[This article was first published on www.straitstimes.com]
Kia's latest Cerato sedan has a build and design which should endure long after its bells and whistles become dated
When the razzle-dazzle of a car's infotainment and clever driver assistance systems get old, sound ergonomics will usually continue to keep car owners content.
Kia's third-generation Cerato might be a case in point.
Like many new models, the South Korean family sedan has its share of glitz and gizmos. Even at a glance, it is clearly streets ahead of its Japanese rivals in terms of styling and road presence.
Inside, you will find no shortage of premium amenities. Depending on the model variant, these will include a keyless system, anti-glare rear-view mirror, Apple CarPlay connectivity, rear air-conditioning vents, memory seats, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and front and rear parking sensors.
Two other features stand out for their uniqueness (in the Cerato's price segment) and practicality: wireless smartphone-charging and hands-free boot lid opening.
But after a while, many of these things will either lose their novelty or become commonplace as competition forces other carmakers to include them.
And that is when the Cerato's other enduring qualities - which are harder to replicate - come to the fore.
The car's chassis, for instance, is quite top-notch. It offers a very settled ride, insulating occupants from all but the worst undulations on the tarmac. Yet, it is firm enough to resist roll when you steer the Cerato around bends.
There is a certain heft in the steering. Akin to what many European equivalents offer, this inspires confidence at higher speeds, and sheer ease at lower velocities.
The drivetrain is fairly modest, with a 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine making less than 130hp at 6,300rpm and 155Nm of torque from 4,850rpm. While the Kia loses out in most sprints, the car revs willingly and smoothly.
Paired with a six-speed autobox which is relatively refined, the engine never for a moment discourages you from pushing it.
Fuel consumption hovers around 10 litres/100km in real life, which could be better but is not overly shoddy.
At the wheel, progress is fuss-free, even if not exactly swift. A spacious footwell and an ideally positioned footrest make every journey more relaxing.
It is a simple joy really, but you will be surprised how many cars fail to deliver it.
There is ample room throughout. The car's 2,700mm wheelbase has not changed, but it is longer and slightly broader. The boot offers 502 litres of stowage, which is equivalent to what some larger rivals pack.
As before, the Cerato offers plenty of bang for the buck. The car is a tad bigger than benchmark models such as the Toyota Altis and Honda Civic (although all three have the same wheelbase), but is priced closer to smaller cars such as the Toyota Vios and Honda City.
With its high equipment level, creditable architecture, stylish design and sheer size, it is indeed difficult not to choose it over its other price competitors.