2020 Kia Cerato Sport manual sedan
NOT that long ago car sales people were hell bent on up-selling you to the vehicle you wanted but with an automatic transmission.
It added a few thousand dollars to the sticker price, but it was the way of the future and most buyers were happy to part with a few more of their hard earned.
Move forward a decade and it is the buyer who now asks, ‘can I have a manual transmission with that?’
Automatic transmission vehicles account for 70 per cent of car and light and heavy commercial sales in Australia, be they the traditional torque converter, dual clutch, or CVT type and it is rare indeed to find a manual transmission vehicle sitting on a showroom floor these days.
The manual transmission might have fallen out of favour, but they still have a place and there are any number of manufacturers who have them in their model line-up, all be they in most cases being in the base, or entry-level model.
Kia is one such company, but instead of offering it in only its base S Cerato sedan and hatch, it has expanded its Cerato line-up with the addition of a new manual variant in mid-range Sport trim.
There are four Cerato variants - S, Sport, Sport+ and GT – which can be had in sedan or hatch body style, with pricing starting from $21,490, plus on road costs.
Those Cerato models that come standard with a manual transmission – S and Sport - can be optioned with an auto for an additional $2000.
The example reviewed here is the new-to-the-range six-speed manual sedan Sport with safety pack.
The Cerato sedan (or hatch) Sport manual costs $23,490, or $24,490 with Safety Pack (plus on road costs).
The $1000 Safety Pack adds blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, and electric folding exterior mirrors.
Sport variants are no sportier than the base S, sharing the same 112kW/192Nm 2-litre non-turbo petrol engine driving the front wheels, styling, and suspension package, but giving you more safety goodies and creature comforts.
We had driven an auto version of the Sport+ some time ago, when we were free to roam on both sides of the border, but with a pandemic curtailing our adventures, it was a matter of having to stay put on well-worn roads in North-East Victoria for this drive.
Oh well, why not do as we did before and take you for a tour of the region’s farmers’ markets which are also struggling in these harrowing times.
This time round it was farmers’ markets on the Victorian side of the border.
There is nothing more satisfying than sitting down for a meal knowing all the food on the dinner table or on the plate in front of you is locally sourced.
The meat, the vegetables, the eggs, the bread, the honey, the fruit, the nuts ... all purchased that day from a local farmers' market.
It is the best, it is fresh, and by buying on a fun, social-outing morning from a market of hustle, glorious aromas, and characters, you are supporting those individuals making a living eking from the land.
And it is just not for the produce we attend our weekly Albury-Wodonga Farmers' Market.
It is also to enjoy a scrumptious, barbecue-prepared, egg and bacon roll with home-made relish and seasonal herbs on a locally-produced artisan bread roll, washed down by a steaming hot coffee, while chatting with anyone and everyone (socially distanced, of course), or just watch the mums and dads, the young and the aged, wander between the many stalls showcasing the freshly-harvested produce.
But what has this got to do with the 2020 Kia Cerato Sport sedan we are reviewing this week?
Plenty, in fact, as on this particular weekend we had the opportunity to not only rock up for the weekly Saturday morning Albury-Wodonga Farmers' Market which is held at Gateway Island in Wodonga, but squeeze in one or two more markets close to home.
On any given weekend around North-East Victoria and the Southern Riverina region of New South Wales, there is a farmers' market being held in the major cities of Wagga, Wangaratta and Benalla, or in the larger country towns such as Beechworth, Rutherglen, Bright, Yackandandah, Myrtleford, Mansfield, Violet Town, Euroa and Tumut, to name a few.
Anyone can go, they are free, and there is nothing like chatting with the various stall-holders about the varieties on offer, or how best to prepare their produce.
There are other ways to lend support to our primary producers and for that you will need a vehicle and our Cerato Sport manual sedan was just the right transport for not only a visit to our local farmers' market, but also for a drive around our region to visit a couple of small rural towns, and to pick up even more fresh produce from roadside stalls outside farm gates.
It operates on the honesty box system.
You take the produce and leave the money in a box beside the goods.
Even buying one cup of coffee in a local cafe in a small rural town is helping to support farming communities hurting from the drought, devastated by bushfires, or a lack of tourists owing to the pandemic.
Many local cafes, restaurants, clubs, wineries etc, also buy local whenever they can.
With the latest Cerato, Kia has taken a leaf out of Mazda's book and instead of making wholesale changes for change sake, it has massaged and refined, and added the latest tech, convenience and safety without radically changing the style of a small sedan that was already a very smart looker.
This third-generation Cerato is not that far removed from the previous outing, being 80mm longer and 5mm higher, but sitting on the same 2700mm wheelbase.
Its longer front and rear overhangs add further emphasis to its sports sedan styling cues which are a direct take from the Kia Stinger fastback.
It looks good.
Almost a mini-me Stinger!
This latest Cerato boasts a stronger, more rigid body shell for greater safety and refinement and Kia has taken the opportunity to refine the model line-up of its top-selling Australian model by dropping the Si and SLi variants.
After collecting our Cerato Sport sedan from its north-western Melbourne suburb of Tullamarine digs just before that city’s lockdown, it was a three-and-a-half-hour, 305-kilometre drive along the Hume Freeway to our home base of Albury-Wodonga, arriving just as refreshed as when we first lowered ourselves into its comfy front seats.
Our only complaint was the noise entering the cabin generated by its 17-inch 225/45 R17 Kumho tyres when travelling across sections of coarse chip bitumen, this despite measures by Kia engineers to enhance the Cerato's NVH performance.
Along the way we had plenty of standard gear to play with and to keep us entertained.
Even the base S comes with Autonomous Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keep Assist, rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, Driver Attention Alert Warning, front and rear parking sensors, 16- inch steel wheels, six airbags, tyre pressure monitor, and speed limiter.
Other goodies include cruise control, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, 3.5-inch driver info display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice recognition, a six-speaker DAB digital radio with Bluetooth connectivity, manual air-con, and power windows with driver auto-down.
The Sport variant adds sport pattern cloth trim seats, 17-inch, 10-spoke alloys, satellite navigation, premium steering wheel and shift knob, illuminated vanity mirrors, and aero blade wipers.
Our farmers' market of choice was the Albury-Wodonga Farmers' Market which we attend (almost) every weekend, so we have an intimate connection with all the stallholders.
They talk produce and weather and ask us about, well, cars.
"What are you driving this week," is the stock question of the day.
They are just as interested in your role in life as you are of theirs, even though theirs is a much tougher gig.
The Ceratos' boot has grown from 482 litres to 502 litres, not only making it the largest in its class, but allowing us to get even more stall-bought goodies into it.
And if that is not enough, there is the option of folding the 60:40 split-fold rear seat backs down to create a completely flat floor if you want to get something bulky or long into the vehicle.
Instead of visiting a Sunday market, we opted for a drive into the Upper Murray region of North East Victoria where there is plenty of farm gate produce available, and usually picked fresh that morning.
The roads around this picturesque corner of the state are hilly, but the Cerato's carry-over 2-litre engine coped well enough, with the six-speed manual’s well- chosen ratios quick to keep everything on the boil.
Acceleration was nothing to write home about, and engine noise was quieter than before, although it is still an issue.
For those that love rowing a manual gearbox - and who doesn’t – Kia’s six-speed manual is light, easy and precise, with the clutch being well balanced and nice and light on the take-up.
There were no qualms when crawling along in congested city traffic, either.
Kia claims a combined fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres for the manual, and after a week of driving we returned an excellent 5.9L/100km.
Cerato's stiffer body, plus significant tweaks made to its steering, brakes, and suspension, has resulted in a more responsive, engaging, and refined driving experience which really shone through on the windy Great River Road between Walwa and the Bethanga Bridge at Bellbridge.
This is due mainly to the 'localising' of the suspension set-up by Kia Australia engineers, resulting in a firmer low-speed ride from the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension that softened as the car's speed increased.
It also coped well across a couple of gravel sections we encountered, where most bumps, thumps and corrugation chatter were absorbed well before most of it could be transmitted to the cabin.
There was little to no body roll, the electric power steering was surprisingly pinpoint accurate and delivered a nicer, more connected feel, and the car's brakes were strong.
Back to the twin cities of Albury-Wodonga and the hustle and bustle of city and suburban traffic, the decently-sized Cerato was a gem, being easy to park and to wheel around crowded shopping centre car parks.
The airy cabin offered good, all-round vision, while parking was made easy courtesy of the standard rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines, front and rear parking sensors, and large exterior rear-view mirrors.
Our Cerato Sport's roomy, contemporary cabin boasted an upmarket feel thanks to its upmarket trim and more soft-touch padding, and design cues, again lifted from the Stinger, including the outboard front circular air vents.
Nice touches included electric-folding external rear-view mirrors, and a easy-to-navigate 'floating', tablet-like 8-inch multi-media screen now mounted 68mm higher atop a wider dashboard.
As with Stinger, the instruments were big and legible, we had a digital speedometer, readouts for fuel consumption, distance to empty etc, auto headlights, and minimal switchgear to fumble about finding in the dark.
Unfortunately, there were no rear passenger air vents for the manual air-con.
We also got two USB ports (a quick charge one in the lidded centre bin between the front seats), and a 12-volt and AUX outlet, two front cup holders, bottle holders for all four doors, oddments bins and a roomy glove box, an overhead sunglasses holder, and a pull-down central rear armrest with another two cup holders.
The additional height of the body has resulted in an extra 4mm of headroom, while both front and rear passengers also enjoy additional legroom courtesy of the slightly longer body.
Rear seat ISOFIX mounts are standard fitment.
Cerato features new, stronger seat frames, which provide a more comfortable seating position, with increased lumbar support and denser seat foam for more comfy long-distance travel, while the fully-adjustable, multi-function steering wheel made it easy to dial up a near-perfect driving position.
Pity about the temporary steel spare wheel.
They just do not cut it in rural areas.
We have been Cerato fans since day one and this third generation borders on brilliant.
A livelier engine would add a bit more excitement to the whole driving experience, but the one it is saddled with still does a darn good job.
Temporary spare and lack of LED headlights aside, there was nothing to dislike about this latest outing.
We must admit though that we do have a preference for the sedan over the hatch as its lines are very smart and stylish.
Just like the Stanley-grown apples we bought at the Albury-Wodonga Farmers' Market, the Cerato Sport was crisp and deliciously crunchy.
If you are looking for something to do, or somewhere to go, this weekend - or any weekend for that matter - grab a shopping bag and head to a farmers' market near you.
You will not only enjoy the fresh country air, but freshly picked, locally-grown produce which has a taste of its own.
All our farmers, whether market gardeners, hobby, broad or small acre, need our help more than ever as this current situation grips ever so tighter with people restricted in their travel.
Show them that you care by buying locally.
Price: Kia Cerato 2-litre Sport manual sedan with Safety Pack, from $24,490 plus on-road costs
Engine: 2-litre, MPI, four-cylinder petrol
Power: 112kW at 6200rpm
Torque: 192Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual. Front-wheel-drive
Fuel use: 5.9L/100km 91RON
Fuel tank capacity: 50 litres
Towing capacity: 1200kg braked
Warranty: 7 years/unlimited kilometres
NORTH-EAST VICTORIA/SOUITHERN RIVERINA KIA DEALERSHIPS
Albury-Wodonga - McRae Kia, 182 Melbourne Road, Wodonga Phone: (02) 6051 5555
Shepparton - Thompson Kia, 340 Midland Highway, Phone: (03) 5822 2666
Wagga - Riverina Kia, 42-52 Dobney Avenue, Phone: (02) 6932 6688
Wangaratta - Ovens Kia, 62 Parfitt Road, Phone: (03) 5722 9898