The small car which feels big and is brilliant value
Over more than a decade of getting into different cars, the better half has become quite the automotive connoisseur.
That doesn't translate to drivetrains or under-skin dynamics - she doesn't care much for that, unless they are so powerless they couldn't pull a skin off a custard. Her assessments are truthful and blunt.
Expensive tastes have derived courtesy of some of the finest offerings from German big guns like Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Putting the bride behind the wheel of Kia's Cerato Sport+ delivered an intriguing evaluation. Estimating the worth to be in the realm of $40,000, that's gold class recognition for the Korean car maker.
In fact, this derivative can be driven from the showroom for just above $28,000.
Here's where Kia does the sweet talking. You can get into the Sport Cerato sedan or hatch for $22,490, but step up into the Sport Plus and you can have yourself a fine package.
Complimentary items like leather trim, heated front seats, dual-zone aircon, radar cruise control, 17-inch alloys, digital radio equipped six-speaker sound system that is controlled by an eight-inch colour LCD touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, full Bluetooth streaming and satnav.
The only standard colour is white, so silver, grey, graphite, two blue shades, black, real and a pearl white all cost $520 extra. Still a compelling case which is usually about $32,500 drive-away.
Kia was the warranty standard setter at seven years and unlimited kilometres. A few smaller players have joined them, like SsangYong and MG, but most of mainstream have adopted five years.
Servicing costs are reasonable at an average of $409 for the first seven maintenance trips - intervals are annual or every 15,000km.
When launched in 2018 the Cerato had a solid technical suite of active and passive safety kit, but all Sport+ models produced since January have additional kit which previously cost $500.
Autonomous emergency braking, which can completely stop or rapidly decrease the speed if a collision is detected, now also recognises pedestrians and cyclists. Add that to blind spot detection, parking sensors front and back, rear cross traffic alert and lane keeping assist which can help keep the Cerato nicely between the lines if the driver loses concentration.
Sedans aren't the flavour of the moment given the proliferation of SUVs in showrooms, but there is surprisingly space in this compact package. You get big car real estate on a small platform.
Supportive seats and a well-design dash provide an environment easy to navigate. Adding class is the leather trim and the high-mounted dash touchscreen which is aided in its appeal by the smartphone mirroring apps.
Ride and compliance borders on firm, yet cabin ambience remains pleasant in most circumstances and only upset by coarse surfaces.
The Sport+ nomenclature is somewhat of a misnomer.
Under the bonnet is the same engine found in the base model, and the four-cylinder works without fuss as long as you limit athletic expectations. Only the top-spec GT gets more firepower courtesy of a turbo-charged donk.
Yep while some four-potters feel breathless courtesy of a partnership with a continually variable transmission, Kia uses a standard six-speed automatic transmission and the performance is much-improved in comparison to some rivals.
Extend your right ankle and the Cerato responds with honesty and you can also sling it into a bend where it grips nicely courtesy of ample rubber and with confidence.
Sporting looks aren't quite matched by the performance, but I don't need to rival Daniel Ricciardo around town. Internally and externally it ticks all my boxes.
Value is at the top of my list and the Cerato represents brilliant bang for buck - as well as peace of mind courtesy of the longest warranty in the business.
HOLDEN ASTRA LTZ SEDAN $23,990 D/A
That latest price applies to demonstrators, powered by a 110kW/240Nm 1.4-litre turbo with a six-speed auto. Features leather trim, eight-inch touchscreen and comes with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Misses out on autonomous emergency braking but has forward collision alert.
HONDA CIVIC VTi-L SEDAN $31,297 D/A
Turbo four-cylinder engine generates 127kW/220Nm that is reasonable without being savage. No leather trim, but reasonable inclusions. New safety equipment added this year brings up up to speed. Latest offer includes free servicing for two years, and a five-year warranty.
Quality you can afford. The Cerato Sport+ looks and drives better than the sticker indicates.
AT A GLANCE
Kia Cerato Sport+
PRICE $28,040 drive-away (great value)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 7yr unlim' km w'ty (the best), services $400 each for 7yrs (OK)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 112kW/192Nm 4-cyl, 6sp auto, FWD (alright)
SAFETY 5 star, AEB, radar cruise control, blind spot detection, parking sensors front and back, rear cross traffic alert (excellent)
THIRST 7.4 litres/100km (reasonable)
SPARE Space-saver (expected nowadays)
BOOT 502 litres, rear seats fold (big for size)