2018 Kia Cerato Launch Review

2018 Kia Cerato Launch Road Test, Review

As the fog cleared and the sun came out, South Australia’s beautiful wine country seem the perfect place to introduce Kia’s new Cerato Sedan.

You expect “cheap and cheerful” when you think Kia, but what you might not expect is “tasteful and elegant”. That is what new Cerato is.

Last month, SUVs outnumbered passenger cars by around 40,000 sales year to date. Kia COO, Damien Meredith, said Kia is committed to the passenger car market and will continue to support its passenger fleet.

The new model has been lavished with extended driver aids and cabin technology.

The old model hatch will continue to sell along side the new sedan until the end of the year and by comparison doesn’t seem quite so well equipped, especially in the base model.

The range has a new naming scheme which starts with the base model S, then steps up to the Sport, and finally Sport+.

Kia pegged new Cerato against perennial favourites, Civic and Golf. So how does it stack up?

Very well as it turns out.


It’s easy mistake to make Cerato for a European.

Designed at the company’s Irvine studio overseen by ex Audi design chief, Peter Schreyer, Cerato gets cool features like the signature Tiger Nose grille and unique DTRLs.

This gives the model a distinctive look.

Entry level S is well equipped enough, but Kia’s product manager, Roland Rivero, has curated a suite of nifty tech to make even the base model Cerato S a compelling purchase option

Lines are kept simple. The fastback-wedge profile sweeps up to this distinctly European-style rear end, something Kia is particularly good at capturing.

Careful side sculpting keeps character lines to a minimum while removing that slab-sided characteristic common to previous models.

Check out the delicious tail lights which are reminiscent of Audi and VW. This premium look is gradually being rolled out as new Kias hit market.

Interesting highlights like the rear bumper “diffuser” includes a decorative hexagonal pattern where indicators and reversing lights are found just above.

Rear lighting is split between the bumper for the indicators, and further up the body for tail lights.

LED lighting looks expensive, but it also saves on power, and is longer lasting than incandescent bulbs. It can be seen from greater distances even in bad weather, so is safer too

Headlights are LED on the Sport+, and halogen on Sport and S.

16” Steel wheels are standard on the S. That seems a bit mean in the world of bright and shiny alloys. Fear not, 17” alloys are standard on the rest of the range.

Cerato’s 2700 mm wheelbase is unchanged over the old model. However, overall length grows by 80 mm, to 4640 mm.

The rear overhang grows by 60 mm to 1040 mm, and is 5 mm in higher, at 1440 mm.2018 Kia Cerato backInterior

The cabin is spacious and despite a high waistline, has a light and airy feel.

The simple and clean interior design keeps the characteristic Kia look, with function as the focus.

Materials include a soft-touch dash, and on Sport+, soft touch plastic on the top of the window sills. I’d prefer the soft feel on the other models too, but it is not a deal breaker.

Remember, the base model comes in at under $20,000 for the manual and all cars have a 7 year warranty.

Large circular rocket-exhaust-style vents, and a sloping dash board, take inspiration from a 50’s Chevy rear end. That slightly retro look is appealing and very clever.

Driver information dials have the usual Speedo and tacho and are supplemented with an LCD screen in-between.

Fuel usage and other essential figures are displayed clearly.

Well labelled auxiliary steering wheel controls include: Active Cruise Control and Lane Control. Blind sport and rear cross traffic monitoring can be added for $500 ON Sport+.

They are easy to find and use, thanks to a familiar layout.

Audio controls include phone answering, which can also be done handsfree via Siri using Apple CarPlay. Android Auto users have a similar method if you can work out how to get it to work.

Climate control is auto dual zone in Sport+, and manual in other models.

A ubiquitous floating touch-tablet tops the centre stack. Quick access buttons at its base give passengers clear and easy ways to navigate the system.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard across the range.


Kia Cerato S:

  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • Forward collision waring
  • Drive Mode Select
  • Tyre pressure monitor
  • Speed limiter
  • 6-way driver seat adjustment
  • 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto with voice recognition
  • 6-speaker DAB digital radio with Bluetooth

Sport adds:

  • 17-inch alloys
  • satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic
  • premium steering wheel and shift knob
  • aero blade wipers and sport-patterned cloth-trim seats

Sport+ adds:

  • AEB (pedestrian and cyclist recognition)
  • Advanced smart cruise control
  • LED daytime running lights
  • smart key and push button start
  • leather trim seat
  • electric folding door mirrors
  • dual-zone climate control
  • rear air vents

Column-mounted electric power steering has been tweaked for Australia by Graham Gambold, Kia Australia’s local tuner. Gambold also laid hands on the suspension which is firm for what Kia says is a sportier drive.

Cornering is reasonably sharp.

Only the most uncooperative of road surfaces upset Cerato. Bumps mid corner elicit a slight jiggle but control remains predictable.

The “Sports” moniker is probably a little hopeful, but calling a model range “fun”, “super fun” and “super fun with extra stuff” would be taking things a bit far.

The little Kia will be a city car and that is where it feels most at home.

Noise and vibration have been improved with the addition of extra body adhesive. Noise deadening material added to the channels within the body construction all but eliminate the hollow drumming effect.

Cruising speed feels smooth but the 112kw engine can feel a little breathless when stressed.

The MPI engine feels less sophisticated than the super-smooth Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic. Power and torque figures tell only part of the story.

The VW is particularly smooth with it’s diminutive power plant feel like a swiss watch no matter how far the foot is pressed down.

You need to plan overtaking but could still manage a relaxed country drive.

The 6 speed auto changes smoothly and has a sport mode which holds gears longer. Leaving it in normal mode is perfectly adequate for urban applications.

Drive modes which change throttle response are selectable via a button on the console.

After Stinger received a 3-star rating for the base models (and 5 star on top models with AEB), Kia sensibly put autonomous emergency braking on every Cerato. Cars tested for ANCAP in 2018 will not get 5 stars without it.

Sport+ has added safety with pedestrian and cyclist detection using both a camera and radar to seek out wayward

New Cerato is 19kg heavier than the old model and fuel consumption is up very slightly, using an extra 0.3L/100k.


  • AEB (pedestrian and cyclist recognition) on Sport+, standard AEB on other models
  • Six airbags
  • Reversing camera and sensors
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Driver Attention Alert Warning

2018 Kia Cerato interiorGood Bits

  • Handsome looks
  • Clean and functional cabin design
  • High equipment level

Not So Good Bits

  • Engine can run out of puff when pushed
  • Smart entry only in top model
  • Some plastics feel hard and spoil the quality feel


I have long asked how Kia does it for the price.

Not only is the range covered by a 7-year warranty, but 7 years roadside assist is included for good measure.

Starting at under 20 grand, Cerato give the Europeans a run for their money.

Ride and handling are excellent. I would stop short of calling it sporty, but it was very pleasing. We spent time in traffic where all urbanites will do hours of long-suffering service. The Kia hummed along happily.

Peak hour maneuvers were dispatched with alacrity. A low-ish first gear allowed a spirited take-off at lights, and the auto was eager to kick down for extra pep.

After the looks, the most striking thing is how quiet and refined the cabin is.

Engine noise is slightly intrusive when strained, but that is rare. Perhaps a slightly sportier sports exhaust note would make that rare occasion more of an event.

We filled the boot with luggage for two. With all the bags, coats and scarves, there was still a ton of room left over.

I’d like smart entry on all models, but clever old Kia is keen to give buyers a good reason to go for the posher models. The more shekels, the more profit.

I rated Cerato at 8.5 for the excellent tech and inclusion of Apple CarPlay as standard.

Kia has their signature 7 year warranty/roadside assist, and keen drive-away Cerato pricing.

It is little wonder than that the Korean is steadily climbing the top-ten sales chart.

It lost a few points for slightly cheap plastic in the lower models (on the doors), and an slightly raucous engine that feels less sophisticated than rivals.

A 6 speed auto is good and is my preference over a CVT, but is starting to fall short with the market moving to transmissions with as many as 10 cogs.

The new Kia Cerato is a huge step up from the outgoing model and my tick would definitely go on the sedan rather than the hatch.

The outgoing model hatch will stay with us until the end of the year, and although good value, falls short when compared to the shiny new thing.

Kia isn’t unique in doing this, but it doesn’t change the fact that the new car is positively crammed full of goodies.

Cheap and Cheerful has become Value for Money.

Facts and Figures: 2018 Kia Cerato

  • Engine: 2.0L petrol producing 112kW/192Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed auto or six-speed manual
  • Safety: Not tested
  • Warranty: 7 yrs
  • Origin: South Korea
  • Price: from $19,990
2018 Kia Cerato
  • Overall Rating

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