What is it?
A refreshed Korean entrant into the sea of midsize family sedans, once dominated by the Japanese. The Kia Cerato is often compared to the Corolla, Civic, Lancer and Sylphy. Becoming a popular choice among local car buyers is arguably a testament to Kia’s herculean effort over the past decade.
This is Kia’s first model in Singapore that wears Kia’s new corporate identity, and a new logo. The facelift brings new LED lamps featuring a daytime running light arrangement like the Stonic, accompanied by a redesigned grille that now spans the entire space between the headlights. Redesigned bumpers and new wheels sum up the majority of cosmetic changes.
New elements inside are: The 10.25-inch entertainment system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto support out of the box, and a dashboard cluster centre display that is now 4.2-inch and comes in full colour.
Other notable and tested changes are:
- Electric parking brake with hill start assist – Easy handbrake operation
- Radar guided Cruise Control – Follows the car in front with 4 distance settings, the 3-bar setting gives you a nice two-second following distance.
- High beam assist – Dips the beams if it senses oncoming traffic.
- Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) – Viciously brakes if you get too close to the vehicle in front, a bit too close for me but it did prevent me from driving into the car in front.
- Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW) – Alerts you to others in the blind spots.
- Safe Exit Warning (SEW) – Alerts you to approaching vehicles before you open the door.
- Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning (RCCW) – Useful if you regularly park nose-in.
- Driver Attention Warning (DAW) – Pretty accurately tells you how tired you are.
- Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) – Gently nudges you to stay in the middle of the lane.
- Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BSCAA)- Yanks you back to your lane if a vehicle is detected in the blind spot.
Which Cerato to buy?
The base grade “L” is $102,999, EX at $106,999 and the GT Line $113,999.
I feel that potential buyers should at least consider the EX grade, as the $4,000 premium nets you tons of useful and safety features. While the list is extensive, here are the features which I will gladly fork the premium for:
- 10.25-inch entertainment system
- Rear aircon vent
- Smart Cruise Control
- Smart trunk system – You stand behind the car and the trunk will pop open. No interaction or kicks needed.
- Keyless entry system
- Plus one wheel size
- All-disc braking system
- Advanced 6-airbag system
- FCA, BCW SEW, RCCW, DAW, LKA
So, what will make me fork the $7,000 extra for the GT Line? The list is long, and here are my own reasons to get the GT Line (some features are also tested in my Kia Carnival review):
- Electrically operated sunroof
- 10-way powered driver seat with memory function
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Dual-zone automatic climate control
- Paddle shift levers
- Plus one wheel size
- Wireless Qi smartphone charger (maybe?)
The top spec Cerato has other exterior body elements that set it aside, the biggest 17-inch wheels, carbon fibre design door trims and leather upholstery with contrast stitching.
Living with a Cerato
With a keyless entry and a generous door opening, entry and exit is easier than fumbling for your TraceTogether token and vaccination status to enter a shopping mall. Boot space is very generous at 502 litres, although it is still accessed with the sedan’s traditional boot lid design, which makes reaching for items at the deepest end a little tricky. You can still get an entire full-sized bicycle in here, or three bifold folding bikes. The rear seats can fold if you find that removing the bicycle wheels is a hassle. The seat catch releases are only accessible from the boot area.
The interior layout is well thought off and usable. Most of the high-use buttons are located within arm’s reach, with lesser use buttons just a small stretch away. There is a nice amount of small item storage areas, cup holders in the centre console and bottle holders in the doors are bigger than the typical 600ml PET bottles. Once again, nice materials are used in areas within eye level, but cheap plastics in the less visible areas tend to pick up scratches easily.
Why do I think that the wireless Qi charger is “maybe nice to have”? If you have a compatible phone, you just toss the phone into the charging platform and immediately enjoy tunes from your phone played on the car’s system via Bluetooth. However, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are only available through a wired connection, which also does the duty of charging the phone. That aside, audio quality is good, as is the sound staging. The system even allows for audio time shift adjustment if you want your music to sound like it’s centred around you.
Being an Android fan, Android Auto is well-implemented in this system. Just hook up a cable, allow the car to access your phone’s stuff and off you go with full smartphone integration. “Hey Google” works well and phone calls are crisp, as the microphone is located in the centre mirror area and does a good job of filtering out driving noises. Touch response is good, and visibility of the screen, even under harsh sunlight is decent.
This being a facelift, I wasn’t expecting a new engine. Under the hood lies the same G4FG engine which first appeared in the 2013 Cerato K3. Peak power comes in at a frantic 6,300rpm while torque maxes out at 4,850rpm. In real world conditions, the gearbox will begin shifting at an easy-going 2,000-2,500rpm if you prefer to glide to work. It rewards you with a very relaxed drive, with barely any engine and tyre noise intruding into the cabin at sensible everyday speeds. The torque shove begins close to 3,000 rpm and it does get noisy if you need to ferociously overtake someone.
I returned the car with the fuel consumption meter indicating that I had done 7L/100km (14.28km/L). This is pretty close to the 6.6L/100km (15.15km/L) claimed by the manufacturer. This figure was obtained by driving over 100km with the radar cruise control which usually commands heavy acceleration, plus deliberately driving through stop-go traffic jams for the next 100km.
The car is firmly damped and well controlled overall. It remains mostly upright in corners and has quite a nicely weighted steering feel to it. Negotiating the many bends of the Kranji countryside is enjoyable thanks to its responsive turn in characteristics. The big wheels look fancy, but they can be quite harsh on imperfect road surfaces and unsettle the car a bit. A small price to pay for sharp looks and handling.
The big end
The Koreans continue delivering superior value for money when compared with Japanese options. 2021 is no different. This top spec Cerato is priced even lower than base trim levels of the Japanese sedans, and a base trim means it lacks the luxuries found on this fully-featured sedan. And when I say Japanese, I actually meant Thaiyota and Honthai.
What I feel is the Cerato GT Line’s existential crisis comes from the same showroom: The Kia Cerato, Niro and Stonic in EX grade. It may be unfair to compare sedans to crossovers but it is arguable that crossovers have better utility prospects due to their more flexible loading options.
Sedans are still arguably inherently sportier than crossovers and more aerodynamic. However in a world where the demand for sedans are dwindling, a sedan has to be well-equipped, look sleek and come with plenty of tech features.
The 2021 Kia Cerato GT Line ticks all of those boxes and saves you money over the competition. Value-for-money sedan lovers, look no further!
I would like to thank Kia Singapore for providing the Cerato for review. For more information, please visit www.kia.sg/cerato.