First drives: Kia Cerato GT

Kia continues to stretch the boundaries of its core business of delivering great value, reliable and affordable vehicles.

Last year we saw the release of the rear-wheel drive Stinger, which in GT form was a significant step into the performance car realm. In my view it wasn't perfect but it was a damn good first try. We now see the GT moniker make it to the latest generation of the Cerato. So, how does that stack up?

The latest generation Cerato was released in 2018, bringing with it new styling, a physically a bigger car and, depending on the model, the absolute latest in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Earlier this year the GT joined the line-up bringing with it a 1.6L turbo engine, seven-speed direct-shift auto, and independent rear suspension, with the Australian engineering team localising the suspension for our unique road conditions.

Stepping into the GT there's little doubt Kia has thrown the works at this one – leather appointed seats with the driver's electrically adjustable in every direction and with memory settings; flat-bottomed steering wheel; premium audio with all the usual connectivity options; wireless charging for Qi enabled phones; and active cruise control, forward collision warning, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. Outside a unique body kit and grille with hints of red within the honeycomb design and 18" wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres. The GT sits 5mm lower than the standard hatch, while under the skin a significantly stronger body aids safety with more controlled suspension and less noise transmission into the cabin.

I'm a bit in two minds about the GT. I expected better from the day-to-day driving, and less from its ability to carve up a twisty country drive, but I think I got the opposite. Around town and on the highways I thought the ride was just too harsh, engine noise protrusion into the cabin was more than I'd expect and the direct-shift auto was really sluggish, although smooth in operation. Out into the country and point it at a mountain pass and the GT really shines. Shift to sport mode by pulling the gear shift to the right and the gearbox shifts liven up along with a sharper steering response. The 150kW, 265Nm turbo tries hard and does its best work below 5000rpm, but it lacks the underlying grunt you would get from a Golf GTI or its cousin the i30 N. Happily, the once annoying engine noise cruising about the suburbs changes character to become much more in keeping with the sporting credentials.

But it isn't the drivetrain that is the star here, it's the suspension and, to a lesser extent, the steering. It's extremely settled on uneven surfaces and absorbs broken edges and potholes without a hint of it crashing through. While the steering lacks a little feel in sport mode, it's very direct with the front end, providing plenty of grip on turn-in. The GT felt very predictable and was really rewarding to drive. I'm a little surprised Kia isn't offering a manual transmission for the GT, as that drivetrain does exist in related Hyundai products.

At $31,990 (add another $520 for premium paint) drive away with a seven-year warranty and fixed price servicing, the Cerato GT is a great opportunity to get into the warm hatch segment that will deal with the day-to-day drive, but will reward you on the weekends if you feel the need.

- Darren Moody 

I​mage: Warren Kirby, Newsdesk Media

This article originally appeared in Journeys member magazine. For more great reads visit