Car review: Safer, better-looking compact saloon from Kia

[This article was first published on]

Cerato impresses with dramatically new styling and long list of safety features

With Honda having just launched its new Civic, Kia is wasting no time in announcing that its Civicsized Cerato sedan is also new.

Well, it is not exactly new.

Like parent group Hyundai Motor, Kia makes significant facelifts in between full model changes. They are typically more dramatic than the nip-and-tuck jobs undertaken by other manufacturers.

This strategy clearly keeps a model fresh and relevant in a competitive car market. But at the same time, it may alienate existing owners whose fairly new car is now a tad dated. In the case of the Cerato, the latest generation was launched just three years ago.

And the cosmetic changes are rather stark. In front, the Cerato sports a one-piece assembly which incorporates new flashy LED headlights flanking a laterally compressed chrome-lined grille. A brand new Kia emblem sits just above the grille.

In the rear, streamlined taillamps are linked by an LED strip just below a subtle spoiler.

These tweaks change the look and feel of the car.

The Cerato now packs more dynamism than the pre-facelift car. It is all visual, since the car’s drivetrain remains unchanged. More on this later.

Inside, the handbrake has been replaced by an electronic parking brake flip switch with an auto-hold button. This simple move unclutters the cabin, giving the already contemporary and well-appointed cockpit a noticeable lift.

The Cerato is possibly the best-equipped sedan in its price segment, with premium features such as ventilated seats, wireless phone charging and leather upholstery with contrast stitching masking plasticky panels.

For the facelift, Kia has thrown in more stuff. The car’s infotainment touchscreen now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Despite the global chip shortage, it gets a 4.2-inch LCD instrument cluster.

Upmarket gadgets include adaptive cruise control and high beam assist, which automatically switches on the high beam when conditions are right, and switches off when there is a vehicle approaching.

The safety suite has also been upgraded, with features such as autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitor, rear crosstraffic alert, lane-keeping assist and driver attention monitor. The car will even prevent occupants from opening a door if it detects a vehicle approaching from behind.

The full list is available in the GT Line variant reviewed here.

These not-so-visible additions combine with the very visible changes to make the Cerato as compelling as it was when it first came out in 2018.

Those hoping for improvements to the drivetrain or performance will have to wait for a completely new model to arrive in two to three years.

The facelifted Cerato has no changes on this front. Kia, however, has restated the car’s 0 to 100kmh timing to 11.6 seconds, from 12 seconds previously. This would be possible only if the car had shed a significant amount of weight, since there is no change to its engine output.

This is not all that relevant, really.

The Kia sedan, powered by a 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine, has never been a sprinter. Instead, it impresses with its settled ride, competent steering and superior insulation. At the wheel, you feel a sense of solidity, which for a long time was the sole purview of better European makes.

The test-car averages 9.3 litres/100km, which is slightly better than the pre-facelift car’s 10 litres, but nowhere near Kia’s stated 6.6 litres. Among modern cars, the Cerato’s efficiency is lagging.

So, is the car worth your money? For sure, if you are looking to buy a handsome, well-built sedan which drives well but is a tad thirsty.

Just be prepared that a dramatically different model is likely not so far down the road.

[Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction. ]

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