Car reviews - Kia - Koup - Turbo
Turbocharged performance, poised ride, sharp design, generously equipped, keen pricing
Room for improvement
Cheap look and feel to front seats, road noise, cheap tyres, unappealing engine note
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5 Jan 2015
Price and equipment
AUSTRALIAN buyers rejoice, because cheap sportscars are well and truly back.
The early to mid noughties didn’t offer a lot in the way of cut-price thrills for eager motorists, but car-makers have thankfully realised that having a sportscar in your line-up gives you instant credibility and, when done well, a sales injection.
In the past two years alone, we have seen the arrival of Hyundai’s quirky Veloster hatch/coupe, Honda’s dynamic and eco-friendly CR-Z coupe and of course the critically acclaimed and super popular Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins, all for under $40,000.
Kia might have arrived later to the party, but it is making up for it with the launch of its first ever turbo-charged sports coupe in the Cerato Koup.
The first-generation Koup had a striking design, decent packaging and keen pricing, but lacked the grunt and performance ability of other sporty contenders.
Luckily Kia has addressed this with the second-gen version, adding a turbo-charged version for added bite.
The Koup range kicks off from $23,990 plus on-road costs for the naturally aspirated variants and the Turbo is priced from $27,990, while the Turbo automatic tested here adds $2200 for a $30,190 sticker price.
Competition for the Koup Turbo ranges from the Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo from $32,990, Honda’s petrol-electric hybrid CR-Z from $38,490, the Toyota 86 that starts at $29,990 plus on-roads and its twin the Subaru BRZ that is currently priced at $37,150 drive-away.
The $30,190 price-tag for the blown Koup gets you LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming mirror, dusk-sensing headlights, LED tail-lights, keyless entry, push-button start, outside door handle lamps, puddle lamps, chrome tip rear muffler, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Kia’s well appointed cabin features paddle shifters, premium steering wheel, alloy pedals, carbon-fibre-look inserts, cooling glovebox, 4.3-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio and USB and auxiliary jack as standard.
Value wise, the Koup Turbo is right up there offering an impressive level of gear, and while it is not as jam-packed with features as the Veloster SR Turbo, it has more standard goodies than the 86 GT and is about in-line with the BRZ.
We all know how far Kia has come in recent years with its design, engineering and overall quality and that massive leap in general improvement certainly extends to its interiors.
But first up, we can’t ignore the attention-grabbing exterior design of the plucky little Kia. Based on the attractive Cerato sedan, the Koup features a restyled grille and air intake, and tail-lights and has a lower, more aggressive stance then the sedan. It is an arresting design in the flesh, particularly in the ‘Aurora Black’ body colour of test car, which garnered a number of looks from interested onlookers.
The cats-eye headlights look super cool at night when locking the car, while the ‘follow-me-home’ tail-lights – similar to those from the Ceraton sedan and Sorrento SUV – are equally appealing.
The Koup sits 25mm lower than the four-door sedan and while this is not a huge difference, it is noticeable upon entry and egress. Not in an uncomfortable way mid you, it seems Kia has simply altered the height to add to the sportscar feel.
Back to the interior. Once in the cabin, the dash with that bulbous centre stack is immediately recognisable from the Cerato hatch/sedan range. Not necessarily a bad thing. Overall the simple interior design is fairly successful with everything functioning as it should.
The seats up front offer excellent support and the cloth trim with artificial leather bolsters are of reasonable quality, but they look and feel cheap.
Leather seats can be added when you option the $2200 Touring Pack that also offers a DVD player, sat-nav and a seven-inch touchscreen, but this was not included in the test car.
What the Koup Turbo does offer is excellent visibility, a great driving position that doesn’t feel too much like the cockpit of a Formula One car, decent front headroom, heaps of storage (six cup-holders!) and a simple, functional and appealing layout.
Carbon-fibre inserts feature throughout as does the requisite chrome and the steering wheel feels more premium than the price suggests. As with other current Kia models, the Bluetooth was a breeze to operate and the six-speaker audio system provided top-notch sound quality.
Much like most small two-door coupes, rear leg-room is not substantial, but the Koup Turbo surprised with the amount of space in the back. That said it should really be limited to small people and children for short trips.
Cargo space is a very generous 433 litres, just 49 litres shy of its Cerato sedan sibling, while the Hyundai Veloster can carry 320 litres worth of goodies.
Engine and transmission
Kia’s second-gen Koup might not be a huge seller for the brand, but it is significant in that it marks the first turbo-charged engine in the company’s local line-up.
And what a terrific little powerplant it is. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder T-GDI turbo-petrol engine dishes out 150kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm at 1750 to 4500rpm, matching the output of the Veloster SR Turbo with which it shares an engine.
The turbo unit gives solid in-line performance, with the Koup dashing to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds with little noticeable lag.
While it is relatively quick off the mark, it is higher up the rev range that the Koup hits its straps – albeit, with an uninspired exhaust note for company.
The Koup Turbo comes standard with a six-speed manual, but we tested the version with a six-speed automatic which is well matched to the engine, providing quick, smooth shifts, but it did on occasion drop down a gear prematurely at higher speeds when it didn’t need to.
Unsurprisingly, the Koup Turbo has paddle shifters for those that want more control over their gear changes, and switching to manual mode provided an extra level of engagement and made for a more enjoyable driving experience. The shifts were as silky smooth and sharp as they were in automatic mode.
Kia says the Koup Turbo in auto guise consumes 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle and after three weeks of country, city and freeway driving we recorded a fairly respectable figure of 9.5L/100km.
Ride and handling
As mentioned, the Koup is based on the Cerato small car which is not a bad thing at all, and Kia has tweaked the suspension and steering for Australian-spec versions.
Being a sporty model, the ride is unsurprisingly firmer than the Cerato, but rarely too ‘busy’, and it is certainly not as jarring as the mechanically-related Veloster SR Turbo.
The localised suspension set-up makes for minimal body-roll through corners and the Koup is a pleasant, uncomplicated drive around town on inner city streets and freeways. There’s little front-drive torque steer either, and few issues with putting the power down – no axle tramp here.
The Koup Turbo handles well and punting it into corners at speed reveals a dynamically solid little car that is a joy to drive and more importantly, capable of being thrown around a little.
We did encounter the occasional mild loss of traction over more uneven surfaces, but the capable coupe corrected itself nicely before without too much drama. The ESC system is well-calibrated because it nudges the car into line rather than forces it.
Kia’s FlexSteer system allows for a change in steering weight with Normal and Comfort fine for around town, while Sport added a little more weight and was better suited to more spirited driving.
Overall there was not a great deal of feedback to the steering, but it was sharp and direct, while the 18-inch wheels felt a good match despite the road noise on harsher surfaces. The cheap tyres like a squeal too.
Ultimately, Kia cannot hope to match the tail-happy antics and balance of the rear-drive 86/BRZ, but its offering is still a heap of fun.
Safety and servicing
The Cerato range was awarded a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating last year which applies to all variants.
Standard safety gear includes six airbags, seat-belt warnings, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, ABS, ESC, hill-start assist, auto door-unlock in an impact and emergency stop signalling which turns the hazard lights on during heavy braking.
Along with all models in the Kia line-up, the Koup Turbo comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
In the second-gen Cerato Koup, Kia has delivered a sporty coupe that is far more a driver’s car than its predecessor, thanks in part to the addition of the Korean brand’s first ever turbo.
While the blown Koup delivers solid performance and a genuinely enjoyable drive, it is not a hardcore sportscar that can be flogged mercilessly without abandon – it has its limits.
Kia has promised its Pro_cee’d GT hot-hatch that is due to arrive in March, will be the top choice in its line-up for performance car enthusiasts and after our time in the entertaining little Koup, we cannot wait to drive it.
But until then, the Koup Turbo offers light thrills in a sexy package for a very reasonable price.
Toyota 86 GT from $29,990 plus on-road costs. There are many pundits that would suggest buying anything else apart from an 86 in this end of the sportscar segment is crazy and we can see why. It offers class-leading ride and handling and is less than $30k.
Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo from $32,990 plus on-road costs. The blown Veloster shares the same engine as the Koup Turbo, which is a good thing, but it has a harsher ride that makes it more difficult to live with as an everyday drive.
Honda CR-Z from $38,490 plus on-road costs. While it is $8300 more expensive than the Koup Turbo, some design-centric buyers will be drawn to the plucky little hybrid, as well they should. The CR-Z offers fun dynamics, great looks and a truly entertaining drive, but given the price of its major rivals, it is sadly, just too expensive.
Make and model: Kia Koup Turbo
Engine type: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Layout: front wheel drive
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
0-100km: 7.8 seconds
Fuel consumption: 8.0L/100km
CO2 rating: 190g/km
Suspension: Front MacPherson strut/rear coupled torsion beam axle
Steering: Electric power steering
Price: $30,190 plus on-road costs
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