SINGAPORE, April 21 — Korean cars should be more popular. While Samsung and LG can compete with the best of the world when it comes to consumer technology, Kia and Hyundai are much further down the top 10 ranking than they used to be when Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) were slightly cheaper.
Kia’s Cerato K3 medium sedan, for instance, was Singapore’s best-selling car in 2009 and 2010, but that was in the era when COEs never topped S$20,000 (RM62,848) in a bad week.
A new Cerato, introduced in 2013, faced a much tougher market, but Kia has not stopped improving its cars, and it still shows.
Four years on from then, the Cerato K3 remains an impressive piece of machinery for its cost, and with this new Sports edition, packs even more bang for the buck.
The obvious visual differences are the 17-inch wheels and exterior body kit, which is all tastefully done and does not make the car look like it escaped from the latest instalment of The Fast and the Furious.
Inside, it is the same familiar Cerato experience: Plenty of room all around, and with a rear bench that will easily seat three adults in relative comfort. Kia’s signature black-on-red theme does well here, and while there is a lot of plastic in sight, it does not look or feel like it is built to a budget.
What is new on the inside is the infotainment system, a seven-inch touchscreen unit that showed up in the Kia Niro hybrid earlier this year. Not only does it provide an easier, more visually appealing interface, it has Bluetooth connectivity.
That is common enough nowadays, but it can also connect directly to smartphones via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a feature that is still hard to find, even in more expensive cars.
That is a theme which is repeated often in this Kia, since it also has other features you would otherwise pay more for, or which would be missing in this price bracket, such as keyless entry; a powered driver’s seat; a reverse camera; and a full load of six airbags.
Air-conditioned seats are rare in German cars, for instance, and might end up costing a fifth of the Cerato’s total price to put in. Ditto the sunroof or advanced smartphone connectivity.
The Sports edition is mechanically identical to the rest of the Cerato range, packing the same 1.6-litre engine and six-speed automatic gearbox.
It is not a firecracker in the driving department, but it is pretty much on a par, if not better than, anything in this price range — it is smooth, quiet and powerful enough for most situations. The unrepentantly anaesthetic steering is the only significant niggle here.
The Cerato K3 SX Sports costs S$105,999 with COE, but you would struggle to replicate the amenities on board in similarly priced machines, even down the range. It costs, however, S$6,000 more than the normal SX variant, which loses the sunroof, bodykit, HID headlamps, infotainment system and auto-dimming mirror in the exchange.
It firmly remains a modest family sedan; so while the Cerato K3 SX Sports does not promise tyre-shredding thrills, the thing that will make most buyers enthusiastic about it is much more universal: The fact that it packs loads of features for a modest price.
Kia Cerato K3 SX Sports
Engine: 1,591cc, in-line four, 130hp, 157Nm
Performance: 195km/h, 0-100km/h: 12.1, 6.8L/100km, 160g/km CO2
On sale: Now — TODAY