Kia's latest Cerato Forte K3 is not an all-new model. It is a mid-life makeover of the existing third-generation model to keep it competitive in the Asian family saloon segment.
Already a good-looking car before this facelift, the K3 has been given a nose job, with Kia's signature "tiger nose" grille flanked by redesigned headlamps and LED running lights, restyled tail-lamps (also LED), and new bumpers front and rear.
Capping off the athletic new look are the standard jet-turbineinspired 16-inch alloy wheels, but upsized to 17-inch for the top-spec SX version tested here.
The cabin upgrades are limited to an overhead sunglasses case, metallic-rimmed air vents and glossy piano-black insets for the gear shifter and steering wheel.
Carried over are the soft-touch materials, faux carbon fibre panels and genuine leather trim.
SPECS / KIA CERATO FORTE K3 SX
Price: $104,999 with COE
Engine: 1,591cc 16-valve four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual override
Power: 130bhp at 6,300rpm
Torque: 157Nm at 4,850rpm
0-100kmh: 12.1 seconds
Top speed: 195kmh
Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/100km
Agent: Cycle & Carriage Kia
As a whole, the cabin ambience is a notch above that of the usual Thai-Japanese runabouts.
What sets the K3 apart are its newly specified premium features, which are uncommon in the 1.6-litre segment.
The said features now include (optional) Blind Spot Detection, Park Assist complete with rear-view camera and Smart Trunk release.
With the key in your pocket, just stand near the boot and await five blinks of the tail-lamps to get the boot popped open - great if you happen to have your hands full with groceries.
Keyless entry/locking/ignition is standard, along with a powered driver's two-memory seat that even moves out of the way for easier entry and exit.
The coolest feature must be the ventilated front seats (the pre-facelift K3 had ventilation only for the driver's seat), which provide relief on hot days. The rear passengers are not left out - they get a pair of air-conditioner vents.
The multi-function steering wheel is wrapped in soft Nappa- grade leather that is soft to the touch, but it is still wooden in terms of steering feedback.
Previously, there was a gimmicky FlexSteer function to vary the assistance for the steering. Now, there is Drive Mode Select, which provides Eco, Normal and Sport settings to vary both the steering weight and the drivetrain's response.
Chrome pedals and steering- mounted paddle-shifters complete that racy look.
Despite the sporty elements, do not expect sprightly performance from the K3, which is still a cruiser at heart. Under the hood is the same trusty 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.
The engine's response is flaccid in Eco mode, but Sport mode will get the engine working harder, although not necessarily faster. The lack of pace is reflected in an unremarkable century sprint time of 12.1 seconds.
I would suggest leaving the drivetrain in Normal mode and overriding with the paddle-shifters whenever you want more control on the move. Driven in this mode, the car achieved a respectable fuel-consumption reading of 8.1 litres per 100km.
This is a saloon for the average family - there is space for five adults as well as a practical 482-litre boot. The K3 also provides a quiet, comfortable and composed ride. You can even activate cruise control for an easier drive on the expressways.
Other nifty features are a pair of 12-volt sockets within the covered console tray (handy to juice up mobile devices on the go), dual-zone air-conditioning with cluster ioniser and a cooler vent within the glovebox (to keep drinks chilled).
But satellite navigation has been omitted. You will have to connect your smartphone, loaded with Google Maps, to the optional 7-inch touchscreen multimedia system (installed in the test car). The system is compatible with Android Auto and Apply CarPlay.
There are other saloons in the new Kia Cerato Forte K3's price range that drive better or are roomier. But none of them offers the K3's value-packed features.
• The writer contributes to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.