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Car reviews - Kia - Koup - coupe

Launch Story

Kia logo4 Dec 2009

By PHILIP LORD

KIA IS leading the charge back into the budget coupe market with the Cerato Koup.

We were less than impressed with the left-hand-drive 2.0-litre four-speed auto sample we drove recently in Korea, but this first Australian drive of a 2.0-litre manual version proves the two-door Kia deserves a closer look.

Seated low in the Koup, the driver is faced with a neat array of instruments with red backlighting – very Audi-like.

The front seats are not the enveloping buckets you might expect to keep you planted in a corner-carving sports coupe, but they are sufficiently supportive and comfortable for the daily urban grind or freeway run.

The cabin is scattered with plenty of convenient storage trays and pockets, and door pockets and centre console have ample drink bottle holders.

The front passenger seats tilt and slide forward in one easy movement to provide access to the rear seat area, which is surprisingly roomy. Once tucked in the back, there is a surprising amount of leg and shoulder room for adults, although head room is tight. Three child restraint hooks are provided for family duties, too.

In other Kia products, such as Sportage and Soul, the Theta II 2.0-litre engine feels raucous and rough when revved, yet it suits the Koup’s ‘sports’ character.

A stutter just off idle in the manual test car we drove was eventually overcome with smooth driving (after a few embarrassing bunny-hops), but the engine’s want to hold revs for a second or two when lifting off the accelerator was plain annoying.

While its responds to throttle input well enough at lower revs, it only begins to sing as the revs rise. Revving to the 6500rpm red line gets the Koup along nicely, but it is no fireball. It sounds the part, but don’t expect it to keep up with a six-cylinder family sedan, let alone a half-decent hot hatch.

The Koup’s ride and handling combination is an interesting mix. Steering feel is among the best of Korean cars – direct, well weighted and a surprisingly good degree of feedback.

The suspension is well tied down, but it is much firmer than the Cerato sedan, especially in the rear suspension. Every bump and thump is felt around town.

Carry a little too much speed over a speed hump, and the rear suspension will almost knock the wind out of you. Hit a big enough pothole and the rear end does a brief sideways dance, too.

So while it’s not a superb example of suspension engineering, the Koup corners with a fair degree of precision, and while the chassis doesn’t offer a whole lot of mid-corner adjustability, it has little body roll and hunkers down on smooth corners.

Perhaps the Koup is not the most polished coupe in dynamics, performance or interior fit and finish, but it deserves marks for trying.

It is an attractive design overall and a better than average effort dynamically that is an enjoyable and reasonably entertaining drive, provided you are willing to accept its lack of power.

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