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First drive: Kia Cerato 1.5 CRDi - on sale now



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The diesel paradox is that you have to spend to save money. Ford, for instance, places a £1,050 premium on a diesel engined Focus over its petrol equivalent. It’s the same with Vauxhall and the Astra variants. The reason’s straightforward: diesels cost more to build.

There are occasional exceptions to the diesel premium rule, usually in model runout promotions. Kia, however – closing in fast on its 2005 target of a 2% share of the Western European market – is attempting to narrow the gap permanently.

The Korean carmaker says it can build and fit a diesel engine for a £495 premium, and charge accordingly. Thus, the new Cerato 1.5 CRDi LX five-door hatch tested here has an OTR tag of £10,995 compared with the 1.6 petrol LX 5dr price of £10,500.

For that sub-£500 premium, the buyer gets a four-cylinder Kia 1.5 engine developing 100bhp at 4,000rpm, 174lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm, along with 57.6mpg combined economy and BIK tax-efficient 129g/km CO2 output.

But on current fuel prices, and assuming there’s still a small residual benefit to be gained over a three-year ownership cycle, a Cerato driver will have to clock up at least 30,000 miles to see the scales tip in his direction.

In our short acquaintance with the CRDi (we collected it with delivery mileage and it will be passed on to a local Kia dealer early next month) the more immediate bonus is driveability. It feels better balanced than its petrol stablemate and, with stacks of mid-range power, is a comfortable cruiser. The engine’s a long way from being run in, so we can forgive the harshness and notchy gearchange.

Strengths: Gutsy diesel, generous equipment levels, practical, keenly priced
Weakness: Bland interior, heavy on grey plastics
Opportunity: The value-for-money set switching to diesel
Threats: A very crowded market with some excellent small diesels
USP: Kia’s own diesel engine
Price: £10,995
Engine :1.5-litre common rail turbodiesel, 100bhp/173lb-ft
Transmission: 5spd manual; fwd
Performance: 12.5.0sec 0-62mph, Top speed: 108mph
Efficiency: 57.6mpg, 128g/km C02; CAP RV (3/30) £3,600 (33%) est
Servicing: 10,000 miles
Rivals: Renault Megane 1.5 DCi, Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi, Toyota Corolla 1.4 D-4D, Vauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi, Peugeot 307 2.0 HDi 90

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