When the first Kia Forte Koup debuted, it probably polarised opinion like few other cars did at that time. Supporters lauded Kia’s attempt at offering a ‘sporty’ model to bolster its otherwise fairly mainstream line-up, but critics blasted the Koup as a half-hearted effort, given its perceived lack of performance, with barely any ‘go’ to match the car’s ‘show’. Indeed, with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder powerplant producing a measly 124bhp matched to a four-speed automatic, the entry-level Koup was more of a flashy showpiece rather than an outright sports car.
Still, it sold in adequate enough numbers anyway, proving that outright power isn’t always everything when it comes to the business of selling cars. The Koup sold on the basis of its headturning looks, and the fact that one can get into a two-door car for not much money. Besides, in Singapore, how fast can you go anyway? All that matters is that you looked good, and the Koup certainly did. Nevertheless, Kia is a company that takes criticism as valuable feedback, and thus here we have the new second-generation Koup (now dubbed Cerato Koup, but that’s mostly a marketing thing), which is now equipped with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine with 204bhp.
That’s even more than the most powerful powerplant on the previous car, which was a 2.4-litre petrol with 173bhp. So, that should now satisfy its detractors, right?Well, not quite. Let’s get straight to the main point. While the increase in power does make the new Koup a more drivable proposition, as you no longer have to continually stretch and push the engine to make decent progress, there doesn’t seem to be much ‘oomph’. Power delivery is smooth and linear, almost like a bigger capacity naturallyaspirated engine, and you just keep waiting for the boost that never comes. Instead, the car simply pulls and pulls, thanks to its fairly generous torque figures, all 265Nm of it.
In effect, it feels more like a capable cruiser, more at ease with highway driving, rather than a sporty little coupe that’s full of energy as it darts in and out of city traffic. Perhaps that’s what Kia is aiming for, seeing that the new Koup is bigger, and thus more ‘mature’. All signs do point to that actually, from the significantly larger interior room, where two full-sized adults could fit comfortably in the rear, a rarity for a two-door coupe, to its generally good all-round refinement. The car corners competently and pretty sharply, but it somehow lacks the verve and spark of the previous model. It’s competent, for sure, but there’s no drama or much in the way of excitement.
Things probably aren’t helped by the six-speed automatic gearbox, which isn’t the quickest out of the box (pardon the pun), nor the FlexSteer variable steering system, which while theoretically useful in differing driving conditions (there’s three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport, with weighting adjusted accordingly), feels extremely artificial, and is chronically lacking in feedback. But if you want to take a different look and spin on things, and see the Koup as a ‘grown-up’ car for grown-ups, then it certainly fares well in that aspect.
Indeed, viewed in that vein, the Koup notably excels, with the aforementioned increase in interior space, with wheelbase up by 50mm over its predecessor, excellent overall refinement, and the fact that the car rides fairly well for a two-door coupe. Sure things get a bit busy at high speeds, notably from the rear, but that’s probably due to the torsion beam suspension set-up more than anything, and the ride quality never really gets too uncomfortable for the most part. And for your money, you do get plenty of stuff, with things such as keyless entry, engine push-start button, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth integration, and a sunroof all available as standard features. There’s even a cooled glovebox, as well as cooling seats for the driver, exceptional items to have in our tropical climate.
We’ve come to expect great value from Kia these days, and they never fail to live up to expectations in that aspect. In addition, the new Koup is still a very pretty head-turner, and in fact probably even more so from its predecessor. While the previous Koup boasted chunky and chiselled angular styling, this new one takes a softer tone with more curves, and yet still manages to retain some degree of aggressiveness, as befits a ‘sporty’ model that the Koup aspires to be.
Unfortunately, though, it seems as though this new Koup will continue to split opinions, being that it still doesn’t feel as ‘sporty’ to drive as its looks allude. That being said, at least it makes for a pretty functional, grown-up coupe, and if you don’t quite mind that, then perhaps the new Cerato Koup is well worth considering. Everyone has to grow up some time, right?
Kia Cerato Koup 1.6 t-GDi
Engine: 1,591cc, 16V, in-line 4
Power: 204bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 265nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Top speed: 222km/h
0-100km/h: 7.4 seconds
Fuel Efficiency: 7.9l/100km
Price $130,999 with COE