Reviews | 02 October 2009

Kia Cerato Forte vs Hyundai Avante vs Chevy Cruze

  • "Korean War"
    1 / 25 "Korean War"

    The all-new Chevrolet Cruze arrives in Singapore with guns blazing.

    It is the so-called New GM’s first post-bankruptcy product, it is designed and built to European engineering standards, and goes on sale in an impressive new Chevy Centre in Ubi.

    The car is on the right track, with over 100 orders placed in the launch week, most of them for the 1.6-litre auto as tested here.

    But the Cruze still has its work cut out, with its two chief rivals in Singapore setting the pace in the “shoestring” saloon segment.

    The Hyundai Avante is Singapore’s best-selling car so far this year, overtaking the ever popular Toyota Corolla.

    It might not be the best saloon in driving terms (the Altis, for example, is more comfortable), but the Avante is certainly excellent value, offering a lot of metal for the money.

    Having said that, its cousin from the Kia camp provides even more car for the money, especially in terms of equipment, while the Cruze is a larger, fresher and arguably cooler alternative to the Avante.

    The Cerato Forte is Kia’s finest hour to date.

    Almost Germanic in its stylishness, generously equipped for its price, generally well built and perfectly practical for the typical nuclear family, the Forte is possibly the most complete car in its class.

    The icing on the cake baked by Kia is the decent performance on the road.

    Perhaps the only problem with the Forte is deciding which of the 11 colours to choose.

    This is less of an issue with the Avante and Cruze, which come with a choice of nine and six paint jobs respectively.

    Now let us referee the battle among our Pewter Grey Cruze, Ember Red Avante and Santorini Blue Cerato Forte.

    New Kia Cerato review

    Group Test: Subaru Impreza 1.6 vs Honda Civic 1.6 vs Hyundai Elantra Elite 1.6

    Hyundai Elantra Elite review

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte – Engine
    2 / 25 Cerato Forte – Engine

    Cerato Forte’s 124bhp engine is marginally more powerful than the broadly similar Avante’s, but seems to be even noisier at higher rev levels.

    Read more
  • Avante – Engine
    3 / 25 Avante – Engine

    Avante’s 121bhp unit is free-revving, full of energy and probably the most fuel-efficient here, but loses its composure near the redline.

    Read more
  • Cruze – Engine
    4 / 25 Cruze – Engine

    Buzzy 107bhp 1.6-litre lacks outright oomph and low-end go, but is a smooth operator. Performance is the slowest of the bunch.

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte – Gearbox
    5 / 25 Cerato Forte – Gearbox

    Cerato 4-speed autobox is an agreeable number with smooth selection of gears, but its “minus” manual downshifts are quicker than the “plus” upshifts.

    Read more
  • Avante – Gearbox
    6 / 25 Avante – Gearbox

    Generic 4-speed automatic gets the job done and has a positive shifter action, but its staggered gate is less enthusiast-friendly than the rest.

    Read more
  • Cruze – Gearbox
    7 / 25 Cruze – Gearbox

    A marketing trump card, Chevy’s 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly but slowly. Tall gear lever in Park blocks some of the climate controls.

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte – Cockpit
    8 / 25 Cerato Forte – Cockpit

    Comfortable seating for most shapes and sizes, plus plenty of adjustment and logical switchgear.

    Good visibility boosted by the best reverse parking aids here. Weak point is the comparatively cramped footwell.

    Read more
  • Avante – Cockpit
    9 / 25 Avante – Cockpit

    Unnaturally high driving position and well-sized windows give the clearest views out.

    Tilt steering lacks the others’ telescopic-too feature, while the seat cushioning is the flattest and least supportive of the group.

    Read more
  • Cruze – Cockpit
    10 / 25 Cruze – Cockpit

    Driving position feels the most purposeful and offers the most supportive driver’s seat.

    Minus points are earned by the lack of a foot rest, the cheap lever that adjusts seat height, and the small side mirrors.

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte – Meters
    11 / 25 Cerato Forte – Meters

    Cerato “Supervision” cluster looks swell, reads well and comes with an integral multi-message centre.

    Read more
  • Avante – Meters
    12 / 25 Avante – Meters

    Simplest and clearest instruments, but they lack the others’ flair. Fuel gauge is huge.

    Read more
  • Cruze – Meters
    13 / 25 Cruze – Meters

    As stylish as the Cerato Forte’s, but a bit harder to read in a hurry due to the smaller digits.

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte – Audio
    14 / 25 Cerato Forte – Audio

    Foolproof factory hi-fi with easy iPod connectivity like the Cruze, but it adds an in-dash 6-piece CD changer.

    Control of the audio and air-con is the most intuitive here. Dash-top reverse camera display is a local extra.

    Read more
  • Avante – Audio
    15 / 25 Avante – Audio

    The only aftermarket headunit of the trio has the necessary functions and sound output, but it’s a lot less user-friendly than the factory-fitted systems.

    Cool blue digital air-con is operated by delightfully soft-touch buttons.

    Read more
  • Cruze – Audio
    16 / 25 Cruze – Audio

    Seemingly inspired by the Transformers logo, the dramatic centre console offers the biggest buttons and a nifty multi-function display.

    Air-con panel is almost minimalist, but its cooling power is maximal, even on hot days.

    Read more
  • Kia Cerato Forte, Hyundai Avante and Chevrolet Cruze
    17 / 25 Kia Cerato Forte, Hyundai Avante and Chevrolet Cruze

    The Kia Cerato Forte (left) is absolutely packed with useful features, while the Hyundai Avante (centre) is refined at speed and nimble in town.

    The Chevrolet Cruze (right) has the smoothest and quietest ride.

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte – Backseat
    18 / 25 Cerato Forte – Backseat

    Thanks to superior interior packaging, Kia is the roomiest overall despite the Cruze having the longest wheelbase and largest body size.

    Generous seat back pockets are the most accommodating of loose items.

    Read more
  • Avante – Backseat
    19 / 25 Avante – Backseat

    Airy and trimmed properly, Hyundai boasts the most abundant tuck-in space for feet and the most comfy armrests.

    Seat-back nets are great for reading materials, but tangle easily. Seat cushioning could be softer.

    Read more
  • Cruze – Backseat
    20 / 25 Cruze – Backseat

    The most head room, the least intrusive floor hump and token door bins where the rest have none.

    Centre armrest is the broadest here and also boasts the grippiest dual cup holders. Where did the wheelbase go?

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte – Boot
    21 / 25 Cerato Forte – Boot

    The smallest at 415 litres and equipped with an old school lever release versus the others’ electric button. Shape and access are okay, though.

    Read more
  • Avante – Boot
    22 / 25 Avante – Boot

    The most commodious with 460 litres of cargo capacity, complete with quick-release split-fold like the Forte. Boot cannot be enlarged much.

    Read more
  • Cruze – Boot
    23 / 25 Cruze – Boot

    Second biggest here at 450 litres, but its 60/40 split-fold aperture is tops in size and shape.

    The expanded boot can hold a lot of stuff.

    Read more
  • Cerato Forte, Avante and Cruze – Keys
    24 / 25 Cerato Forte, Avante and Cruze – Keys

    The Cruze’s remote control, with its solid nugget of plastic and slick switchblade key, is the classiest by far.

    The Avante key fob neatly integrates the lock/unlock buttons, but is very plasticky.

    The Forte employs a separate fob for locking, unlocking, and popping the boot open, which is less convenient than the “master key” design of the rest.

    Read more
  • Last Word
    25 / 25 Last Word

    The strongest weapon in the Avante’s arsenal is its price, but the Forte offers a lot more Korean saloon for just a little more money.

    The curvaceous Hyundai looks modern, but it’s unceremoniously overshadowed by the dramatic Chevy.

    Last but not least, the Avante’s driving position is downright odd compared to the well-raked Cruze and the well thought out Forte.

    In conclusion, the Avante is a casualty in this Korean war, but it will recover to do battle another day.

    The Cruze is the most capable saloon in the Chevy line-up right now.

    It’s not as big as the flagship Epica, of course, but its talents are more and its build quality is noticeably better, right down to the minor switchgear.

    There is attention to detail, too, as evidenced by the one-tap-three-blinks indicator stalk.

    The Cruze’s large-car persona is played up by the ride comfort, on-board amenities and physical dimensions.

    But the “Transformer” Chevy forgot to transform the straight-line performance of its predecessor, the Optra Magnum, from average to above average.

    The Cerato Forte is victorious in this conflict, although the Cruze and Avante didn’t go down without a fight.

    The Kia ticks all the correct boxes for the budget motorist, like competitive pricing, daily practicality and good fuel economy, but then proceeds to tick a few more bonus boxes that surprise and delight the driver in question: continental styling panache, best-in-class gadgets and genuine high quality from bumper to bumper.

    At the end of the day, you simply cannot enjoy more car for this amount of money than the Cerato Forte.

    New Kia Cerato review

    Hyundai Elantra Elite review

    Group Test: Subaru Impreza 1.6 vs Honda Civic 1.6 vs Hyundai Elantra Elite 1.6

    Read more