Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Kia Cerato Koup First Drive Review

Paul Murrell reviews the new Kia Cerato Koup with pricing, specs, ride and handling and verdict.

Okay, the new Kia Cerato Koup (does it really need two names?) delivers on sports coupe looks. But let’s face it, Kia hasn’t been the first name to spring to mind when it comes to performance. Even Kia marketing general manager Steve Watt admits that Kia is not yet a “destination” brand. In plain English, that means Kia is a brand you buy for reasons other than pure, unadulterated lust.

But things are turning around, and the new Koup is at the forefront of changing people’s minds about the company. Over the past few years, there has been a 20% lift in the brand’s reputation and a 47% improvement in the perception that Kia is a “stylish” brand. And the company reports a substantial 250,000 Facebook followers.

Kia Cerato Koup turbo sure looks good, luckily it drives pretty well too.

The Koup is the final piece in the Cerato range, following the sedan and hatch. There are two engine choices, and two transmission choices.

The Cerato Koup range starts with the entry-level Si, powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine found in other top line Cerato models. It puts out a reasonable 129kW of power and 209Nm of torque, delivered through a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Not to put too fine a point on it, the non-aspirated Koup provides a driving experience not hugely removed from its less glamorous siblings. But the power and torque, plus the confident way it goes about its business (it gets all the suspension and handling benefits fitted to the turbo), makes it ideal for buyers who don’t really want a turbo.

Of more interest is the turbocharged Koup with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder TGDI (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) engine, the same unit that does duty in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo. The figures are 150kW and 265Nm. The twin-scroll turbo operates at 2.2 bar, force feeding cylinders one and four separately from two and three. Kia has tuned the dual exhaust system for a more sporty note, but to be honest, on a very windy day, I couldn’t tell the difference from the driver’s seat.

Kia Koup Turbo offers a nice sporty ride

Where I could, however, note a marked improvement was in the suspension set-up, specifically tuned for Australian conditions. I’m impressed. The front is 20% stiffer and the rear a huge 40% stiffer than the sedan and hatch models, springs are stiffer too, and the dampers have been revised. The aim, according to product manager Jeff Shafer, was for a grand touring state of tune, rather than an overtly sporting character.

The ride may be a little firm for traditional Kia buyers, but then, the Koup is aimed at a different demographic altogether. Also worthy of praise is the quicker steering rack with a 15.1 to one ratio and just 2.8 turns lock to lock. It communicates much more responsively with sharp turn-in and reasonable feedback.

Like other Kias, the Koup gets FlexSteer, a button on the steering wheel to modify steering response from Comfort (for low speed, urban and curving roads when you want a quicker yaw feel), Normal and Sport (that adds a little weight to the steering and is recommended, confusingly, for freeway travel). When I ventured onto gravel roads, the Koup tended to move around more than I’d have liked and there was a sense that under extreme conditions, it might tend to plough straight ahead rather than follow your instructions – not that it ever did while I was driving it.

Kia had to fight to bring the Koup Turbo down under. We're glad they won the argument.

There was considerable discussion within Kia Australia as to whether the Kia Cerato Koup turbo should come here at all. It sells in Korea and the US, but not in the UK or Europe. The decision was finally reached when the team decided they wanted an affordable entry performance vehicle in the range.

Here at Practical Motoring we think it will prove to be an inspired decision, even when the Pro Cee’d GT arrives next year with the same engine and even more aggressive ride and handling (we’re really looking forward to getting our hands on it but the name is going to drive us nuts).

Both Koup engines use CVVT and have timing chains rather than belts, and they both run on 91 RON fuel. Jeff was adamant that the back seat in the Koup is practical and usable. It’s not bad, but if the driver and/or passenger are tall, it’s a little tight and claustrophobic – no worse than a lot of other coupes but not really a comfortable place for three adults to spend much time together.

Kia Koup interior is a classy affair with room for four adults.

Non-turbo models are fitted with attractive 17-inch alloy wheels, 215/45 tyres, body-coloured door handles and external mirrors, single exhaust outlet, fabric seats, leather steering wheel, cruise control, adjustable central armrest, 4.3-inch LCD screen, Bluetooth audio and telephone connectivity. At just $23,990+ORC ($26,190+ORC for the auto) it’s a classy package at a small premium over the sedan and hatch, with which it shares only its fenders and bonnet.

The turbo model is, in percentage terms, quite a bit more expensive at $27,990+ORC ($30,190+ORC auto) but it is the most powerful sub-$30,000 vehicle on the Australian market. The turbo models add 18-inch alloys shod with 225/40 tyres, larger (300mm) front brakes, LED daytime running lights, dark chrome radiator grille, carbon fibre look bumper inserts front and rear, body-coloured side skirts, black door handles and external mirrors, dual exhaust, smart key with push button start, artificial leather bolsters on the seats, a different rear diffuser, auto dimming internal rear view mirror, cooled glove compartment, alloy pedals and some additional chrome highlights.

If that rather comprehensive list still doesn’t satisfy, buyers can specify a Touring Pack for an extra $2200 which adds a 7-inch screen with sat nav, dual-zone climate control and leather seats.

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS

That Kia Australia has been able to convince its parent the Koup Turbo should come down under is a major, if you’ll pardon the expression, coup. That it looks as good as it does, is as well equipped as it is, and drives as well as it does is all just icing on the cake for the brand which is emulating the success of its sibling Hyundai. And, this car paves the way for the even-more-agressive Kia Pro C’eed GT which will arrive here next year.

KIA CERATO KOUP
PRICE from $23,990 (plus ORC) WARRANTY five-year, unlimited kilometres SAFETY RATING five-star ANCAP ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol, 129kW @ 6500rpm, 209Nm @ 4700rpm; 1.6-litre turbo petrol, 150kW @ 6000rpm, 265Nm @ 1750-4500rpm TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual, optional 6-speed auto BODY 4.53m (L) 1.78m (W) 1.41m (H) WEIGHT 1314-1390kg THIRST 7.3-8.0L/100km (combined)

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober