees an opportunity to grab share in the Corolla/Mazda3 area, following the removal of key volume players. It plans to dominate with the $31,990 LX, aimed mainly at the business sector; it’s expected to account for almost one-half of Cerato sales.

Despite the run-out of the third-generation Kia Cerato ending midyear 2018, Kia still managed to lift total volume in New Zealand from 6480 in 2017 to 6885 last year, moving up to 6th position overall and accounting for 6.7 per cent of overall market share. That’s an improvement from 11th position in 2015. With new Cerato sedan and hatch arriving now, Kia NZ MD, Todd McDonald, reckons 7200 sales should be possible, continuing the trend of year-on-year growth.

Some might wonder about the sense of bringing in both sedan and hatch versions of new Cerato, given the firm expects to sell six of the latter to every one of the former. But McDonald sees things differently. Some still prefer sedans, and in the Cerato’s case there’s more luggage space thanks to a lower floor (502 versus 428L, even if access isn’t as generous). In the case of the hatch, that’s 43L more than the previous generation which launched in 2014.

With split folding luggage space in the hatch expands to 1335L. There’s a good reason for the enhanced space; the hatch is 160mm longer than before, even though the wheelbase is unchanged at 2700mm. It’s a touch wider and lower as well, meaning decent occupant room in the cabin.

Returning though to the whys and wherefores. The small car or C segment is in decline and that’s largely because Lancer, Pulsar and Cruze have fallen by the wayside. Kia sees this sector as an opportunity to grow market share, much of which is in the business fleet sector (60 vs 40 per cent private).

Kia has increased the models available in the Cerato range, adding a more potent GT to the line-up. At the base end, the LX (and all others, bar the GT) is powered by a naturally aspirated fuel injected 2.0L engine, good for 112kw and 192Nm, mated to a six-speed auto.

The GT alone gets a different powertrain, a 150kW/265Nmn 1.6L turbopetrol variant hooked up to a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission. This one is a bit special, in that suspension was fettled in Australia, and it’s mission in life it to give some of the hot hatches in the sector a bit of a run for their money. So it’s not a Grand Tourer per se but a GT as in top performance and handling for the range.

During the launch drive, through familiar roads of interest, it managed to keep pace with the twin-turbo V6 Stinger GT lead car, though it was being encouraged along rather strenuously, pushed to its limits in Sport mode. But hang on it did, aided in no small way by its Michelin Pilot Sport rubber.

There’s a unique suspension tune too, fettled by the good folk at Kia Australia, and it alone gets a fully independent multilink rear end. Cerato GT uses firmer springs, dampers and sway bars, helping to keep things on an even keel, and it grips like crazy with the good rubber. DSC is well sorted too.

It’s pretty quick through the gears, rated nominally as taking 7.7sec to reach 100 from standstill, but both times we checked it, it ran high sixes, so the claim seems rather conservative. We also quickly ran the numbers on the 2.0L MPI version, and while it trailed the GT by 3sec in the sprint to 100, the 80-120 overtake was much closer; the Turbo took around 5sec, the 2.0L only a second longer. Naturally, the turbo goes harder without trying, as peak torque is on tap from 1500-4500rpm, whereas the MPI engine needs 4000rpm for maximum twist.

The look of the new Cerato improves. Upon arriving at Kia HQ, there were clear similarities with the Stinger that happened to be parked alongside the Cerato hatch. Coincidence? Hardly. The styling of the hatch is angrier up front, and at first glance in profile it looks like a cross between an estate and a hatch.

Its roofline slopes gently away towards the rear, and the GT can be distinguished from the other variants by its unique 18-inch wheels (hiding uprated brakes), side skirts, grille treatment and mirror caps. Inside, there’s a sporty D-shaped steering wheel with paddle shifters, an eight-speaker JBL sound system, a wireless phone charger and satellite navigation. Sports seats are powered and heated, and clad with leather-like upholstery.

Arguably the strength of the line-up is its safety specification, the same throughout the range. All versions have a five-star ANCAP rating as a result. Aside from the usual safety electronics and complement of six airbags, there’s active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping, RCTA, a reversing camera with guides and sonar both ends, forward collision warning and DRLs. Oh, and driver fatigue warning.

That’s on all models from LX through to the $41,990 GT. In between are the EX for $35,990 and the GT Line (GT-like for spec but with the 2.0 MPS engine and 6A) for $39,990. All models, by the by, get smartphone integration for both tribes, and come with three years of scheduled servicing, except for the GT; that gets four years (or up to 45,000km/40,000km, respectively). All Ceratos come with a five-year/100,000km warranty.

In essence, bigger, smarter, roomier, and with added spec, especially in the safety area, for the same or less outlay as its forebear. New Cerato deserves to carve itself a healthy slice of this sector and with its keen pricing, spec and style, we’d be surprised if it doesn’t.


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