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Kia is in a bullish mood. The company thinks its new Cerato can compete with the likes of the VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Toyota Corolla, without relying on low, low prices to attract buyers. We’ll see.
The replacement for the Shuma arrives late this summer and the Korean firm claims the five-door is styled to attract image-conscious customers.
On the road, the chassis is unexpectedly capable, which is surprising considering it is based on parent company Hyundai’s Elantra. Extensive reworking including strengthening of the shell means the Cerato is far more than a rebodied Elantra, and development work by Hyundai-Kia’s European centre in Germany shines through.
The steering can’t match the chassis: it is devoid of feel, but the gearchange, though long of throw, is precise and solid.
The 104bhp, 105lb ft 1.6-litre engine, also used in the Hyundai Accent, is lacklustre, bogging down too easily at low revs, and our test car also sent a nasty vibration through the throttle pedal above 5000rpm. It is, however, pretty frugal: Kia claims a combined figure of 40.4mpg.
Inside, Kia promises class-leading space, and there’s certainly plenty of head- and legroom: one six-footer can comfortably sit behind another. There’s a decent array of storage and cup holders, too, but the shallow boot diminishes luggage capacity.
All Ceratos will be equipped with aircon, remote central locking, dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags, EBD and a CD/MP3 player. The Cerato’s interior is still a shade behind the better European volume models’, however, although the Koreans are closing the gap.
There will be three trim levels on offer, and at least three engine choices. The initial engine options will be the 1.6 and a 141bhp 2.0-litre petrol, with a 101bhp 1.5-litre CRDi following before the end of the year. A 2.0-litre diesel is also under consideration for the UK, and has been confirmed for launch in mainland Europe.
Although Kia is undoubtedly becoming more competitive, to put the Cerato alongside a Golf or Astra and proclaim that buyers will choose it for reasons other than price is deeply optimistic.