Kia Cerato 1.6 EX (2017) Review

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The Kia Cerato was updated last year, but are the subtle changes enough to convince buyers to forego newer products on the market, including the award-winning Opel Astra? We tested the 1.6 EX derivative to find out if it’s still worth a look…

We Like: Good ride quality, decent performance, big boot

We Don’t Like: Pricey for what is effectively Kia's entry-level Cerato derivative


  • For something more stylish: Consider the Mazda3 1.6 Dynamic priced at R290 500 (March 2017). The Mazda3 is a well-made, good looking car and this mid-spec derivative offers more-than-reasonable specification.  
  • For something more premium: Consider the Opel Astra 1.0T Enjoy priced at R295 800 (March 2017). It comes well-specced at roughly the same price as this entry-level Cerato and its turbocharged 1.0-litre engine offers reasonable performance and good fuel economy. Its touchscreen infotainment system is excellent too.
  • For value: Consider the Chevrolet Cruze 1.4T LS, priced at R274 500 (March 2017). It’s possibly the least stylish option compared with the Cerato and Mazda3, but its turbocharged motor gives it the performance edge, for what that's worth. The 1.6 LS version offers extraordinarily good value at R274 500, however. 

Compare the Kia Cerato with the Mazda3 1.6 Active and Opel Astra 1.0T Enjoy

The Kia Cerato 1.6 EX is a reasonably attractive offering with its ride quality being a stand-out feature. 

Whereas some long-time participants in the compact hatchback segment, such as the Volkswagen Golf, have moved upmarket to compete with premium marques' wares, effectively putting their asking prices beyond the reach of family car buyers, Chevrolet, Ford, Opel, Mazda and Toyota still cater for the lower, more affordable end of the market. This entry-level Kia Cerato also falls into the category; it has some executive appeal, but it is ultimately pitched at less trend-conscious buyers who are merely looking for a good, reasonably specced car.

In the case of the Cerato, which has been on sale in South Africa since 2013, a volatile exchange rate and associated higher import costs have pushed Kia's prices up. The Korean marque updated the Cerato last year in an effort to boost its value package and we recently spent time with this entry-level derivative to see if it remains a competitive offering.

How does it fare in terms of…

Kerb appeal?

The refreshed Cerato features newly designed headlights and fog lights, as well as a reshaped bonnet, front bumper and new grille trim. We think the Cerato’s design is clean, smart and generally pleasing... if less than distinctive. Granted, it won't turn many heads at intersections, but we believe that won't matter much to the majority of the Kia's target market anyway.

The interior design, however, shows more substantial improvements. Upgraded materials on the dashboard, door trim, centre fascia and console (with silver and piano black trim) add a dash of upmarket appeal. The interior is well constructed and although it’s attractive in look and feel, we can’t help but feel it looks a trifle dated; so, design-wise, not on par with its rivals. 

Performance and ride comfort?

The Cerato performs sufficiently well in the city and on the highway and it delivers a smooth and composed drive on most surfaces. 

With 95 kW and 157 Nm of torque on offer from its naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine, the Cerato has enough grunt on tap to easily deal with the daily inner-city commute. Acceleration from standstill is good (if a little harsh-sounding under full acceleration), but with closely spaced gear ratios you will swap cogs often to get the most of the Korean hatchback's middling torque reserve on the freeway. It is a good thing, then, that the shift action of the 6-speed 'box is pleasingly smooth.

In terms of fuel consumption, Kia claims a figure of 6.5 L/100 km, but we averaged around 8.0 L/100 km during our test period, which, although not thirsty, is hardly thrifty either. 

Meanwhile, we found the Cerato to be composed and relatively agile in terms of its cornering ability, with minimal body roll apparent. A key strength of this Kia's on-road behaviour, however, was its ride quality. Buyers will appreciate the Cerato’s comfortable ride quality and the suspension absorbs harsh imperfections well, delivering a smooth overall ride.

Practicality and interior features

The loading bay is rather spacious and the 60:40 split seats makes the Cerato quite flexible for loading a variety of goods.

The Cerato fares reasonably well in the practicality stakes and its luggage bay is surprisingly large at 385 litres, which is marginally more than the Volkswagen Golf’s capacity (380 litres). If that’s not enough, the rear seats fold down in a 60:40 split configuration, which increases loading space further. There are also 2 shopping hooks in the bay to hang your groceries.

Space for rear passengers is average in terms of leg-, head- and shoulder room. There are also rear-facing air vents for aft occupants, as well as a folding central armrest with 2 cup holders and bottle holders in the door mouldings. The driver and front passenger also have 2 cup holders and a lidded storage space ahead of the gear lever.

A simple Radio/CD Player is fitted and although it looks dated, it's easy to use. 

This entry-level Cerato is fitted with a radio/CD player audio system that’s Bluetooth and MP3-compatible. It’s a basic setup, but it is easy enough to use and the audio and Bluetooth can be controlled using the mounted buttons on the steering wheel (USB and auxiliary ports are included). The steering column is adjustable for rake and reach and the driver’s seat is height-adjustable, so getting comfortable behind the wheel should be easy. A manual air conditioning system is also fitted and you will find cruise control useful on longer journeys.

Other nice-to-have features include front and rear electric windows, electric folding side mirrors, plus rear park assist and in terms of safety, a total of 6 airbags are fitted, ABS with EBD is standard, but traction control is not offered.

Pricing and warranty

The Kia Cerato 1.6 EX is priced from R299 995 and is sold with a 5-year/unlimited km warranty and 5-year/90 000 km service plan with service intervals set at 15 000 km.


The Cerato is a good car, but its asking price isn't inviting and buyers are likely to find more value elsewhere. 

The Kia Cerato is a good all-rounder. Considering that it will be used primarily for commuting, it delivers fair performance, while its ride quality, refinement (insulation against road, wind and engine noise) and comfortable, no-fuss interior further add to its appeal.

Unfortunately, with Kia at the mercy of the Rand's exchange rate (the brand is not alone in this regard, but as an importer, more so than others), this Cerato is on the expensive side of the spectrum when compared with its rivals, making it a hard sell and that could very well force buyers to consider other options. For the same money, the well-specced Opel Astra 1.0T Enjoy makes a strong case for itself and appreciably more affordable options such as the Mazda3 1.6 Active or Chevrolet Cruze 1.6 LS make the decision more difficult still.

The Cerato, therefore, finds itself in tough territory, but what counts in its favour is that Kia is viewed as a near-premium brand by many consumers. It’s a well-built, albeit ageing, offering, that will be regarded as a sensible option, but in a segment that is already under siege from compact crossovers, there are other options available with higher levels of specification.

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