You may well think that the most significant thing about the Kia Cerato hatch is the fact that it is, well, a hatch. But you would, in fact, be wrong.
You see, while the arrival of a hatch body style in the Cerato family is extremely significant to Kia here in New Zealand, where small hatches rule supreme over their sedan siblings, from a range-wide point of view the most significant thing – or rather things – about the Cerato hatch are hidden under the sleek and attractive, if slightly 90s-ish, hatch body. To be specific, it is the new six-speed transmission and new suspension set up that mark the hatch out as being a step above the sedan and several steps above the remarkably attractive, yet sadly flawed Koup.
Inside the Cerato hatch feels, funnily enough, exactly like the sedan. Which makes sense, given that they are essentially the same, except for the fact that, apart from the prevalence of hard plastics, the hatch’s interior feels a better built proposition than the last Cerato sedan we drove. This is more a testament to Kia’s remarkably rapid improvement over the last decade rather than an indictment of the sedan’s quality though.
Sensible control layout and one of the best iPod integration systems in the industry set the Cerato up well for user-friendliness, although the one flaw from the inside would have to be the air conditioning that seems to struggle to cool the car down terribly quickly on a hot day. Still, that’s what windows wind down for…
The new NZ/OZ-specific suspension set up is a surprising improvement on what was already pretty decent in the sedan, making the hatch a nicely neutral handler with pleasantly refined ride quality thrown into the bargain. The biggest black mark in the ride and handling department comes courtesy of the tyres that come fitted standard to the Cerato – they are simply awful, with abysmally low grip levels, wet weather causes the Cerato’s stability control system to almost have a seisure on almost every corner. They ruin all the good work Kia has put into the Cerato’s suspension and chassis, so dumping the Korean rubber and fitting a decent set of hoops would be your first mission…
The new six-speed auto transmission (a six-speed manual will be available on special order, if you really want one) doesn’t exactly see a vast improvement in straight line sprinting ability (or, slightly surprisingly, fuel consumption…) out in the real world, but the improvement in refinement is simply massive. The six-speeder slips quickly and smoothly between cogs, making progress far more pleasant than the old four-speeder could ever dream of coming near.
There is a downside to this new found drivetrain refinement however, because the slick new transmission highlights the engines deficiencies. Generally a more than capable engine, the 2-litre petrol has a tendency to get a bit thrashy and breathless in the upper revs, something you just had to get used to in the four-speed sedan, but now seems like more of an irritation with the new six-speeder.
The best news is that the transmission and suspension will migrate across the Cerato range, including the Koup, instantly fixing the biggest problem with the sexy little affordable coupe – the harsh ride and ordinary transmission.
But for now the hatch is the only way to get the six-speed auto and suspension, and the added practicality of the body style only adds to the appeal. With the LX hatch starting at $30,990 coming complete with Bluetooth connectivity, iPod integration, 16” alloy wheels, remote central locking, steering wheel controls for both audio and cruise control and al the expected safety devices, you certainly get a lot for your money.
The SX, at $34,990 adds leather, steering wheel paddle shifters, a trip computer, climate control, rear parking sensors and more chrome. All round, the Cerato hatch is an excellent little package.
This article first appeared in New Zealand Company Vehicle magazine.