Kia Cerato SX 2009 Review

Kia Cerato SX 2009 Review

Ceratotherium isn’t a word you hear thrown around very often; it manages to avoid dinner party conversation and shop counter small talk. That’s because Ceratotherium is the scientific term for the White Rhino, from the Greek “cerato” meaning horn and “thorium” meaning wild beast. The new Kia Cerato also uses the term for horn, but is this naming significant in heralding in a new ideology for Kia or just a chance to blow its own trumpet? Whatever the case, Cerato is a fitting moniker because right now, Kia is head down and charging.

By offering more for less and helped by an increase in popularity for cheaper new cars the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group has recently overtaken Ford to become the World’s fourth largest carmaker.  Kia’s role in this achievement has been pivotal and just as the horn is vital for a Rhino the Cerato is an important new model for the Korean brand.

The C-segment is hotly contested but Kia’s design-focused tactics with the Cerato is a smart approach. What’s first noticed with the Cerato is an overall exterior aesthetic that’s very modern. It’s not 2007, not last year, but styled for right now. Lead from the front by Kia’s tiger-nose front grille, this fresh-faced look is being adopted on all Kia models to help further brand identity. The grille is flanked by squinting headlights that are matched at the rear by Euro style taillights sitting between a built in rear spoiler and a chunky two-tone bumper. Broad shoulders a high rear deck and thick C-pillars work in unison to give the Cerato a purposeful, wedge-like profile. The higher spec SX variant, as tested, receives additional chrome detailing and front and rear fog lamps. Overall, it’s a sharp looker with clean lines and practical dimensions including a 415-litre boot capacity.

Attention has also been lavished on the interior resulting in a spacious and well-equipped cabin. Head and legroom for both rows of seats is good and the seating is generally comfortable assisted by a height adjustable driver’s seat. The switchgear and small display screen is simple in its layout and very practical. It’s a usable and well-presented interior but not without some small faults. Although fit and finish has been markedly improved, some of the interior plastics are left wanting. The silver door trim particularly was already showing signs of significant wear on its top layer of clear coating in our test vehicle. The instrument cluster is well illuminated in red and easy to read but quite dated in its appearance and does let down an otherwise agreeable cabin.

What isn’t dated is the Cerato’s standard equipment list that includes a six-speaker CD stereo with iPod compatibility, steering wheel mounted cruise and audio control buttons, power windows, remote central locking, and a 60:40 split folding rear seat. The SX version adds a full leather interior including steering wheel, trip computer, 17-inch alloys, climate air-con and reverse parking sensors.

Under the Cerato’s sheet metal lays a 2-litre 4-cylinder heart producing a solid 116kW of power and 194Nm of torque force. This is a strong engine within the segment and makes use of continuous variable valve timing to improve power and fuel economy. It returns an impressive 7.9l/100km on the combined cycle a figure assisted by the Cerato’s slippery exterior styling creating a low co-efficient drag figure of just 0.29.  It’s a capable power plant round town or open road but taking 10.5 seconds to reach 100kph it’s no stampeding beast. That said, it revs up reasonably freely and the generous torque figure allows it ample flexibility.

Without a manual option available in NZ, the Cerato’s motor is teamed up to a four-speed automatic box that does the job but is the power train’s weakest point.  The four-speed unit suffers from being one gear ratio short and has a tendency to kick-down gears hastily. The changes are smooth enough and performance is only slightly blunted but a five- or six-speed transmission would have boosted overall drivability.

In handling terms the Cerato offers decent grip and changes direction with little fuss. If pushed it displays some controllable under steer but most Cerato owners won’t be so vigorous as to get into real trouble. Ride quality is good with its long-wheelbase and soft springs soaking up most bumps and divets in the tarmac. The cabin remains quiet during cruising with little engine and wind noise entering and tyre roar only becoming intrusive on coarse chip road surfaces.

Safety equipment is impressive as standard kit and includes six airbags (front, side and curtain), an Electronic Stability Program (incorporating ABS and Traction Control), front active headrests and seatbelt pretensioners.

Unlike its namesake animal the Cerato is no Land Rover crushing battering ram, but instead has elegance to its styling and a comfortable ride quality. The Cerato’s strength comes with what it can offer for the price; the equipment list is long, it’s roomy and quiet inside and has adequate power for most situations. There are some compromises in terms of some cheap interior trim and an antiquated automatic transmission but those sins are forgivable.

Kia is fighting a winning battle against badge snobbery by simply making better cars while minimising the cost to the consumer, this is backed up by an engaging new styling focus. The Cerato is the right instrument to push Kia sales even further ahead so if you’re hunting down a new 2-litre sedan be sure to get on the its trail.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: from $28,990, SX from $33,990

What we like:

  • Modern styling
  • Spacious and comfortable
  • Improved fit and finish
  • Price

What we don’t like:

  • Four speed auto transmission
  • Interior trim quality

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Kia Cerato SX – Specifications


Engine type 2.0L DOHC CVVT
Petrol Displacement (cc) 1998 cc
Compression ratio 10.5
Max. power 115 kW @ 6200 rpm
Max. torque 194 Nm @ 4300 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 7.9L / 100km
Co2 emissions (g/km) 186


Gear Box 4 speed automatic with sequential sport shift


Front suspension MacPherson Strut
Rear suspension CTBA (Coupled Orison Beam Axle)


Tyres 215/45 R17
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
Alloy wheels 17″ alloy
Full size spare wheel and tyre


Steering system Power assisted rack & pinion
Minimum turning radius kerb to kerb (m) 5.16


Overall length 4530 mm
Overall width 1775 mm
Overall height 1460 mm
Wheelbase 2650 mm
Luggage capacity 495 litres
Kerb weight min. / max 1294 / 1359 kg
Fuel tank capacity 52 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 400
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 1200

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