Kia has been spied testing what appears to be the next-generation Cerato in the US, wearing much bolder styling.

    A video published on YouTube by Kindel Auto shows the next-generation sedan wearing Michigan number plates. This new vehicle was previously spied in Korea wearing CL4 markings on its tyres, the internal designation for the next Cerato.

    The US market currently gets the Cerato in sedan guise under the Forte nameplate, while it’s known as the K3 in Korea. Europe gets a different, albeit mechanically related, small car called the Ceed.

    Like the recently revealed K3 sedan, which is replacing the Rio in markets like Mexico, this prototype features a more fastback-style silhouette than the current Cerato sedan, with a steeply raked rear roofline.

    Unlike the K3 and K5 sedans, however, the rear door handles are concealed within the C-pillar.

    There’s no mistaking this as anything other than a Kia, with the prototype wearing the brand’s new front- and rear-end styling with distinctive lighting assemblies in the shape of an L tipped on its side.

    The interior remains shrouded, so it’s unclear if it will be a similarly dramatic departure from the current car.

    The Korean Car Blog reports the new model could use a version of the existing Cerato’s platform and powertrains, but potentially gain a hybrid option. That would give Kia a rival to the hybrid Hyundai i30 Sedan, belatedly arriving in Australia this year, and the Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

    The K3 nameplate was previously used on the Cerato in some markets, leading to speculation that, with the introduction of the new Rio-replacing K3, Kia’s next-gen small car could be called the K4.

    The K4 nameplate was previously used on a Chinese-market sedan, produced from 2014 to 2020, that slotted between the Cerato and Optima in size.

    Although it has axed the Rio hatchback locally, Kia has committed to sticking around in the more affordable end of the passenger car market in Australia.

    Kia Australia chief executive officer Damien Meredith told CarExpert the small passenger vehicle segment has traditionally kept the company rolling.

    “I think our small passenger cars – Picanto, Rio, Cerato – formed the foundation for our growth,” said Mr Meredith.

    “[The small passenger car segment has] been really important to us, and specifically Picanto and Cerato will continue to be important to us.”

    “We are pretty confident that the Cerato and Picanto will continue to sell reasonably well over a long period of time,” added Mr Meredith.

    “They’re one of our great strengths. Where other manufacturers deserted [the small car] segment, we kept on going in those areas.”

    This essentially confirms there will be updated and new-generation versions of the Picanto and Cerato in the future.

    The Picanto, like the Sorento and Carnival, has been treated to an EV9-style facelift as Kia rolls out its new, bolder front and rear end styling across the range.

    MORE: Everything Kia Cerato
    MORE: 2023 Kia Cerato review

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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