Experience-based Review: Kia Cerato Hatch S (AV)

Official link: http://www.kia.com/au/cars/cerato-5-door.html

Why read this review?

This review is different from all other car reviews out there because:

  • It doesn’t talk about torque, number of cylinders, brembo brakes or recaro seats
  • It doesn’t give you a verdict whether it is a good or a bad car after driving it for few hours or days

The car being reviewed here

  • Has been driven 23,000 km since August 2016 by the person writing this post
  • With a family of four, out of which two are below the age of 6
  • Driving includes city roads, freeways and gravel roads (unsealed roads)

I bought this brand-new car in late 2016 with a $20K price tag and I have driven over 23,000 km since then. Outside Central Coast region, I have traveled north, up to Nelson Bay, far west up to Parkes including Orange and Bathurst, and down south up to Goulbourn including Sydney, in this car with my wife and two children. It has been serviced twice already by Brian Hilton Group (official Kia retailers and servicers in Central Coast). It has also received two free software upgrades for Android Auto and Apple AirPlay.

This post will provide a quick review for people who are interested in buying a Kia. I will include my family’s and my experiences including car features, family comfort, luggage room, capped price servicing, Kia customer service, fuel costs and more.

Quick Specs

Model: Kia Cerato Hatch

Model Year: 2016 MY17

Badge: S (AV)

Engine: 2.0L Automatic (sports-matic)


  • 7” touch screen with Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple AirPlay
  • Dusk Sensing Headlights
  • Reverse camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Front and rear fog lights
  • 3 x installed anchor points for child seats
  • 7 years’ unlimited km warranty
  • 7 years’ capped price servicing
  • 7 years’ roadside assist

Why Kia?

This is probably the most common question because Kia has a reputation of being on the lower side of the scale. However, Kia has picked up their game and in the last decade, they have proved to be worthwhile competitors with the world’s top automotive brands such as Ford, Toyota, Mazda, Holden and Nissan.

Today, no matter which website you visit, you will find positive reviews of Kia. Also, to note here is that they are providing 7 years unlimited km warranty, that’s a huge commitment from Kia, proving their confidence in their technology.

If you Google ‘best car Australia’, you will be amazed to see that Kia has topped three categories in 2016, Kia Picanto, Kia Cerato and Kia Carnival in micro cars, small cars under $35,000 and family wagon categories respectively. [RACV and Australia’s Best Cars websites]

First Impressions and Test Drive

The two wow factors were the look, design and feel of the front grill and the interior. Coming from a 2001 Toyota Camry, it was a massive upgrade in terms of style and technology.

Being satisfied with the interior was the major factor because that’s where I will be spending most of my time and without a doubt, I was mesmerized by Cerato’s clean and inviting interior. Brightly lit instrument cluster, 7” screen, back-lit controls with decent quality plastic trims, I made my mind up.

My first test drive was not the best because of the delayed acceleration on ECO mode. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know that there were three driving modes, ECO, Normal and Sports, until later. However, once I got used to ECO mode, I drove around the block and what I instantly noticed was how quiet it was including gear changes. Steering response, brakes and functionality of steering wheel controls are great too.

My wife had the same positive feelings about the car, however my kids were not in the favor of it over Toyota Camry because of the available space to swing their feet forwards and backwards while seated. Despite valid disagreements, my wife and I decided to buy it.

Advantage of Bluetooth and Android Auto

Coming from a low-tech car, I understand the problems with dash mounted satnavs, mobile phone holders attached to the windscreen and strict driving laws for provisional drivers. There were times where I couldn’t see around my windscreen mounted satnav and I almost hit someone while turning into and out of tight spaces. Fortunately, with my expert driving skills, I didn’t 😝.

Android Auto and Bluetooth have made my life so easy, especially when I am travelling to unfamiliar places. I can use voice commands, I can receive and dial calls, I can ask Google to find something near me i.e. petrol stations, McDonalds, etc., receive visual and audio directions from navigator, and most of all, I have a clear vision of the outside environment through my windscreen without any obstruction.

One issue that I have found is that sometimes the connected phone loses audio completely. There are only two ways I have found to fix this issue, turn off mobile Bluetooth and then turn it back on and reconnect, or to restart your car (which may become a health and safety hazard when you are driving).

Advantage of Reverse Camera, Parking Sensors and Dusk Sensing Headlights (AV upgrade)

Auto headlights is a neat feature that enables headlights to turn on automatically when your car enters a poorly lit or dark place and automatically turn off when your car enters a well-lit or sunny place. I personally like this feature because usually I wear sunnies while driving and the combination of poor lighting (in case of underground parking, tunnels, etc.) and sunnies makes it difficult to see and spot obstacles, having auto headlights gives that extra bit of required lighting automatically.

The combination of reversing camera and parking sensors are becoming more and more common in newer cars because it provides an excellent guide while parking in tight spots, avoiding obstacles, pets and people while reversing or parking. I am so use to this technology now, that I hardly look at my sidemirrors while reverse parking (ok, this may not be the safest practice but I do try and look at my sidemirrors now and then to be sure to be sure). I rely on parking sensors and reversing camera more than ever.

Car driving experience

Car driving experience summed up in one word, AWESOME. As I said in the beginning that I have driven on city roads, freeways and unsealed roads, and not for a second I thought about buying the wrong car. This car has made through the following routes gracefully:

  1. Central Coast to Parkes via Bathurst via Sydney, approx. 430 km one way, city driving, freeway, country roads and hills
  2. Parkes to Goulbourn via Crookwell, approx. 300 km one way, country roads, unsealed roads (gravel road) and hills
  3. Central Coast to Wisemans Ferry via Yarramalong and Gunderman, approx. 100 km one way, winding roads, unsealed roads, steep climb and descent and city driving
  4. Central Coast to Newcastle via Lake Macquarie, approx. 60 km one way, city driving and motorway
  5. Central Coast to Nelson Bay, approx. 130 km one way, city driving, motorway and country roads

Driving modes

ECO mode – this is a fuel saving mode, ideal for everyday running. The good thing about this mode is that it can give you an extra 75 – 100 km. The noticeable difference for this mode is that it has delayed acceleration and if you press it a little too much, the car starts revving.

SPORT mode – this is the exact opposite of fuel saving mode because I have only used it once and I believe I used half a tank in less than 100 km. However, acceleration and handling performance improves significantly. This is exciting because you wouldn’t expect such power from a small car, but it’s worth checking it out.

Normal mode – this is not a mode, it basically means ECO and SPORT modes are turned off. Acceleration is normal and powerful, handling is normal too, fuel efficiency is reasonable.

When I bought the car, I was continuously driving on normal mode and was adoring every moment of it. However, my daily running is almost 100 km and for fuel saving purposes, I started using ECO mode. Today I have a different perspective on ECO mode because I have become accustomed to using it on daily basis and have good control over the accelerator pedal to prevent revving amidst driving.

Regardless of what mode you are driving, once you put your foot down, the sheer power of this small car will amaze you.

Seating comfort and passenger reviews

Front seats are very comfortable and spacious, no dramas there. My wife and I, we never had any issues about the comfort or space, in fact we both love it. Our children have learnt to love the car too but at a price we must pay. Their concern was that there isn’t enough space to swing their feet forwards and backwards, and yes, it is a bit tight compared to sedan versions. So, they continued with their swinging and now plastic seat trims have light to medium scratching on them.

Anyways, I have traveled with 4 adults in my car before and they all have given me positive feedback about rear seating. So, that’s a good thing.

The problem happens when you move on to 5 people. Even though it is called 5-seater, it is only a comfortable ride for 4. When I had 5 adults travelling with me, the feedback was not negative but they were not entirely happy sitting in the middle seat. I have also traveled with 5 people including 2 children and received an OK feedback, they said that there is not enough space with 2 x child seats installed.

Overall comfort level is high and all passengers were happy with everything else. However, do keep in mind that if you have 5 family members and anyone of them is going to sit in the rear seat, maybe a sedan version of Cerato is the way to go.

The car comes with three anchor points installed and if you have three children who require child seats/booster seats, this car may work well. However, one thing to note is that reaching the buckles is not easy and it will test your patience.

Boot space and practicality

The boot space is quite practical for a family of 4 whether for short or long trips. The rear seats can be folded down to make space for sleeping.

The remarkable thing is that I transported a queen size bed (disassembled) in my car with rear seat and front passenger seat folded down. Even though hatchbacks are smaller than sedans but you can never fit a queen size bed in a sedan due to the boot structure. Hence, I have become a fan of hatchbacks.

My verdict on this subject matter is that sedans may be more spacious for passengers (i.e. rear seat) but hatchbacks are more practical in various aspects.

Fuel efficiency, fuel type and related costs

Fuel efficiency will vary greatly on two things: driving environment (i.e. city, freeway, etc.) and driving style.

Freeway driving is in the range of 10 – 13 km/L, which will give you around 500 – 575 km on a full tank. However, city driving is like 7 – 8 km/L, which will give you around 350 – 400 km. Compare this to my 2001 Toyota Camry with a 70L tank, it used to drive 700 km on freeway, which is about the same as Kia Cerato, however Cerato has a 50L tank.

In this car, I have only used Unleaded 91 petrol and I have never seen a significant difference between E10 and 91 price. Stay away from ethanol, you may be paying less but at a cost of low mileage and damage to engine parts (in the long run).

To put all this in perspective, I predict paying up to $50 max from when the fuel light comes on, even in the time of inflation. Which means,  I can drive to Parkes from Central Coast for less than $50.

Car servicing experience and capped-price servicing

Kia comes with 7 years’ capped price servicing (CPS). Now I know what you are thinking, this is a scam and capped price servicing is a smart way of marketing. After ACCC investigations into this matter in 2015, all companies have realized their mistake. There are still few companies out there that may over charge you, however when Kia says capped pricing, it means capped pricing.

Brian Hilton Group, official Kia dealer in Central Coast, quoted me $290 for my first paid service (second service) and they charged me $290 including GST, labour, parts and everything. I have contacted few local mechanics to do log book servicing and I got quoted for $260 and $280. I would rather pay the extra $30 and get genuine Kia parts and one year of roadside assistance (part of Kia’s 7 years’ roadside assistance) plus my service is protected under Brian Hilton’s workmanship.

As for the first free service and the two software updates were effortless. I booked in over the phone, took my car in and collected after few hours. No charges and professional work. The only downside to Brian Hilton is that they don’t give free courtesy cars, but that’s not a show stopper.

Kia Cons

In general, I adore the car. However, my satisfaction may have doubled if Kia included Daylight Running Lights (DRL), alloy wheels and a standard tow bar in the $20K price tag.

Overall Satisfaction and would I buy another Kia?

Overall, I am satisfied with my Kia and I personally have no regrets. As a matter of fact, I am happy that I didn’t fell into the trap of Hyundai, Toyota and Holden similar deals, Kia’s bag of features is a lot heavier.

I will not only consider buying another Kia, especially the new Kia Stinger, but I would also recommend Kia to everyone I know. Give Kia a chance and go to the dealer for a free test drive, you will see the difference yourself.

End of Review

I hope I have laid out important points for people who are considering a Kia. If you have any questions regarding this post, I will be happy to assist you in answering them.


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