Kia Cerato SLi: from $29,990 plus on-road costs; 2.0-litre 4cyl; 129kw/209Nm; six-speed automatic; FWD; 7.4L/100km and 177g/km CO2.
Hyundai Elantra Premium: from $28,990 plus on-road costs; 1.8-litre 4cyl; 110kW/178Nm; six-speed automatic; FWD; 7.1L/100km and 169g/km CO2.
Kia: The Kia Cerato and Hyundai Elantra are twins separated at birth. The Cerato is a newer model, and costs $1000 more than the Elantra but brings plenty of toys for the money. Front parking sensors, HID headlights, LED taillights and daytime running lights give it points of difference over the Hyundai. Both cars have electric drivers’ seats, but the Kia’s memory and easy access functions give it an edge. The Kia and Hyundai are both backed by five-year, unlimited kilometre warranties for worry-free motoring.
Hyundai: Hyundai’s sedan is a little cheaper, but it misses out on the Kia’s modern lighting and memory seat. These cars are fully-optioned flagships for their respective model lines, and both are loaded up with 17 inch alloy wheels, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, smart keys, reversing cameras and rear parking sensors, along with touchscreen infotainment packages with music hard-drives and Bluetooth audio streaming.
Kia: The Kia has an impressive colour TFT screen nestled in the instrument cluster that complements its main display. Faux carbon fibre trim and ripple effects on the dashboard and door cards contribute to a sporty feel helped by alloy pedals. Ventilation function in the driver’s seat blows hot or cool air through perforated leather.
Hyundai: Leather seats and touchscreen contribute to a luxury feel, though a reversing camera mounted in the rear-view-mirror feels like an afterthought. Sculpted metal-look dash is brighter than the Kia’s charcoal theme. Rear headroom in both cars is a little cramped for taller passengers.
Under the bonnet
Kia: The Cerato SLi has a 2.0-litre engine with direct fuel injection that makes more power (19kW) and torque (31Nm) than the 1.8-litre unit used in the Elantra – and cheaper Cerato models. The Kia uses 4 per cent more fuel to produce 17 per cent more power and torque. Kia offers the Cerato with a choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmissions, while the Hyundai is automatic-only.
Hyundai: The Elantra uses a little less fuel to make a lot less power than the Kia. As a result, its engine needs to be worked harder than the Kia’s, and both engines sound thrashy at the top end of the tacho. Hyundai doesn’t offer a manual transmission in its premium Elantra.
How it drives
Kia: Enthusiast drivers will appreciate the interaction the Kia offers. The FlexSteer electric steering system offers a choice of Sport, Comfort or Normal settings that adjust steering weight (but not the speed). It has paddle shifters as well as a conventional tiptronic function to keep its engine on the boil. Kia’s suspension tune is a touch sportier than Hyundai’s, with more immediate steering response.
Hyundai: The Hyundai has a softer suspension tune that can feel floaty and less responsive through corners. It rides well, but sharp bumps are still keenly felt. Its engine is not as flexible as the Kia’s, and a lack of paddle shifters is an annoyance.
Kia: Kia claims that the Cerato has a slightly larger boot than the Hyundai, but the difference wasn’t noticeable for us. Both cars have a full-size spare wheel, but the Kia has an ace up its sleeve when it comes to towing as the Cerato has a maximum tow capacity of 1100 kilograms.
Hyundai: The Hyundai and Kia are based on a shared platform with similar body styles, so therefore interior and storage is line ball between the two cars. The major difference between them is that Hyundai does not offer – or recommend – a towing package for the Elantra, making it significantly less practical than the Kia.
The Kia has an edge in all five categories here, but it hasn’t completely outclassed its cousin. Hyundai launched the Elantra locally in June 2011, which gave Kia two years to refine its car before putting it on sale. The Cerato is the better car, particularly when fitted with the 2.0-litre engine, offering impressive features at a bargain price.