But the high-value strategy is being steered towards a fresh competitive stance with diesel versions of the Cerato, the firm’s new alternative in the lower-medium segment.
Addressing what it sees as the diesel paradox, Kia has eliminated the premium for diesel so it costs the same as a petrol version.
This, the firm believes, will pave the way for growth as part of a plan to win annual registrations across Europe of 100,000 by the end of the decade, as well as winning more fleet business.
Diesel engines cost a lot more to manufacture than petrol units, and Ford and Vauxhall – the main brands in Kia’s sights – charge an extra £1,095 for the turbodiesels which go under the bonnets of the Focus and Astra models.
As well as putting the company’s first in-house diesel engine under the spotlight, the offer is being made as part of moves to win the brand wider recognition in fleet.
After spending several weeks with the car, there seems little reason to doubt that cost-conscious operators will soon be discovering that the Cerato has a lot more going for it with the addition of a 1.5-litre CRDi engine.
Efficient and economical, the 100bhp unit will remain at the Euro III stage before moving to the Euro IV level at the end of the year, and while it doesn’t have the ultimate refinement of either the 1.6-litre Focus or 1.7-litre Astra – both in Euro IV tune – it does manage to beat both in the CO2 emissions while returning similar fuel economy.
So how does it go? Well, the Cerato may be no flyer away from the lights, but it does have sufficient muscle to pull with commendable smoothness from low revs, and mating the unit with a slick-changing gearbox allows the car to acquit itself well in the urban traffic flow.
In addition, the engine’s comparatively prodigious torque band is well suited to cruising, where it goes about the business of making the most of every £4-plus gallon in a subdued manner.
For the size of its engine, this is a relatively large car that offers comfortable progress over most surfaces, thanks to a suspension set-up that proves to be supple as well as providing levels of roadholding on a par with the standards of all but the best in the class.
With plenty of room for adults in the rear, this is another high-value Kia that scores highly in terms of practicality. Powered by an engine that has to be driven particularly hard for consumption to fall below 50mpg, it is a genuine economy car that should find its niche as family and fleet transport.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £10,842
CO2 emissions (g/km): 129
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 15%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 57.6
CAP Monitor residual value: £2,825/26%
Depreciation (13.36 pence per mile x 60,000): £8,016
Maintenance (2.50 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,500
Fuel (7.45 pence per mile x 60,000): £4,470
Wholelife cost (23.31 pence per mile x 60,000): £13,986
Typical contract hire rate: £270
Rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance
At a glance
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Three rivals to consider
SOUTH Korea’s giant Hyundai corporation has big ambitions in the UK market. So does Kia, which came under its control a few years ago – hence the close pricing of these two champions in the high-value corner of the lower-medium segment. Both cars are so keenly pitched that the Citroen C4 1.6 LX and Ford Focus 1.6 Studio appear costly by comparison at £12,742 and £13,192 respectively.
THE Kia just gets the better of the Hyundai in the service, maintenance and repair stakes with an expected bill of £1,500 over three years and 60,000 miles for the Cerato, compared with £1,524 for the larger-engined Elantra. However, both South Korean contenders lose out to the Europeans at the service bays, with the Focus adding up to particularly economical costs of £1,320 and the Citroen £1,422. However, all four are very closely matched in this sector.
AS the C4 and Focus are powered by one of the new generation turbodiesel engines jointly developed by PSA Peugeot Citroen and Ford, it comes as no surprise to find that both cars turn in identical fuel figures – and that they’re good to drive into the bargain. The C4 and Focus are both claimed to return 60.1mpg. To its credit, the Cerato is only £186 behind the £4,284 total achieved by the European duo, but the penalty of the Elantra’s larger 2.0-litre engine makes for a considerable disadvantage.
CAP estimates that both the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Cerato will retain just 26% of their cost new after three years and 60,000 miles. However, because their front-end prices are so much lower than the two European challengers, they both perform well in this depreciation comparison. The two South Korean cars will cost more than a penny per mile less than the Citroen C4 and Ford Focus, which CAP claims will retain 31% and 34% of their price new respectively.
THE Kia and Hyundai may be neck and neck when it comes to showroom pricing and residual value predictions, but a much higher fuel cost in the case of the Hyundai means the South Korean cars are separated by a considerable margin in wholelife costs after three years and 60,000 miles. Despite its higher front-end price, the Ford scores well, helped by low SMR costs and strong fuel economy.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
A COMBINATION of keen pricing and low emissions works well for the Kia – so well that it drives to the top slot in this group when it comes to cutting the company car driver’s tax bill. At £30 per month for a 22% taxpayer, it makes the £44 liability on the Hyundai Elantra appear expensive and is also comfortably inside the £36 for the Ford Focus and £35 for the Citroen C4. All will cost £115 in Vehicle Excise Duty, apart from the Hyundai on £135.
THE Kia Cerato makes a sound case for itself as an alternative to the mainstream models – which is not something that can be said of the Hyundai Elantra. However, emotive issues also come into the reckoning as far as most compact hatchback drivers are concerned, and on that basis, the choice has to be made between the two European cars. Style and packaging make the Citroen C4 a strong contender, but the Ford Focus snatches the honours, thanks to slightly lower wholelife costs.