Interested in a Kia Cerato S SAFETY PACK?
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  • Handles well
  • Spacious interior
  • Decent technology for an entry-level car
  • Price hike
  • Wireless CarPlay bugs
  • Slightly underdone engine
5 Star

Kia released an eye-catching update to the Cerato small car earlier in 2021.

With a tweaked look, a new badge, and updated interior technology, the facelift is designed to improve on what was already a good thing.

It’s worth noting, though, it’s also made what was once a cheap car more expensive. The Cerato S started life with a price shy of $21,500 drive-away, now it’s ticked beyond $25,000 drive-away.

Has Kia done enough to justify the hike?

How does the Kia Cerato fare vs its competitors?
View a detailed breakdown of the Kia Cerato against similarly sized vehicles.

How much does the Kia Cerato S cost?

The base Kia Cerato S starts at $27,490 drive-away, and the range-topping Kia Cerato GT is $37,990 drive-away.

The 2022 Kia Cerato S with Safety Pack on test is priced at $28,990 drive-away.

At this price point, the Cerato S with Safety Pack goes head-to-head with the Hyundai i30 ($25,420) and Mazda 3 G20 Pure ($26,590).

What do you get?

Cerato S highlights

  • 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 4.2-inch instrument cluster display screen
  • Cruise control
  • Air conditioning
  • Six-speaker sound system
  • Automatic headlights
  • Automatic high beam
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column

The optional Safety Pack ($1500) adds:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • 284mm rear disc brakes (up from 262mm)
  • Electronic parking brake
  • Power-folding exterior mirrors
  • AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
  • Safe exit warning
  • Blind-sport monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Leatherette-wrapped steering wheel and shifter

Is the Kia Cerato S safe?

When the Kia Cerato was tested by ANCAP in 2019, it received a split rating. Cerato S and Sport models without the Safety Pack received a rating of four stars, while all other Cerato models received a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

All models received an adult occupant protection score of 90 per cent, child occupant protection score of 83 per cent, vulnerable road user protection score of 55 per cent and a safety assist score of 71 per cent.

All Cerato variants come standard with the following safety equipment:

  • Front, front-side, and curtain airbags
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Lane Following Assist (centring)
  • AEB with pedestrian detection
  • Rear occupant alert
  • Driver attention alert with leading vehicle departure alert
  • Reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors.

Models with the Safety Pack, as well as the Sport+ and GT trims, add:

  • AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Safe exit warning

The Sport+ and GT also feature blind-spot collision avoidance assist.

What is the Kia Cerato S like on the inside?

The Cerato’s cabin is easy on the eye. It’s all very subtle and flows very well.

It usually becomes clear almost immediately you’re in the budget model, but there’s no blank buttons on the steering wheel, and there’s only a few to the right on the dash. The only thing screaming cheap on this car are the hub caps on the outside but let’s not focus on that, it’s an easy fix.

The dash is covered in a soft touch material, and flows into the doors wrapped in a soft plastic. There’s no scratchy cheap plastic, it’s a more refined material that feels a bit more upmarket.

The front seats in the Cerato S are comfortable but unremarkable, especially compared to the sportier units in the Cerato GT. There’s a big range of adjustment allowing all body shapes to get comfortable.

Atop the centre of the dash is an 8.0-inch touchscreen, which sits up like an iPad. Unfortunately, the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (not available in all models) didn’t work faultlessly as you’d expect.

Much like my last test in the Kia Stonic, the wireless CarPlay system in the Cerato dropped out multiple times during our time behind the wheel. It wasn’t as bad this time round – whatever tweaks have been made seem to have made a difference – but some more tweaks in that area need to occur.

Sitting under the screen is a tray large enough to fit the largest iPhone perfectly, beneath which sits a slightly larger tray with two USB-A ports – one for fast phone charging, and one that charges at regular speed.

Just behind the gear lever are two fair-sized cupholders, along with the drive mode selector and the e-handbrake.

Under the central armrest is a deep central bin, and a smaller tray for coins if people still use cash in this day and age. If this is your first car it’s the perfect spot for gold coins so you can splurge on a cheeky frozen coke.

The bin is beneath a fair-sized central armrest covered in a leather-like material that is soft to touch and in a perfect position for my elbow.

Kia cars tend to offer lots of usable space in a small body, and the Cerato carries on that trend. The back seats have plenty of room, enough for three adults to sit across on shorter trips. You’ll also fit rear-facing child seats and still have room for an adult in the front passenger seat.

This back seat space hasn’t chewed into the boot either, with 502 litres of space with the rear seats up. There is enough room for a full-sized pram and the groceries, with still a bit of wiggle room.

The car is also fitted with a steel space saver spare under the floor. The only complaint I have and something that really irks me is when the rear windows don’t go all the way down.

Not only does it look quite tacky, but there is only so many ways I can try to explain to my toddler that is just doesn’t go any further down. Kia, on behalf of parents everywhere, please let the rear windows go down fully. 

What’s under the bonnet?

The 2022 Kia Cerato comes with two engine options. Most models, including the Cerato S on test, are powered by a 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol offering 112kW of power and 192Nm of torque, with a six-speed automatic transmission fitted as standard.

Alternatively, the range-topping GT replaces the 2.0-litre with a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder producing 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

Claimed fuel economy is 7.4 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, and on test I saw an indicated 7.9L/100km.

The Cerato runs happily on 91 RON regular unleaded, a big tick on keeping running costs lower, and it’s fitted with a 50L fuel tank. All models are front-wheel drive.

How does the Kia Cerato S drive?

The base Cerato S isn’t built for excitement like the range-topping GT, but it still has a bit of life to the way it drives.

The handling gets a tick in the Cerato with a sportier feel than expected from an entry-level sedan. Feeling glued to the road gave me all the confidence when pulling into tight corners and flying down highways.

Unfortunately, the powertrain isn’t quite as confidence-inspiring. Put your foot down and it feels like you need to give the car a second to catch up, which is less than ideal when pulling into moving traffic.

That initial pickup and the noise that comes when you need to gain speed in a hurry is disappointing and uninspiring.

This engine is fine if you just want to get from A-to-B, but if you are the kind of driver that likes more punch the 1.6-litre turbocharged GT is worth a look. Of course, it’s $10,000 more expensive…

The Cerato S has a torque converter automatic and lacks a turbocharger, which makes the drive feel very normal. There’s no hesitation or jerkiness, and the six-speed auto once going slides into gears easily and efficiently. 

There isn’t much road or wind noise, even on highways. The Cerato held its own, and managed to isolate nasty noises from the cabin better than you’d expect from a basic sedan.

Kias adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist work well, although the lane-centring can be very jerky and inspire the driver to overcorrect. That feature is easy to switch off, thanks to buttons on the steering wheel.

It’s worth noting those features are an extra $1500. Without the Safety Pack you don’t get adaptive cruise, or blind-spot monitoring.

Being a smaller car with a clear reversing camera, parking and turning into tight spots with the light steering makes parking a breeze. Visibility can be a bit tricky with the roofline, but the parking sensors and camera gave me all the confidence I needed.

How much does the Kia Cerato S cost to run?

The Kia Cerato is covered by a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Maintenance in the Cerato is required every 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first.

Kia offers seven years of capped-price servicing, with an average annual cost of $419.

CarExpert’s Take on the Kia Cerato S

There’s no denying the Cerato is a refined car, but it’s hard not to be a little bit upset about how the price has rises.

It would be okay if the basic specification had been boosted, but so far the highlights of the updated Cerato are the new badge and slightly sharper exterior design.

The Cerato remains a practical, comfortable car to drive – even as a base model – but it’s probably time the full active safety suite became standard across the range.

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MORE: Everything Kia Cerato

Courtney Lorking
Courtney Lorking is a Contributor at CarExpert.
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Overall Rating

Cost of Ownership8
Ride Comfort8
Fit for Purpose7.5
Handling Dynamics8.5
Interior Practicality and Space8.5
Fuel Efficiency7.7
Value for Money7
Technology Infotainment8
Eliminate the scammers, tyre‑kickers, no‑show‑ers and low‑ballers. Just the best price valuation at no cost.

Sell your 2021 Kia Cerato through our partner

Sell your 2021 Kia Cerato through our partner

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