As I said in my recent review of the Kia Optima, Kia have seriously upped their game with recent models. Both the Optima and Picanto are great cars. The Cerato is Kia’s medium-sized car, sitting in between the aforementioned two. It’s available as either a hatch or sedan, in three trim levels – LX/EX/LTD.

All three specs give you ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, stability control, front, side and curtain airbags (6 in total), proximity key with start/stop button, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, 7″ touch screen, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto lights and cruise control. All have the same 2.0-litre 112kW engine and a 6-speed auto transmission. Quite an impressive list for standard spec on a car starting at $32k.

The EX spec adds quite a few features including leather, dual zone climate, auto windscreen defog, blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. Our review car was the top LTD spec, which adds more to the EX, including a colour dash display, power sunroof, electric memory driver’s seat, shifter paddles and more.


First Impressions

Our test car came in a dark metallic grey called Metal Stream. The Cerato is available in 7 colours – two whites, silver, dark blue, black, and Temptation Red. Almost all pretty subdued colours, personally I’d like to see some bolder ones. It’s a smart-looking car, with some nice details, such as the embedded chrome side trim, and the LED tail lights. The grey does suit it, but I think the red would have been better. The more time I spent with the Cerato, the more the looks grew on me. I think it’s a good looking car.

Like the other models in the Kia range there’s an immediate impression of quality. There are little things that show that some thought has gone into the design, like the lights that come on under the mirrors and in the front door handles as you approach the car.


The Inside

The LTD spec comes with leather seats, which are well-shaped with good side support, and comfortable to sit in. The front passenger seat is 3-stage heated, the driver’s seat can be heated or cooled, again with 3 stages. The driver’s seat is also electrically adjusted with two seat memories, and has electrically adjusted lumbar support. The steering wheel adjusts manually in both the usual directions.

Around and behind the instrument binnacle there’s a plastic trim, textured to look like carbon-fibre. It looks okay but I found that it reflected on the windscreen sometimes and could be a little distracting. There’s the usual large rev counter and speedo with a 4.2” colour display in the centre which shows the various information readouts. I liked to mostly use it as a digital speedo.


On the face of the nicely-shaped leather-trimmed wheel are controls for the audio, phone and cruise control. The phone buttons and controls to change the display are nearer centre and can be a bit of a stretch for the thumbs, whereas the others are in easy reach at all times.

The hub of the media system is a 7” touch screen in the centre of the dash. It has physical volume knobs, and buttons for the main functions, which I like. Pairing my phone went quickly and easily and everything worked first time. The car took a minute or so to re-connect each time I got in, so I had to manually switch back from radio to Bluetooth audio after setting off.

At the bottom of the centre console, under a sliding cover, is a cubby with USB, Aux and two power sockets. The cover is a nice idea so you can leave a device connected but hidden from view.


The six speaker stereo is very good – clear, with decent bass, and it goes as loud as most people would want it to without distortion. I was a little surprised that satnav isn’t included on this top spec model.

The boot is a decent size, 385 litres to be exact. Underneath is a full-sized spare wheel, covered by a solid-feeling boot floor. The sides of the floor hinge up, revealing storage bins underneath. There are also luggage tie-downs at all four corners, as well as bag hooks either side. The rear seats drop down almost flat, and split 60/40.

Rear legroom is very good, even when the driver’s seat motors back for the driver to exit, and the rear seats are comfortable to sit in. There’s a central heating/cooling vent for rear passengers too.


The Drive

Sit in the driver’s seat and close the door, and it motors forward, accompanied by a little welcome tune as the dash lights up with a system check. There’s a shutdown tune too, but fortunately they can be turned off in the options screen.

The Cerato has a very refined feel, with minimal noise from the engine or road. It has a solidity to it which further increases the impression of quality. When pressing on a bit more, the engine can be heard, but it’s never loud, with more noise coming from the tyres than anything else. Ride quality is good, firm but supple, smoothing out bumps nicely. There’s a little body roll if you push it into corners, but it’s a composed ride.


There are the usual three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Normal mode is fine for most driving but it sometimes can feel a little sluggish when pulling out of a roundabout or tight corner. Switching to Sport mode sorts this out nicely, holding the gears for a little longer and making the throttle a bit more responsive. Eco doesn’t feel much different from Normal to me, maybe a little softer throttle but I couldn’t really tell. The shifter can be moved to one side into manual mode where it will hold the gears until you shift, either by using the steering wheel-mounted paddles or moving the shifter back and forth. The Cerato is no sports car, but some fun can be had on a twisty road in Sport/manual mode. It corners beautifully, the steering is accurate and gives reasonable feel. On my favourite second-gear corner there was no understeer, even in pouring rain, the ESP could be felt, subtly sorting it out.

The cruise control works well but has my usual bugbear – it doesn’t show the set speed on the display. Possibly because it’s standard cruise control, as opposed to the Optima’s radar cruise, which does show it. Presumably they share some parts, so why can’t the Cerato do it?


There are parking sensors front and rear as well as a reversing camera. The front sensors can be activated at any time with the push of a button next to the gear shifter. The information display shows a graphical display of which sensor is reading an obstacle. As well as this there’s rear cross traffic alert, which may have saved me from an incident as I was reversing out of a space and another car sped through the car park in the wrong direction. I had only checked in the direction cars should have been coming from!

There was the odd occasion where the fat A-pillar obstructed the view at junctions. It has one of those tiny windows in the bottom section, which helps a bit, but it can sometimes be just at the wrong angle.

Overall though I thought the Cerato was a great all-round hatchback. It does everything well, is good quality and has an impressive five year warranty.


The Competition

There’s a lot of competition in this price bracket, but I think the Kia holds up well.

Brand / Model Engine Power Fuel L/100km Price Highest to Lowest
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Distinctive 1.4l 4 cylinder turbo 125kW/250Nm 5.1 $42,990
Toyota Corolla Levin ZR 1.8l 4 cylinder 103kW/173Nm 6.6 $41,990
Peugeot 308 Allure 1.6l 4 cylinder turbo 110kW/240Nm 6.5 $40,990
Skoda Octavia TSI Style 1.8l 4 cylinder turbo 132kW/250Nm 5.7 $40,990
Kia Cerato LTD 2.0l 4 cylinder 112kW/192Nm 7.1 $39,990
VW Golf Highline 1.4l 4 cylinder turbo 110kW/250Nm 5.2 $39,990
Nissan Pulsar SSS 1.6l 4 cylinder turbo 140kW/240Nm 7.8 $39,990
Holden Astra GTC 1.6l 4 cylinder turbo 125kW/260Nm 7.5 $39,990
Mazda 3 SP25 2.5l 4 cylinder 138kW/250Nm 6.1 $39,895
Ford Focus Sport 1.5l 4 cylinder turbo 132kW/240Nm 6.7 $38,430
Mitsubishi Lancer SEi 2.0l 4 cylinder 115kW/201Nm 7.3 $36,990
Renault Megane GT Line 2.0l 4 cylinder 103kW/195Nm 7.8 $36,990
Citroen C4 1.2l 4 cylinder turbo 96kW/230Nm 4.9 $36,990
Hyundai Accent Elite 1.6l 4 cylinder 103kW/167Nm 6.6 $35,990


The pros and cons

Pros Cons
  • Quality build inside and out
  • Great handling
  • Very good stereo
  • Spacious and well equipped
  • Cruise Control could be better
  • Shiny trim reflections
  • No Satnav


What we think

The Cerato is a great all-round family hatchback. It’s well built and has a solid, quality feel, with a refinement I didn’t expect. There’s some good safety technology, plenty of equipment, good stereo, decent luggage space and legroom. It’s a car I could happily live with from day to day, and with that five year warranty it represents great value.


Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5


Vehicle Type Medium Hatchback
Starting Price $31,990 + On Road Costs (LX Spec)

$39,990 + On Road Costs (LTD Spec)

Tested Price $39,990+ On Road Costs
Engine 1999cc 2.0L DOHC MPI D-CVVT petrol
Transmission 6-speed automatic w/ sequential sportshift
Kerb Weight 1243-1304kg
Length x Width x Height 4350 x 1780 x 1435mm
Cargo Capacity 385 Litres (seats up)
Fuel Tank 50 litres
ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 stars
Warranty 5 year/100,000km warranty

5 year/unlimited km roadside assist

5 year incident care service


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Rob Clubley
I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!


  1. One thing you guys did not know about this new Cerato that it has Android Auto. You first download the app from the google play store, plug it into Cerato’s radio system via USB, and then you will get your Google Maps navigation; Google Play Music; Spotify; iHeartRadio and etc. For more go to . I have the latest 2016 Cerato, tried android auto and it is a great feature to use.

  2. Apple Carplay also became available for all trim levels of the 2016 Cerato via a dealer-installed in April 2017. Carplay brings satellite navigation via Apple maps and Siri and music apps, eg Spotify and Pandora, which is great for music lovers. As with Android auto, you can also dictate text messages and have replies read aloud to you. Very handy indeed (and fun!)

    I have owned the facelift Cerato LX since July 2016 and on the whole am very happy with it. I have never once noticed the glare mentioned in this review nor had any difficulties accessing the buttons on the steering wheel. I agree about the thick A pillar but it is not really an issue.

    However, I have found the radio reception to be pretty abysmal – it cannot seem to cope with our NZ hills (not in Wellington at least). I assume this has to do with the tiny aerial. However, with Apple Carplay or Android Auto you can stream radio stations via an app like TuneIn Radio or IheartRadio (if you don’t mind using mobile data).

    Another issue would be purchasers should know and perhaps the worst issue for me is how often and easily the windscreen fogs. The fan/ventilation system seems under-powered. A lot of fiddling about with fan settings has been required to clear the windscreen, which is an unwanted distraction.

    All things considered though, it is a great car to drive, does have some get up and go (especially in Sport mode), and the interior has a quality feel to it.


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