Kia Cerato Variant R Review: When R does not come before S

Kia Cerato Variant R Review: When R does not come before S

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
09 Oct 2007

Well, it makes a fabulous induction growl to begin with. The throttle pedal is telepathically responsive and so is the needle on the tachometer. On the other hand, the clutch takes some getting used to, especially when cold. Pedal effort is still considered light.

It’s the feel that’s very bitey and has a narrow window of slip. Getting used to it and growing a well-toned left calf muscle will reap the rewards to some very slick gear changes.

Does it drive?

Hugging the people in the front are a pair of Bride reclineable bucket seats, which is a very thoughtful touch. Along with the low-profile tyres, the whole car seems as keen and eager as a front-row geek in a classroom. Still, it won’t worry the type Rs or the WRX, but I daresay it might be able to outdrag Suzuki’s Swift Sport by a smidgen.

At lower speeds below 60km/h, it’s entertaining, it’s fun and it’s an absolute hoot to drive, even though the steering rack is a little bit lethargic. Chuck the car into a series of very tight twisty bends, and with a bit of understeer on initial turn-in, the rear end hops and slips a little and it aligns the car for a quick exit. Literally seat of the pants stuff and you can feel every bit of it, sitting in those loving seats.

However, like most front-row geeks, their keenness can get rather annoying actually. In small doses, it’s fascinating. In larger doses, it’s overwhelming.

Much like the rear end of this car.

You see, C&C has gone and fitted a beefier rear swaybar, or anti-roll bar, or stabiliser bar, or whatever you want to call it, just not a member brace or a strut bar. It has made the car a touch too edgy and rather moody at higher speeds.

At expressway paces, it can all get quite hairy if you have to make an evasive lane change or if you get a little stingy with the brakes, which have some decent feel and progression, by the way. What happens is, let’s say, if you have to make an abrupt and swift sidestep, the rear reacts much faster than the front. So when the front settles and dips, you are about to start oversteering.

Now all the gung-ho drivers out there who have paid attention to their advanced driving theory books, would say it’s an easy predicament to get out of. Just steer the other way. But no, not quite. It’s the finer bits in between such as timing and correction quantity that’s what matters most. You’re simply battling an unpredictable pendulum in the rear.

One other thing that might bother a few people, who happen to have more oestrogen, is the colour of things in the interior. Chinese New Year red simply refuses to match with black and grey trim panels. It doesn’t work, sorry. I’m sure Bride has an alternative such as black trims and red seams.

Why the R?

There we have it, the Kia Cerato Variant R. Not a bad effort from Cycle & Carriage at all. They have managed to perk up the otherwise dull Cerato and gave it a mild pinch of auld spice.

The powertrain is made more reactive, it’s got some wonderful seats, an awesome noise and some really nice, useable boot space. Now, if it’s priced at about $60,000, as C&C projects it to be, and if they reign in the rest of the suspension, we could have a gem on our hands.

I just wish Amery didn’t go out to bless it with a puncture, making me return the car earlier…

ed. Sorry guys! By the way, although official power figures aren't for sure, Cycle and Carriage claims 140hp for the Variant R, which, trust us, felt very much THE part! Although lacking in driving feel, it manages to inch ahead of a Swift Sport manual that we pit it against.

The Variant R is still undergoing the homologation process, so keep your fingers crossed, because this just might be the first Kia that holds genuine speed!

Credits: Text and Photos by Khong Shaohao

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