INSPIRED by the power-packed Stinger fastback, Kia will launch a new Cerato mid-year with styling cues from its big brother.
Creases on the longer bonnet, short boot lid along with the signature "tiger nose" grille are among the hallmarks of the new compact offering unveiled at the Detroit motor show this morning.
There's a strong front end resemblance to the Stinger, particularly through the headlight shape and design, which helps deliver the Cerato an improved sporting appeal.
Expected to arrive by June, the Cerato will come in four specifications: S, Sport, Sportplus and by year's end a range-topping GT along with hatch derivatives.
The car has increased in length by 81mm to 4641mm, which makes it the longest of key rivals (the Toyota Corolla sedan is 4620mm, Hyundai Elantra 4570mm and the Mazda3 Sedan 4580mm).
Width improves 18mm, while height increases about 13mm for increased headroom. Sit the new Cerato alongside its predecessor and the windscreen starts 127mm further rearward.
Inside looks more upmarket with a horizontal design, and like the Stinger it also has jet turbine-looking vents, along with an 8-inch color touch-screen which will come with the smartphone mirroring apps Android Auto and Apple CarPlay that can read and receive dictated messages while also use the in-built maps for sat nav.
Boot space is about 430 litres - a slight increase on the outgoing model.
The same powertrain will feature across the three core models, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generating 112kW and 192Nm with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Kia is yet to confirm full specifications for Australia, but the sporty GT is expected to have independent rear suspension. This enables engineers to better configure the performance for improved cornering and greater control.
It could also pave the way for the introduction of a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain, also already used by sister company Hyundai in its SR variants.
The Cerato GT hatch will be based off the European-focused Cee'd, which is being honed by Kia's performance guru and former BMW M division boss, Albert Biermann.
Cerato is a star for Kia in Australia, the small car leads the marque's sales race primed by a $19,990 drive away price-tag with an automatic transmission.
Whether that price point remains could be decided by safety features. The two top spec variants of the recently released Kia Stinger received five star safety ratings from ANCAP, but the base models only received three stars due to the absence of autonomous emergency braking - functionality which can slam on the brakes if a frontal collision is detected.
"We'll try very hard to have a Cerato in at $19,990. We haven't finalised our pricing strategy," Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith said.
"It has been fantastic for us giving us clear air against the competitors.
"I think the market demands all levels of all vehicles need AEB.
"We believe $19,990 is important, so is AEB. If we can get both, that would be fantastic. I'm not sure if we can do that."
The cost could rise by $500 to accommodate the technology, lifting the base price to $20,490 drive-away.
Kia was Australia's fastest growing mainstream brand during 2018 with 28.3% year on year growth. Next best in positive territory was Skoda 12.4%, Subaru 11.7%, Isuzu 10.4% and Mitsubishi 9.9%.
The Cerato (called Forte in the United States) which went on show today had a 109kW/179Nm 2.0-litre 'Nu' four-cylinder engine under the bonnet. It also features a new Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) - neither will be used in Australia.
The IVT is Kia's version of a continuously variable transmission, which have become common with many Japanese manufacturers but often attract criticism for lacking in response and the droning noise during acceleration.
Yet Kia says its in-house transmission offers "smooth and linear acceleration" which is designed to mimic a standard automatic self-shifter.
"Sticking with the existing drivetrain (in Australia) gives us an advantage in regards to pricing. The proof is in the pudding with the current Cerato because we have been strong with the price point," Meredith said.
2019 Kia Cerato
WHEN Expected to arrive mid-way through 2018.
PRICE Not details yet, but Kia is hopeful of maintaining the base model from $19,990 drive-away.
ENGINE Carryover 2.0-litre four-cylinder 112kW/192Nm.
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic or manual, FWD.
THIRST 7.2 litres/100km (combined average, estimated).
SAFETY To be tested, although expect autonomous emergency braking, anti-lock brakes, six airbags and rear view camera, blind spot monitor and lane keeping assist, while higher-spec models will get forward collision-avoidance assist and radar cruise control.
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