Road test: Kia Cerato GT-Line, an SUV in hatchback clothing?
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2019 Kia Cerato GT-Line hatch
• Huge space
• Interior layout and packaging
• Well equipped
• Pricey standard RRP
• Unconventional looks
• Not quick
It’s a curious time in the hatchback world.
Most of the segment’s entries are dripping with the latest technology and roomy enough to threaten a good chunk of the SUV space. But simultaneously, shamefully, nobody’s buying them.
It’s surely therefore an odd time to try and reinvent the segment. Evidently, that memo never reached Kia.
Think about the new fourth-gen Kia Cerato hatch as a well-weighted counterpoint to the SUV craze. Hatchback dynamics and pricing are mated to an elongated boot area capable of swallowing surprising amounts of luggage, groceries, yoga equipment, keep cups full of wine, and more.
Pair that practicality with Kia’s recent brand momentum (spurred on locally by the arrival of the Stinger GT), and the Cerato has a healthy shot at minor hatchback success. Having sampled the top-spec Cerato GT in March, Kia hurled us the keys to the mid-spec follow-up — the GT-Line.
As the name suggests, the GT-Line carries over some of the sporting values of its top-spec cousin. It has the same body-kit, 17in wheels, and a healthy portion of top-line equipment. But it balances this by skipping things like the dual-tip exhaust, complex multi-link rear suspension system, and by coming with a less explosive engine.
Our GT-Line tester came with the same powertrain as the entry-level LX and (recently discounted) EX; a naturally aspirated 2-litre four-cylinder engine making 112kW at 6200rpm and 192Nm at 4000rpm, paired with a 6-speed torque-converted automatic.
Hardly numbers to get the heart racing, especially when compared with the 150kW/265Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre unit and dual-clutch that comes in the beefier fully blown Cerato GT. And, off the bat, this raises a quibble over price.
The GT-Line ordinarily retails for $39,990, which isn’t particularly cheap given that it equals the more powerful Honda Civic RS and exceeds the frothy fun (and again, more punchy) Ford Focus ST-Line. The Cerato GT is priced just $2000 north, at $41,990, which makes it a retail-level no-brainer.
Except, the GT-Line has just had its price slashed nationwide to $34,990. That places it in a much friendlier much more logical place — undercutting the aforementioned ST-Line, RS, and more.
Compared with the other contenders, the Cerato GT-Line’s biggest strength is its wanton spaciousness. The cavernous rear cargo area has an impressive class-leading 428L of space with the seats up (14L more than the Civic, 53L more than the Focus), and 1335L with the seats down.
To put that into an SUV perspective, its big brother — the Sportage — has only 38L more space in the back. And it also exceeds the feats of the Hyundai Kona (361L), Subaru XV (310L), Ford Escape (406L), plus many more.
And, because of Kia’s solution to finding that space, legroom and headroom remains big enough in back for adults too.
The solution, if not made clear in the imagery, was to design the Cerato hatch with a generous rear overhang. In isolation it’s hard to spot, but when parked next to a conventional hatchback it becomes clear as day — almost station-wagon like. To my eye it’s not the most visually appealing thing on the planet. But, its space gains undeniably make up for it.
And that plays into the Cerato GT-Line’s other key strengths; equipment and comfort.
Standard, it comes with adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled motorised front seats, wireless charging, and a smartly packaged 8in infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satnav, plus a reverse camera with parking sensors and dynamic guidelines.
That’s quite a lot of tech for the money, especially when bolstered by a quite comprehensive safety suite (inclusive of AEB, lane-keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot detection).
The contemporary dashboard layout will age well with its mix of soft-touch surfaces, gloss blacks, and metals — although as a whole it’s admittedly a little dark and dreary sometimes.
Each of the four main seats is plush and comfy. And all the infotainment screen menus, dials, and switches are of the foolproof kind.
Among the few disappointments is how the Cerato drives.
Its workmanlike powertrain packs enough oomph for most daily tasks (we averaged 8L/100km economy). But it also lacks the capability of the Civic RS’ engine and the character of the thrumming three-popper in the Focus. And though its controls are nicely weighted and easy to operate, it’s hardly a passionate steer.
Nevertheless, the Cerato GT-Line manages to mirror its peers in all the important places, while simultaneously carving out its own little niche. As good a proof as any that an SUV is not the only answer.