Cast your mind back a handful of years or so and you may remember that Kia, a car company still trying to prove itself as more than a maker of whitegoods fitted with an engine and a set of wheels, brought out a product that was the definition of niche – a three-door turbocharged manual-only hatchback with a tedious and over-punctuated name, the pro_cee’d GT.
The closest thing to a hot hatch that had come out of Korea at the time, the pro_cee’d GT might have found fans in the motoring press at the time of its launch, but it failed to make its mark on the Australian buying public, and was quickly cancelled due to poor sales, despite being the most convincing performance car Kia had released at that point.
Not ones to give up, however, it finally made a return to the company’s lineup last year. Although still fitted with the same engine as before, it’s now been given a proper name, Cerato GT, and is being sold in a far more consumer-friendly five-door, automatic-only guise, and as a result, this plucky little performer looks to be one of the best-value buys on the market right now.
Priced from $32,990 – yes, that is a drive-away price, and the only optional extra that can be specified is $520 metallic paint – the Cerato GT’s list of standard features puts those of many far more expensive cars to absolute shame.
Heated and ventilated front seats with power adjustment and memory for the driver, full perforated leather upholstery with red piping and stitching, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an eight-speaker JBL audio system, radar cruise control, wireless phone charging pad, and dual-zone climate control are all included for that price, which is unbelievably impressive even with items such as a pointless sunroof not being available.
And while you may fear that the interior would feel as though it has been built to a price to allow for such features to all be included, the simple fact is that it all feels pretty high quality inside. Sure there are some harder plastics in areas, but everything you touch on a daily basis feels right up to scratch. Even the carpet floor mats have a decent pile to them, along with bespoke GT badging.
It’s a nice place to spend time, too, as there’s plenty of room in both rows of seats, especially in the back where it’s about as good as it gets in a hatchback. The front sports seats are particularly snug and grippy in the right places without feeling too tight as well, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel feels nice in your hands as well.
But being based on the platform of the brilliant i30, you’d kind of expect it to be good in here as the i30 has one of the most spacious interiors around right now, which is certainly reflected here. The real advantage by going to the Cerato, however, is boot space, as this hatch has a solid 428L capacity back there thanks to the additional rear overhang that almost makes it look like a shrunken wagon from some angles – there is, in fact, a wagon variant still bearing the ProCeed name, sans punctuation, sold in Europe, although it’s unfortunately not destined for Australia at any point.
I should also point out that you can also have this hot-ish hatch as a sedan if you’d like, too, which does get you a bigger 502L boot, but you will lose the height of the hatch’s cargo area in return for added depth for longer items. Horses for courses, then, as that will really just come down to personal preference, as the differences between the way the hatch and sedan drive is almost non-existent.
Powered by the same 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder found not only in the pro_cee’d GT of before but also the Hyundai i30 N Line and Veloster Turbo, power remains at the same 150kW and 265Nm as you’d have previously had. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and is the only option you have for what to send the power to the front wheels through.
As I’ve mentioned previously in my review of the Veloster Turbo, this little unit is one brilliant engine. Thanks to a lack of complicated tech such as an irritating and troublesome stop-start system, it’s not only reliable but actually fuel efficient as well without needing to cheat the fuel economy tests. I saw a return of 8.0L/100km after 520km behind the wheel, which is better than you’ll accomplish in the less-powerful base Cerato, but most of my time was spent thrashing it which only makes that number even more impressive, and after a longer and more relaxed drive you’ll easily see it dip down into the sixes.
It’s a peppy little thing, too, as these power outputs have remained unchanged simply because there’s no need to give it any more power. It comes on boost early, has heaps of torque all across the rev range (peak torque is make from 1500-4500rpm), and feels particularly responsive thanks to its lower displacement and twin-scroll turbocharger.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not the fastest car you’ll ever drive, but thanks to it making a solid power figure for an engine of this size and having a transmission that upshifts particularly quickly, you should see it get from 0-100km/h in a little over seven seconds with is totally fine for a car like this.
Really though, the Cerato GT is more about sporty handling than outright performance, which is evidenced clearly by the significant chassis upgrades it has received compared to the regular naturally aspirated Cerato which I have previously reviewed.
The torsion beam rear suspension is now gone in favour of a far more sophisticated multi-link independent setup, its suspension is lower and firmer and as with all Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis models has an Australia-specific locally-developed tuning, and its larger 18-inch alloy wheels have been wrapped in low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber.
Given it has all the right ingredients for a properly sporty car, then, it comes as no real surprise that it’s an absolute blast on a backroad. It has a remarkably dialled-in chassis for a front-wheel drive car with no tricky diff or any other such wizardry, cornering flatly and tightly and largely remaining free of any understeer or torque steer.
Of course, the firmer suspension does mean that it can feel a bit jiggly on rubbish roads during normal everyday driving which may put some buyers off, but it was deliberately done to differentiate it from the equivalent i30 which is, by comparison, more focused on daily driving. It’s not like the Cerato is uncomfortable at all, it’s just firmer than some may hope for.
There’s no doubt that it works the trick through the bends though as it just feels so tight and planted that I personally, at least, would be happy to forgo a bit of bump absorption in exchange for such confident handling.
Aside from that, there’s really nothing to complain about when it comes to the Cerato GT. It looks good, has a nice and well-equipped interior, makes enough power for all practical applications, and is a right hoot to drive overall.
Most importantly though is that it is priced amazingly well. Compared to the i30 N Line Premium, you’re saving around $4000 by the time on-road costs are accounted for, and although servicing for the Kia may be slightly more expensive at an average of $470 per visit, it does have an all-important drawcard to play – its market-leading seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, compared to the Hyundai’s five-year duration.
For a sporty hatch with all the features and peace of mind you could hope for, you really can’t do better than this at even a higher price point. If you don’t mind the sporty ride, I simply can’t recommend it enough.
2020 Kia Cerato GT Hatch List Price: $32,990
Pros: Punchy and proven turbo engine and DCT combo, feels incredibly tight and balanced through the corners, offers a lot of kit for the money, unbeatable seven-year warranty
Cons: Ride is on the firmer side, could make a fruitier noise, gauge cluster looks a little low-rent
In a nutshell: The Cerato GT defines value for money – quick, great to drive, well-equipped, practical, economical, reliable, and affordable, it’s a fantastic all-around car that will no doubt find favour with buyers looking for something a little sportier, or something with all the bells and whistles.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Kia Motors Australia for one week. Fuel costs were paid for by the author. Additionally, our good friends at MPF Detailing gave it a complimentary Express Detail for us prior to our photoshoot.
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