When Citro├źn created the hatchback in 1938 with the 11CV Commerciale, little could they have known what would become of their design over the ensuing eight decades.

Over that time we have witnessed some global hits such as the Honda Civic and of course the Volkswagen Golf – between them selling well over 50,000,000 units and counting. We have also seen some utter horrors such as the Mercedes-Benz A Class and the BMW 3 Series Compact be bought by seemingly intelligent people. Clearly, they weren’t.

Not wishing to rain on Honda and Volkswagen’s parade, Kia launched the Cerato (marketed as the Horki in China) in 2003 in sedan and hatch variants.

The Fourth Generation of the Cerato has just been given a mid-life facelift that coincides with the launch of the new KIA logo. It’s selling well too with over 10,000 units sold in the first six months of 2021 – beaten only by journeymen, the Hyundai i30 and the Toyota Corolla.

We’ve been driving the top of the line GT hatch with a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine pushing out 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque that is mated to a very smooth 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission and currently retails for $37,550 drive-away.

Exterior

Our test vehicle was finished in Snow White Pearl ($520 option) which is one of nine colours in the Cerato range. This pearl-effect white varies its tone dramatically in the smallest of light changes and at night it gives off a slightly “dirty-white” vibe.

The GT is very easily identified by the red accents in the grille and around the fog lights at the front and by the red wheel hubs front and rear. Exceptionally good LED headlights with High Beam Assist are standard on the GT and the LED lighting makes its way to the rear of the Cerato which look great in darker environments.

The down-turned mouth styling at the front is consistent across the Kia Cerato range including the brake cooling ducts at the extreme edges of the front bumper assembly which gives every Cerato an aggressive, but not unattractive look.

The 18-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in 225/40Z rubber and Tyre Pressure Monitoring across the range ensures you’re kept aware of any changes.

Range-wide ABS, EBD and Braking Assistance as well as Traction Control, Hill Start Assistance, and front and rear parking sensors (to name just a few) mean the Cerato packs a hell of a punch when it comes to passive and active safety.

A wide and deep opening at the rear reveals a large boot space with 400+ L capacity and even more with the rear seats folded flat. A pram, a bike, or a couple of sets of golf clubs, easy.

Twin exhaust pipes on the GT thankfully don’t exhale barks and pops like other high-end hatchbacks which is another very endearing feature of the Cerarto.

There really isn’t an angle from which the Kia Cerato doesn’t look good. The designers have got the proportions bang-on which makes this a really strong contender for your shopping list if you’re in the market for a solid and reliable 5 seat hatchback.

Interior

The Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis “family” are the current leaders in interior quality, features, and function for any model sub-$200K. From the Kia Picanto up to the Genesis GV80 SUV, spending time behind the wheel of any model is enjoyable and very comfortable.

A further smattering of red accents set against sporty yet comfortable seating for 5 is very easy to live with in the Cerato GT.

The front seats are heated and cooled and the driver’s seat also gets 8-way electric movement with lumbar support and memory for up to drivers. The seats have firm bolsters around your kidneys and thighs and hold you very well when spirited driving is called for. I’m not sure that they would be great on a long drive (remember them?) which would encourage plenty of Stop, Revive, Survive.

Manual shifting of the 7-speed DCT transmission is available via paddles behind the steering wheel although the gearbox doesn’t provide the linear thrust of power that you get in a comparable Volkswagen Golf. There’s a sense that the gearbox isn’t ratioed correctly to give you a good shove in the back. The downshifts are better and the rev-matching is a nice touch.

Elsewhere the interior is extremely functional. The magnificent 8 speaker JBL sound system with multiple USB ports (front and rear), wireless charging, and Apple Car Play (ACP) and Android Auto (AA) are standard on much of the Cerato range. Oddly, the wireless version of ACP and AA is only available on the bottom of the range S model.

Rear-passenger head and leg-room are generous and that’s just one example of where the Cerato makes a strong case to be considered over a Golf or a Corolla. Twin cup holders, power windows, leather and red-stitching flat bottomed leather steering wheel, power sunroof, and dual-zone climate control air-conditioning round out the impressive list of interior features with little room for more.

As I said earlier, the Kia Cerato GT is a very nice place to spend time whether it’s a short trip to the shops or something a little more adventurous.

Safety Systems

As we referred to earlier, the Cerato is jam-packed with active and passive safety systems. The more time spent behind the wheel the more you come to appreciate each little guiding hand.

  • Blind Spot Monitoiring
  • Rear Cross Traffic and Pedestrian Movement
  • Safe Exit warning from parrallel parking.
  • Lane Follow Assist
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Smart Cruise Control – a system that I don’t really like as it means the slowest car on the freeway for example, is the fastest moving car.
  • Rear View Camera via the 10.25 inch touch-screen monitor.
  • Driver Attention Monitor
  • Rear Seat Accupant Monitor
  • More than 5 Airbags (Driver and Passenger, Front Side, and Curtain)

The absence of a head-up display was the only safety system that I felt should have found its way into the Cerato GT.

On The Road

Like most hatchbacks, the Cerato GT is good fun to drive. Nimble when you need it to be. Easy to park. Easy to load. Reasonably good visibility apart from the rear 3/4 view which is nothing to grumble about.

The 50L fuel tank is good for the category and the fuel consumption over the week we had the Cerato GT played out at 11L/100km which was almost all city driving – so ~500km per tank. Not bad.

When the moment takes you, there are four driving modes – SPORT, NORMAL, ECO, and SMART. NORMAL and SPORT are all you really need and that being said, you’re in NORMAL 95% of the time. ECO does offer a benefit for the frugally minded driver however, it does dull the throttle response and limits the RPM so it’s really only a good option on a freeway.

Another interesting omission from the Kia Cerato is the dreaded auto-start/stop which is just annoying. I’d love to know what this was dropped from the latest model – bravo nonetheless!

The brakes are particularly good in the GT with ventilated 305mm discs up front and solid 284mm in the rear. The suspension is a bit bouncy in SPORT mode thanks to the variable Multi-Link system in the rear. The Michelin rubber does compensate a little and they make very light and safe work of any surface in the rain.

Conclusion

I always think to myself when road-testing a car, “…what have I got to say no to in order to buy this car?”. And for the first time in a while, I think the Kia Cerato GT really does play a very good hand if you’re in the market for a sub $40K hatchback (or sedan for that matter).

Well built, good to drive, safe, and with the 7 Year/150,000km Warranty and Fixed Price Servicing, the Cerato is definitely worth a drive and when you sit down to consider what you get for your money compared to some of the more reasonably priced offerings from Europe, you will be pleasantly surprised where you place your bets.

More information at Kia.com.au