Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
No one can accuse Kia of not having a crack, the brand-building Stinger has given buyers cause to rethink what the brand is all about.
For its second act, Kia has done something different and pivoted towards a sporty small car that’s looking to establish itself in the ‘warm’ hatch space.
While sister brand Hyundai has gone all-in with the i30 N hatch and fastback, Kia has instead opted to split the difference and aim for the goldilocks position with the Cerato GT.
Kia seems happy to do things differently which might explain why the marque hasn’t succumbed to the downturn affecting new car sales.
At present, the Cerato is Kia’s volume mover thanks to a formula of strong standard equipment and sharp pricing, the GT acts as the flagship variant priced from $32,990 drive-away.
In a tight market where buyers looking to drop $30k plus more often than not are swayed by the raised seating position of an SUV, the introduction of the Cerato GT is a brave move.
Since this is the Cerato for keen drivers, we’ll start with that before our obligatory analysis of the spec sheet.
Under the bonnet is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine outputting 150kW and 265Nm. Extracting maximum power does require the engine to howl at 6000rpm, while peak torque is accessible between 1500-4500rpm. Drive is sent to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
After just a few kilometres, it’s clear the Cerato GT is calibrated towards sporty driving. It’s not just a regular Cerato with some styling embellishments driven by the marketing team. The GT’s driving experience is vastly different from the regular Cerato models.
The steering is meatier, the suspension is firmer and it’s faster off the line. In the right environment, these are all virtues to encourage drivers out of an unnecessary SUV. The extra resistance in the steering makes things a little more playful, the extra granite in the suspension adds greater body control in the bends, and who doesn’t want more hustle when taking off?
There is, of course, a necessary compromise when it comes to low-speed comfort. Even in comfort mode, the slightest undulations in the road find their way into the cabin.
Then there’s the dual-clutch transmission. We remain unconvinced of the merits of a DCT in a daily driver. At times during our test week, the DCT struggled to shift smoothly at low-speeds and was occasionally indecisive not quite knowing what gear it should be in. This annoyance is exacerbated when the powertrain is cold.
While the DCT shines during sporty stints on the right road, for daily driving the traditional torque converter is still the king.
For perceptive buyers, this presents a dilemma. The Cerato GT is an entertaining steer that can blow out some of the week’s cobwebs, but its engaging tendencies are lost in low-speed city traffic.
It’s a shame in many ways, the Cerato GT offers the size and practicality to serve family duties with ease. In sedan form, the classical proportions deliver plenty of cabin and cargo space. We’d happily argue the sedan easily betters the hatch when it comes to design.
Throughout our test week, we piloted the GT across 532km and returned an average consumption figure of 7.0L/100km. Not bad considering the spirited style of driving we subjected it to.
Now to the equipment list, as a range-topper, the GT gets all the modern amenities including leather trim, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar and memory function, heated and ventilated front seat, dual-zone climate control, and a digital diver information display in the instrument cluster.
There’s also a well-sorted 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with an 8-speaker JBL premium sound system.
Those lucky enough to occupy the front seats get access to wireless smartphone charging, a 12-volt socket and a pair of USB ports. Strangely, while those in the back get proper air vents, Kia hasn’t included rear charging capabilities. 
While the car is loaded with kit (the only option is metallic paint), it’s the presentation that strikes a conclusive note. The fit and finish are excellent with some lovely touches that elevate the cabin ambience. The GT logo seat embroidery, the red contrast stitching, soft-touch plastics, and the leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel makes a significant impact.
The interior appointments haven’t come at the cost of safety, ANCAP has awarded the Cerato GT a five-star rating. Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a driver attention alert are all standard.
It’s a comprehensive list of standard equipment when you consider the price is $32,990 drive-away.
Kia backs the Cerato with a seven-year warranty without a kilometre limit and a seven-year capped-price service program. Maintenance intervals are set at 12 months/10,000km whatever comes first which is a bit shorter than the new industry standard. At the time of writing, the total cost of the first seven services is a hefty $3295, at an average of $470 a service. It’s not exactly cheap.
So what Kia presents here is an opportunity, an opportunity to enjoy a lively drive in a practical package while avoiding the premium (or tax) to sit higher. The Cerato GT is brilliant value with space and performance to balance family needs and weekend fun. But buyers need to carefully consider the type of driving the GT will be asked to undertake, like the best of us, it needs the right situation to flaunt its talents.
2019 Kia Cerato GT Sedan Specifications
Price from $32,990 drive-away Engine 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 150kW @ 6000rpm Torque 265Nm 1500-4500rpm Transmission seven-speed dual-clutch automatic Performance 0-100km/h 7.5 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 6.8L/100km Tank Capacity 50L Length 4640mm Width 1800mm Height 1435mm Wheelbase 2700mm Turning Circle 10.6m Tare Weight 1370kg Service Intervals 12 months/10,000km Warranty seven year/unlimited kilometre