Kia hatch is getting warmer with sporty persona
Rafael Nadal was growling during the Australian Open, not just when Novak Djokovic schooled him in the final - he was rendering the Kia Cerato GT's turbo engine note in commercials.
Kia's expanding its performance range on the back of the big Stinger's success and, with the help of the Spaniard, is pushing the Cerato warm hatch as a potent daily drive option. Is the Korean championship material? Our family of four takes the umpire's chair.
IAIN: Practical and fun. Most of today's buyers think you need a "sporty" SUV for that.
JULES: Not so?
IAIN: It's possible if you've got more money than sense and fancy an Audi RS Q3 or Porsche Macan Turbo. I'd suggest a warm hatch instead.
JULES: You mean hot hatch?
IAIN: Nope, warm. These are sporty, more powerful versions of the hatchbacks your granny drives but without the harsh ride, electric complexities, racetrack focus and price tag of full-fat hot hatches.
JULES: So this Kia is warm, rather than hot.
IAIN: Right. It's the Cerato GT hatch, priced at $31,990 drive-away. A fair whack cheaper than true hot hatches. The Hyundai i30N is $39,990, VW Golf GTI $45,490 and Honda Civic Type R $50,990, all before on-roads.
JULES: Nice compromise then. And it has big sporty wheels with red centre caps, red bits in the grille and a GT badge. I like it.
IAIN: It's a bit like a baby Kia Stinger and that's no bad thing. It looks really long, too, suggesting it'd be practical enough for the two kids and us.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: If I'm paying more than $30,000 for a small Kia, I want lots of included kit.
IAIN: You're in luck, madam, for it is loaded. Active safety kit list is long, there's smart cruise control, flat-bottom leather steering wheel, alloy pedals, wireless phone charger, dual zone climate control and an eight-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
JULES: You know I'm a sucker for red sportiness too. Red stitching for the steering wheel, seats and leather gear shift jazz things up, plus it says GT on the seats.
IAIN: It should say "GT" on the steering wheel. That'd look sexier than Kia's rather dull badge.
JULES: Heated and ventilated leather seats too.
IAIN: Well, they're certainly sporty. They're pretty firm but the driver's seat is power adjustable in many directions.
JULES: The cabin has good soft-touch plastic everywhere. But the handbrake is archaic. I thought everyone used electric handbrakes these days?
IAIN: Not if you enjoy handbrake turns.
JULES: It's not a magic carpet ride of smoothness is it?
IAIN: It's not bad. Kia's Australian team has set up the suspension and I reckon they've aced the balance between comfort and handling prowess.
JULES: All I'm saying is this warm hatch feels the bumps and holes more acutely than a cold hatch would.
IAIN: True. There are better cars for four-hour trips, which are relaxed anyway thanks to smart cruise control and lane keep assist.
JULES: And wow, the JBL audio is among the best I've used. My power ballads playlist got a serious work out.
IAIN: The boot's long but not massively deep.
JULES: I'm fine with that. Makes it good for sliding a kid's bike in or a baby's pram. There are clever underfloor storage compartments.
IAIN: What for?
JULES: Valuables, wet beach gear, new shoes I hide from you.
IAIN: Great. Big enough for the weekly shop?
JULES: Plenty big at 428L - much more than our VW Golf's 380L. Plus the Cerato GT has front and rear parking sensors.
IAIN: This is a keen driver's car. The turbo four-cylinder's 150kW gives it serious poke and the seven-speed dual-clutch auto is rapid-shifting when it wakes up. Independent rear suspension plus grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4 performance tyres deliver superb balance and grip.
JULES: It's very sporty without being frighteningly fast. Some hot hatches like the Renault Sport Megane and Hyundai i30N can have you in licence-losing territory far too quickly.
IAIN: Most fun is to be had in the corners. There's sharp turn-in and good weighty steering when in Sport mode, plus gears shift faster and revs hold longer. When it's not in Sport mode, the gearbox can be tardy.
JULES: If we're criticising, the windscreen pillars are huge and stopped me going faster through corners as my view was so blocked.
IAIN: And as I'm a dinosaur, a Cerato GT with a manual gearbox would be a more involving package.
JULES: The Cerato is classified as a small car with such good boot and rear seat space. When we were kids a small car was a Mini Minor.
IAIN: Plenty of room for strapping the kids in their car seats. And if it's adults in the back, this is one of the few small cars where I can sit in the middle seat without my head hitting the roof.
JULES: For the family budget, Kia's seven-year warranty is a win. Claimed economy of 6.8L/100km is good for a sporty car, too, though we slurped 8.5L/100km.
IAIN: If you don't want the full-fat hot hatch experience and price, the Cerato GT makes sense. It's practical, comfy enough for daily duties and there's ample performance for most thrillseekers.
JULES: There's no real wow factor but I'd buy one. It's a great all-rounder - I like its style, features and acceleration for a cheap price. Now when will Kia make a mad dog hot hatch to take on the Hyundai i30 N?
KIA CERATO GT
PRICE $31,990 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICING 7 years/unlimited km; $2051 for 5 years/50,000km
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, forward collision warning, radar cruise control, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and assist, driver attention alert, rear camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitor
ENGINE 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 150kW/265Nm