2020 Kia Cerato S Sedan Review: Cheap and Cheerful Motoring
Price & Specs8
Interior & Practicality7
Performance & Economy6
Ride & Handling8
Service & Warranty9
What we like:
  • Great value for money
  • Spacious cabin and boot
  • Excellent ride quality
What we don't like:
  • Hubcaps should be alloys
  • Safety pack should be standard
  • Old and thirsty engine
7.6DiscoverAuto Rating

As we head further and further into the future, it’s clear that cars in Australia are getting more expensive as formerly cheap cars like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 now starting at close to $30,000 on the road. Yet a reminder of how cheap cars used to be still exists – the 2020 Kia Cerato, which starts at just over $20,000 drive away. Are you missing out on anything by choosing the Kia over more expensive competition? We tested the entry-level 2020 Kia Cerato S sedan with the optional safety package to find out.

Price & Specs: 8/10

The 2020 Kia Cerato S starts at $21,490 plus on road costs (officially $21,990 drive away nationwide), which compares well with the entry-level Toyota Corolla (from $23,335) and Mazda3 (from $25,590). Like those two rivals, the Cerato also comes in two body styles: a five-door hatchback or four-door sedan as seen here. Equipment levels – even on the base Cerato S – are reasonable with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six airbags, auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning and lane keep assist, automatic headlights with daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors with a rear view camera and tyre pressure monitoring. 

One absolutely necessary option was fitted to our test car: the $1,500 safety package. This includes upgraded auto braking with pedestrian and cyclist avoidance, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control (auto only), auto-folding mirrors and a leather steering wheel and shift knob. If you’re buying a Cerato, do not forget to option this package!

With the safety pack fitted, what’s missing from the Cerato S? Alloy wheels really should be standard, and while all Kias have auto lights, they should also have auto wipers but otherwise not much is missing.

More expensive 2020 Kia Cerato models exist, including the Sport (this adds 17-inch alloy wheels, inbuilt satellite navigation, a leather steering wheel, etc), Sport+ (leather trim with heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and the safety pack) and GT (which has a 1.6-litre turbo engine and numerous other sporty upgrades), though we think the best Cerato value exists at S safety pack level. 

The Cerato’s pricing is made even greater when put next to rivals from the small SUV segment. The tiny Mazda CX-3 starts at around $25,000 with a lot less space and equipment, for example.

Performance & Fuel Economy: 6/10

All Cerato models – aside from the warm GT – are powered by a 112kW/192Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. In the S and the Sport, you get a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic that’s standard in the Sport+ – we tested the manual and would highly recommend choosing this gearbox.

The six-speed manual transmission in the 2020 Kia Cerato S is a positive – the shift throw isn’t too long and the clutch is light, though it does take some time to get used to thanks to this lightness.

While the Cerato’s 112kW/192Nm outputs are reasonable, it can feel slightly underpowered on the open road, especially when overtaking. It’s totally fine around town, though.

Like its Hyundai i30 cousin with a similar 2.0-litre petrol engine, the Cerato isn’t very fuel efficient. Kia claims 7.4L/100km combined, but we used around 10L/100km – more than 3L/100km thirstier than both the 3 and Corolla in our testing.

Ride & Handling: 8/10

Kia and Hyundai put in a lot of effort to tune their products for local roads and it shows – the Cerato rides and handles well. The suspension is soft and forgiving of Sydney’s rough road network, while not soft enough to affect the car’s agility. The steering is light, which makes it easy to manouvre in traffic and it feels more natural than the artificially heavy steering in the i30.

Like the i30 though, the Cerato is loud at speed in terms of road noise – this is an area where both cars could be very much improved. Speaking of needing improvement: the headlights at night are poor, even on high beam (they need to be LED) and the lower rear indicators and reversing lights are really not nice to look at.

The Cerato’s visibility is great though, with large windows and good sized mirrors helping the view out. It’s a really easy car to drive around town, and despite its larger size, it shrinks around the driver.

Interior & Practicality: 7/10

The interior of the Cerato has been modernised and is more user friendly than the previous model. The infotainment screen now sits on top of the dash and the steering wheel uses tasteful metal-look switches to control the cruise control, radio and centre screen between the dials with trip computer info and a digital speedometer.

The user interface of the infotainment screen is easy to understand, the menus are easy to navigate and the short cut buttons below the screen are easy to grasp. The cloth seats are comfortable even for long distance driving, while the armrest aides this further, though we’d like to see front lumbar adjustment for an extra layer of comfort. 

The Cerato’s cabin is generally quite well built. Yes, some competitor’s cabins offer better material quality and are more luxurious, but for the price, the Cerato’s cabin is totally fine. The dashboard is made of soft touch plastic, while the leather steering wheel feels nice too – everything else in the cabin is hard plastic though. A Cerato GT has a higher quality cabin thanks to soft touch doors and leather trimmings, but it’s also around $10,000 more expensive. Regardless of the model chosen, the Cerato feels solid and built to last.

It’s a very practical cabin – there’s spots for trinkets everywhere you look. We particularly like the multi-layered shelf under the AC controls, which allows you to store your phone while it’s connected to the audio system. The rear seat features an arm rest with cupholders and door pockets, though unfortunately nothing else – no rear vents, no rear charging ports and no rear map pockets.

One thing the Kia offers over both the Mazda3 and Corolla is spaciousness – the rear seat passengers get plenty of legroom no matter which body style Cerato you go for. Most rivals are cramped in the back compared with the Cerato, and if you regularly carry passengers in the rear, the Cerato is an excellent option. The boot space of the Cerato is quite generous at 502-litres in the sedan and 428-litres in the hatch – both are more than 100-litres bigger than equivalent Mazda3 models.

Service & Warranty: 9/10

The Cerato comes with Australia’s best new car warranty with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre duration – two years better than the warranties offered by Toyota, Mazda and cousin Hyundai. The Cerato comes with 12 months of roadside assistance, though servicing at a Kia dealership renews this term by a year each time up to eight years in total. 

Servicing the Cerato S comes around once every 12 months or 15,000km and the total cost of servicing the Cerato over a three-year period is $1,083. This is roughly $300 more expensive to service than its i30 cousin and nearly double what it would cost you to service a Toyota Corolla, although it is roughly the same as what you would pay to service a Mazda 3.

2020 Kia Cerato S DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.6/10

If you’re after basic transportation with some extra touches and don’t mind the above average fuel use, the Cerato S stacks up well compared with the Corolla and Mazda3, which are better equipped and better finished, but cost a lot more to buy.

They are more efficient though, and in the case of the Toyota, significantly cheaper to service so make sure you do your sums before committing. But as it stands, the Cerato S (with the necessary safety pack) is a great value for money small car with a solid driving experience, a spacious cabin and an excellent warranty.

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