Published on August 9th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair0
Kia Cerato 2.0 L : The Options Come as Standard
The Kia Cerato isn’t exactly the newest C-segment car to hit the Malaysian streets, but it still has a lot of appeal. Seeing as a number of its competitors from Japan are pushing strong at a slightly higher price point, we though we’d take a look at how well Kia has managed to fend off the attackers.
This high-spec 2.0 L version we got to drive is without a doubt the best equipped C-segment vehicle sold in Malaysia for its price. In fact, most of Kia’s products are over-equipped. For under just under RM120,000 the Cerato 2.0 L gets the works with nothing held back. That means you get a push-to-start button, sunroof, HID Xenon headlights with daytime running lights and a whole lot more while still paying less than what you would for an entry level Japanese equivalent. That’s just great value.
And it’s not like Kia have skimped off on the quality. The only two complaints I have are to do with the design and material choices. The plastics and leathers used are durable and solid, but that also means they’re not as soft to the touch as some modern cars tend to have them. The second complaint is to do with Kia’s slightly different way of doing things. It’s not always bad, but as you’ll read later, it can take some getting used to.
The interior really is quite comfortable. Kia have gone the extra mile by providing the driver with an air-ventilated driver’s seat, which makes MILES more sense than heated seats in this climate. It’s not a feature one would use as often as climate control, but it can be really useful after leaving the car under the boiling sun for too long. In just a few seconds, steamy hot leather can be made pleasantly cool.
The air-ventilated seats are a good example of how Kia’s strangeness can be extremely fresh, but there is a flipside to this. When you really start to scan the interior, you’ll find just a tinge of ‘bad’ weirdness going on. Take the plastic panel above the glove compartment. Why is it creased like that? Why are the door panels creased as well? Wouldn’t plain old plastic look better than fake carbon fibre interior trim? Why does the car say ‘Goodbye’ when the engine is shut off in such a non-committal way? These are questions that only Peter Schreyer and his team of experts can answer. But until they’re ironed out, we’re left with a remarkable product that needs a dose of maturity and restraint that only experience can provide.
Having said that, the car as a whole is designed really remarkably well, especially the exterior. It almost passes off as German, though it’s a lot more Korean than its predecessor, the Forte thanks to its Tiger nose grille. With a lot of modern cars, a lot of the focus gets poured into the front end, and while that’s sort of true here, the real star of the show here is the rear end.
The rear tail lamps are extremely attractive when lit up and look a lot more like electroluminescent lights than LEDs with its even distribution of red light. Really quite striking even in broad daylight.
Enough with the aesthetics, let’s get down to how the car performs. Fortunately I had the chance to take it through just about every driving situation you could imagine in Malaysia. Windy hill climbs, night driving, highway cruising, small town squeezes and rough roading. It turns out Kia wasn’t lying, they really do have the power to surprise™.
In every one of those situations, the Cerato did well. No, it’s not the best at everything, but it’s certainly good at everything. That’s partly due to the pretty excellent suspension set up that leans more towards firmness, but mostly thanks to the user selectable steering mode. That’s right, with just a press of a button, the steering goes from extremely stiff to finger-friendly. Most car companies leave this linked to speed of the car, which is convenient but Kia’s approach made a lot of practical sense. I spent a good two hours navigating the hilly back roads of Selangor and thanks to the Comfort Mode, I made it out of there without feeling severely worn. And when I really needed the control, Sports Mode did the trick well.
Having selectable steering firmness isn’t at all gimmicky in my opinion. In fact, it’s rather the opposite. It respects that not all drivers have the same habits and many older folk who still drive will appreciate being able to steer the car with minimal effort. And if you’ve got two very different sized drivers going into one car, Kia have also got you covered with a 2-driver seat position recall. Very handy.
The Cerato isn’t aimed at being a driver-centric car, but it’s certainly a lot of fun to drive hard thanks to it 2.0-litre ‘Nu’ petrol engine and its 161PS of power. It’s definitely not lacking in ‘oomph’ here and feels thoroughly exciting. On a straight road it’s pretty planted and tends to feel more continental than Japanese. The 6-speed auto is also a welcome addition and while the paddle shifters work, the plastic construction leaves a lot to be desired. Again, a slight miss with regards to material choice.
It’s not like passengers are left out. Even with the front seats pushed back to where a 6-foot tall person would sit, the rear passengers get more than enough legroom. The media unit also plays DVDs, great for keeping kids occupied during extended trips. And speaking of trips, the Cerato packs a really huge boot, and the rear bench folds down for extended storage. It’s almost as if they’ve left no stone unturned in terms of features.
It’s great that Kia have decided to put 6 airbags on both the 1.6 SX and 2.0 L models, as it shows that the company doesn’t use safety to pressure customers into more expensive variants. In fact, all of the Cerato’s safety features come as standard, including Vehicle Stability Management, ABS, traction control and the works.
The bottom line is this: Kia have come a long way from being the merely the cheaper alternative. The Forte proved that it could do the C-segment just as well as anyone else could and the Cerato proves that it can do it better in almost every aspect. For RM117,680, you certainly can’t go wrong with the Cerato, especially when you consider the fact that it comes with a 5 year warranty. And if you want something sportier, the K3 might soon come in a ‘Koup’ variant. Two doors, a turbocharged engine and a whole lot of fun.
Kia Cerato K3 2.0 L
Engine NU 2.0 MPI D-CVVT
Transmission 6-Speed Automatic with Paddle Shift
Max Power 151PS @ 6500 RPM
Max Torque 193Nm @ 4300 RPM
Selling Price RM117,680.00