Cerato delivering the speed
Kia has been steadily impressing me with how it packages their vehicles. Before now, there have been two standouts: the Sportage, which is an edgy and great-performing SUV; and the 2.2 litre diesel engine, which is one of the best-performing engines on our market and can be found in the Kia Carnival.
Now comes the Cerata, a compact car that Kia started to produce in 2003 to compete in the much smaller sedan market. I kept an open mind, knowing that all the craze these days is around SUVs and, sadly, sedans are left lacking.
The exterior has a sporty design with angular panels, that will ensure that it stays trendy for years to come. In the front facia, there are HID headlights, emitting a distinctive blue hue. Surprisingly, for a vehicle this low, there is also a fog lamp, with a split-housing design that helps to provide maximum visibility at night.
My only caveat is that the headlights have a blue hue, while the fog lights have a yellow hue, and I wish both were the same colour.
Their robust lighting system extends to the side mirrors, which includes sleek horizontal lights that turn on and welcome you to the car. The aerodynamically-shaped mirrors feature LED side repeaters to make the vehicle more visible to others for additional safety while turning.
From the side, there is a sweeping roof line and a shortened front hangover, complemented by a rear that is slightly raised to give the vehicle a sporty look. Since 2006, Kia has been taking its design cues from the European market, and this was most evident a year later when they hired auto designer Peter Schreyer. He was credited for designing the Audi TT, which is considered the most influential automotive design in recent times.
A welcome excitement
Hands down the most impressive thing about this car is the performance of the 1.6 litre engine. It feels as smooth as a CVT, which, I presume, is due to the double-clutch system that is used. The six-speed automatic transmission functioned like it had a turbo on it.
Without even selecting sport mode, the power came on fast and convincing, which is a great demonstration of the dual continuously variable valve timing and electronic fuel injection.
There is also a tiptronic system for a more precise gear selection, like coming down a hill or overtaking a vehicle. Once activated the ‘D’ on the information screen switches to ‘S’, with a number beside it to indicate which gear the vehicle is in.
While in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I was consistently getting 9.6 km/litre or 23mpg, which is usually what most drivers get in smaller vehicles like the Mazda Demio and Toyota Vitz. I attribute much of this to the light aluminium body.
As for the suspension, it can feel a little firm, but nothing uncomfortable, as the seats are well padded. Overall, it feels well planted to the ground, with a slight body roll in the rear if you are going around a steep corner at high speeds.
Another observation is that the monitor for the reverse camera is in the rear-view mirror. This is something that is common in many Suzuki models, and I love it. It keeps your eyes one place as opposed to constantly shifting from the center console to the rear-view mirror. What is also great is that it gives a numerical value of how close the vehicle is to the object behind it.
Lots of trunk space
The trunk, which can be opened with the key fob, is very deep and can be extended when the rear seats are folded. I wanted to put my mountain bike inside but didn’t have the time. My guess is that a medium-size mountain bike can hold if you contort it the right way.
Sticking with the truck, there is a full-size spare type, which is astounding in these times as many manufacturers are excluding the option.
To cut down the cost, the seats are manual, and there is some hard plastic around the interior. However, nothing feels cheap to the point that it negatively impacts the value of aesthetics.
Pound for pound, this is one of the best sedans I have driven, especially when I consider the very competitive price tag. It definitely surprised me on how well the company delivered on all the little things that matter to drivers. Like the engine performance, the feel of the steering wheel and the ergonomics of the door wells that curves to your fingers’ natural position.
* Price of tested model $3.695 mi