The Kia Cerato GT is one of about a zillion warm hatches that seem to have a knack of dragging punters through the door.
Kia is doing Very Good Things these days. It took a while for the company to build a reputation for making honest-and-worthy cars but did it with a long warranty and, eventually, knocking together some real lookers.
Attention-grabbing stuff like the Soul also helped and then came some properly fun stuff like the Pro’Ceed GT, the Stinger GT4 Concept and then the actual Stinger GT. And who could forget the fun-loving Picanto GT? I certainly haven’t and would quite like one, thanks.
What quite a few people don’t know is that Kia quietly popped a rival for Hyundai’s i30 N-Line into its range. A turbo engine, tweaked suspension and a some fine-looking bodywork later, we’re not entirely sure this one has hit the mark.
Look and Feel
I’ve a had few conversations with people who tell me they really don’t like the Cerato GT hatch. I really don’t mind it. It’s a bit odd from some angles, sharing a lot of its proportions with the i30 Fastback. I don’t mind it, but the back is a bit busy. But I can live with that.
I’m fond of the wheels, though, they look pretty good.
The cabin is by-the-numbers Kia, which is to say it’s good if a bit jelly bean-ey. The GT brings plenty of aluminium trim bits to lift things up above the humdrum but I’m not sure the interior has quite the sharpness the market seems to like. There’s nothing wrong with it, though, and it’s got plenty of stuff to like.
With dual-zone climate control, convincing fake leather, a big 8.0-inch screen (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay) and a cracking set of seats, you’ll be pretty happy in here. You also get an eight-speaker JBL sound system, which isn’t bad, along with DAB+. The Kia entertainment software is okay, easy to use and it also includes sat nav.
Engine and Chassis
The GT scores a 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder, spinning up 150kW (204PS) and 265Nm. To get the power to the front wheels, you get Kia’s own (well, shared with Hyundai) seven-speed twin-clutch with paddle shifts to keep you occupied. For those who care, the clutch is a dry one (and also explains why it’s not fitted to the i30 N)
That 265Nm torque figure is a long way north of the humdrum 2.0-litre in the rest of the Ceratos – 73Nm to be exact. That’s a lot for a car that’s barely heavier and worth that for the price alone.
Like the upper-end i30s (because this is a i30 underneath), the Cerato GT flings the cheaper torsion beams in favour of a multi-link rear end. New springs and dampers all round stiffen things up and the front brakes grow to 305mm, up from 280mm in the normal hatch.
The 18-inch alloys come with Michelin Pilot Sport 4s in 225/40 spec. These are pretty decent tyres for a warm hatch…
Things started well with the Cerato. It looks good and it feels good, it’s beautifully built and it’s just all-round likeable.
Tooling around town quickly revealed a few issues. The front suspension – tuned by the usually-reliable local team – is really hard and it crashes and bashes on our rubbish Sydney roads. That got pretty tiring during the week as I negotiated the usual suburban and urban horrors.
Also tiring was the transmission’s dithering. If you’re not giving it a kick in the guts, the gearbox seems to want to please you but fails, panicking about which gear to give you. It’s a real pain because lurking behind that gearbox is a very good engine.
And you work out what a good engine it is when you’re out on proper roads. Get into a flow and you’ll be having as much fun as you will in its i30 cousin. The suspension never really settles, though, so you have to work a bit harder, but it is a lot of fun.
I’m a fan of the steering – the weight is just about right and you know what’s happening underneath you. I’m not a fan of the brake pedal, it felt really dead and I had no idea what was going on with the brakes.
The Cerato GT is well-priced, has a whopping warranty and hugely sensible servicing regime and looks great (I think). But as a warm hatch, it stumbles on a couple of key obstacles.
Warm hatches are all-rounders, keeping everyone (including the accountant) happy. Where the Focus ST-Line keeps you comfortable while also providing a few thrills, the Cerato just misses the mark.
That’s probably not the end of it, though. Korean companies take this sort of thing very seriously. The 2020 Cerato GT will likely come out swinging.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.