The Kia Cerato has been a mainstay of the Korean car maker’s range since it first splashed onto the scene back in 2003.
Back then, the Cerato was a cheap and cheerful runabout, sharing its underpinnings with the Elantra and using Kia’s prolific line of ‘Beta II’ four-cylinder engines.
Now in its fourth generation, available in both hatchback and sedan bodies, the Kia Cerato is an active player within the small passenger car market, currently one of the most popular vehicles in its class.
Powertrain configurations available within the range include a 112kW/192Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder matched to a six-speed automatic, and a more powerful turbocharged 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder, available in the GT mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch.
While its entry level pricing undercuts similarly sized offerings in the Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus, Kia still provides extra value in its 7-year warranty. The Kia Cerato isn't aiming to be a direct alternative to premium offerings like the Volkswagen Golf, but it offers many of the basics shoppers might ask for.
2022 Kia Cerato Sport+ sedan review
Kia is standing by the small sedan market with its roomy and value-packed Cerato
Kia’s Cerato has remained steadfastly true to its roots as a value-driven small hatch and sedan range for more than two decades. But at its facelift just over a year ago, it got a much prettier new look that added a bit of flash to the proposition.
It remains a simple and straightforward car in 2.0-litre automatic form, in the sense that it doesn’t try to do too much. It’s more than just basic transport though, with a good basic safety package even in the entry-level S and standard spec builds with the investment in a fairly linear fashion.
And it seems that the formula keeps on working because the Cerato continues to sell well. You can still get one for under thirty grand, but if you’re looking to spend a little more, what will you get in the top of the 2.0-litre range?
- How much is it, and what do you get?
- How do rivals compare on value?
- Interior comfort, space and storage
- What is it like to drive?
- How is it on fuel?
- How safe is it?
- Warranty and running costs
How much is it, and what do you get?
The current Cerato range made its debut just over a year ago with a fresh Kia badge and a rather more attractive front end. Prices have – inevitably – crept northwards since, with the range starting at $25,990 for the steel-wheeled S and reaching $35,790 for the GT, all before on-road costs.
The car I had for the week was the possible Goldilocks of the range, the Sport+, which starts at $31,140 before on-road costs.
The fake leather interior is perfectly acceptable and feels fairly durable. I really like the inclusion of the big touchscreen with all its clever (and amusing) features and it makes the car feel a bit more special than its price suggests.
How do rivals compare on value?
Main rivals to the Cerato are serious, and they have to be to survive in this shrinking part of the market.
The smaller Corolla sedan can be had in SX hybrid form for $33,780 plus on-road costs (and lengthy wait time). Although recently refreshed, it’s not as feature-packed and the interior is still a bit ho-hum, but it’s quite thrifty if dull to drive and look at.
Mazda will sell you its G20 Touring automatic for $32,090 plus on-road costs. It’s arguably the best-looking car in the segment but doesn’t have the legroom of the Cerato or the big screen, though is otherwise similarly equipped with a bit of giving and taking. The 3 hatch looks even better if you can bear to lose a fair chunk of boot space.
Hyundai’s i30 Sedan is $31,690 in Elite Auto trim. In common with the Cerato are its comfortably large interior, big boot and whopping touchscreen media system. For not a lot more you can have the turbo-engined N-Line in manual, or auto for a little bit more again. It’s very cool to look at.
Interior comfort, space and storage
Starting with the driver’s seat, you do pretty well right from the off. The seats are comfortable and the imitation leather does a convincing job of not feeling like vinyl. The steering wheel is covered with what seems to be the same material and it’s really nice to use.
You have a set of analogue dials with a now near-ubiquitous digital screen between them and it all works just fine. The media screen is Hyundai-Kia’s monster 10.25-inch unit, which somehow fails to dominate the interior.
Two cup holders are provided in the front as well as bottle holders in the doors. The space for your phone – along with two USB-A ports and a 12-volt – also takes larger phones.
Most of the materials are pretty good but the lower down in the cabin you go, the scratchier the plastics get. It’s kind of a Kia thing.
Moving to the rear, there is a fairly flat rear bench seat but plenty of leg, knee and headroom for a car in this class. The armrest has two cup holders to go with the bottle holders in the doors, but they’ll not hold anything much bigger than a 500ml disposable. There’s a USB-A port in the rear of the centre console and, blessedly, air vents.
It’s fairly drab and grey inside with the exception of a few metallic highlights in the front and on the door handles, but the light-coloured headliner and generous glass areas mean plenty of light gets in.
As this is the sedan, you get a pretty big boot at 502 litres (428 in the hatch), which is very decent for a car with this footprint.
What is it like to drive?
The Cerato has never, ever been about excitement, at least not in 2.0-litre front-wheel-drive spec. Last year’s facelift included a program to re-jig the suspension but a combination of COVID and the fact that there wasn’t a lot wrong with it in the first place meant nothing actually changed.
And that’s a good thing. The Cerato is big on being easy to live with. As long as you stay well within its admittedly low limits, it’s a refined, nicely balanced combination of ride and handling.
In town, it tackles bumps without fuss, even on the larger 17s and takes pretty much anything urban roads can throw at it. The steering is light and direct, so you’re not twirling your arms while parking or spending your life steering just to go around simple corners.
You won’t hear much from the engine, which is for the best. While the transmission is nicely set up to deliver what you need when you need it, asking too much of modest power and torque figures will get you an angry buzzing from under the bonnet.
Nobody is under any illusions that this engine is a classic of the genre, but it’s getting on a bit and doesn’t have extra fuel-saving measures like cylinder deactivation or stop-start. But it’s pretty simple and by all accounts reliable.
Is it exciting? Goodness no. But almost nothing in this segment is and there’s a good reason for that – nobody wants it, at least not in large numbers.
How is it on fuel?
Kia says you’ll get 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle. My week with the Cerato was mostly bombing around the suburbs and delivered a respectable 8.9L/100km on 91 RON fuel. Not a million miles off the combined and not as thirsty as similarly sized and powered SUVs with less gear and less interior space.
How safe is it?
The Cerato scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2019. The items in the list marked with an asterisk are part of the Sport+ spec over and above what’s available on the Sport without the optional safety pack.
You also get two lots of ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for securing kids' seats.
Warranty and running costs
Kia offers a pace-setting seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. The length of the warranty is bested only by Mitsubishi’s ten-year coverage but then again, Mitsubishi doesn’t have a small hatch or sedan on offer.
A fixed-price servicing program covers the first seven intervals, which occur every 12 months or 15,000km. All seven services will cost you $2939 for an average of $420 per year, which we think is a little stiff for a car that isn’t very complex.
The Kia Cerato sedan does all the things it’s supposed to do and does them very well. It’s reasonably priced by current standards, looks pretty good and has a welcoming interior with enough toys and features to justify the price.
It doesn’t have the look-at-me appeal of the i30 Sedan, the hybrid option of the Corolla or the suave vibe of the Mazda3. But it’s practical, sensible and a car for people who don’t want drama.
And, as it turns out, that’s quite a few people.
2022 Kia Cerato Sport+ specifications
Things we like
- Still good value
- Comfortable interior
- Good safety and tech inclusions
- Long warranty
Not so much
- Getting on a bit mechanically
- Service pricing
- Dreary engine
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Frequently Asked Questions
The KIA Cerato ranges in price from $25,990* for the S Auto, and $35,790* for the GT DCT
*Pricing excludes stamp duty, other government charges and options. Prices subject to change.
The KIA Cerato was built in Korea
The KIA Cerato is available in unleaded petrol fuel types
The KIA Cerato is available in 4 and 5 door models
The KIA Cerato is available with boot spaces between 428 litres - 502 litres