Kia gives Cerato a quick nip/tuck: we take it to the Hunter Valley

2017 Kia Cerato

2017 Kia Cerato2017 Kia Cerato

2017 Kia Cerato2017 Kia Cerato

2017 Kia Cerato2017 Kia Cerato

2017 Kia Cerato2017 Kia Cerato

2017 Kia Cerato2017 Kia Cerato

Midlife refreshes are essential in the 6 to 8 year life of the model life of a car. It keeps it relevant to the market where dog-eat-dog is the norm, an auto-maker must keep an eye on the competition because the buyers are ruthless.

The design centre in Irvine, California, was responsible for the styling changes. There are updates to the front end lights and grille, as well as the tail lights on the sedan. Underneath there is steering, suspension and damper changes. In addition to the styling changes there is a new 7” touch screen infotainment system and a host of electronic safety gizmos.

Cerato retains the choice of sedan or hatch in 4 grades (S, S Premium, Si and SLi). Kia’s clever marketing department says, “we want to have vehicles at a drive-away price of $14,990, $16,990, and $19,990”. Since all Kias have 7-year warranty/capped price service/roadside assistance as standard, this is excellent value.

The S is $19,990, S Premium $24,990 (automatic), Si $28,990, and the range-topping SLi is $32,490 and all Kia pricing is Drive Away and all have the same 2.0L petrol engine.

Kia submitted the changes to ANCAP for their evaluation, and since structural changes occurred, Cerato’s 5 star ANCAP safety rating remains intact.

Of course everyone wants the top model of a range, but sometimes the wallet won’t stretch that far. So, depending on the model, you can have lane departure warning, Blind Spot Warning, heated and cooled driver’s seat, collision warning, a reversing camera with the new 7” touch screen infotainment system, and more. Android Auto is included, but Apple Carplay will be available by software update once licensing issues and been resolved. There is no Autonomous Emergency Braking as yet.

The entry level “S” model is the only one in the range not to get the 7” infotainment system as standard. The S manual can’t have the upgrade, but for $500, the auto will get the 7” screen, reverse camera, and auto headlights.

Graham Gambould, Kia’s mechanical whiz, has made changes to steering and suspension. The dampers have fancy new valves, which along with the new springs, improve the handling and ride. I didn’t drive the pre-update model so I’ll have to take Graham’s word for it. He is not given to exaggerating

Steering has a column-mounted electric motor with a new 32bit control unit. This allows greater flexibility for local tuning. This upgrades also brings steering mode selection (in the automatic cars only) of Normal, Eco and Sport, though I’m not sure what Eco steering actually means.

The engine has been changed to a Euro 4 multi-point injection from the direct injection of the pre-update model. The 112kw/192Nm output is modest, but the eager unit does the job happily while getting 7.1L/100k. Surprisingly, the petrol 2.0L engine is the only option for Cerato. Is this a reflection of how price sensitive producing a C segment car can be?

The C segment has a lot of competition from the likes of Ford Focus, VW Golf, Honda Civic to name but a few, and this is a segment where Kia competes well.

On the road, the Cerato feels competent. Road tests have a habit of rattling those minor deficiencies loose, but Cerato did pretty well. The 6 speed auto does a nice job of keeping up a cracking pace without making the zingy little engine scream for mercy. We covered around 500k or thereabouts. It coped well with the bends through Wiseman’s Ferry on route to the Hunter Valley. Launches normally take place where the auto maker thinks the car will be shown in a surrounding befitting its purpose. We are to imagine a buyer sneaking away for a quiet weekend out of town, and I had no trouble seeing the boot packed with bags, blankets and bottles of booze on a winery excursion.

On the highway, the steering had a tendency to like travelling in a straight line, but needed small corrections which had a certain notchiness to it. Although much work had been done with steering calibration, it still doesn’t feel to have the same agile smoothness of some of its competitors.

Conclusion:

I like the looks very much. The lines are smooth and the coupe styling feels modern without being polarising. Some brands make the mistake of being outrageous to catch buyers but only succeed in turning others away. Cerato may not be cutting edge but does make a good value for money argument.

The interior styling has improved with the small changes to door and dash coverings but it doesn’t have the same feel as the fabulous Sorrento and Sportage, or the elegant Optima. No doubt this will come with the brand New Cerato in a couple of years’ time. The product manager is the person in charge of what is included in the various packages of a particular model, and at Kia, that man is Roland Rivaro. He laisses with Korea to get as much as he can in Australian cars at a given price. It’s good to see that the company is genuinely keen to give the best level of tech value for a buyer’s dollar. He is enthusiastic about his brand and that kind of keenness is infectious.

Cerato is currently 6th in the segment with Kia aiming for to 5th. Will they do it with the updated Cersto?

Would I buy one? My favourite Kia is the Fab Sportage.

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