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First drive: Kia tries the Koup

It's a Kia: The Kia Koup is set to arrive in Australia in September.

Kia's Cerato-based Koup looks the goods, but looks can be deceiving

26 Jun 2009

By PHILIP LORD in SOUTH KOREA

AS MANY car companies pare model lines and some fight for survival, Kia is on an expansionary drive with new models such as the TD Cerato Koup.

Kia’s first two-door coupe was first seen at the New York International Auto Salon last year as the Koup concept. The production Koup – which remains faithful to the Kia California design studio show car – is based on the recent TD Cerato sedan.

The Koup will arrive in Australia in September as a single specification 2.0-litre model with five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic.

Kia Motors Australia public relations manager Jonathan Fletcher said: “We’re looking at a premium, but not a big premium”.

While price has not been set, Mr Fletcher said he expected the Koup price premium to be no more than $2000 more than the $22,990 Cerato SLi sedan on which it is based. Even at $24,990 (for the manual), the Koup would become Australia’s cheapest two-door coupe.

The new Koup will not only flesh out the Kia range but, according to Mr Fletcher, also fill a void left by the departure of two-door, four-cylinder coupes such as the Honda Integra and Mitsubishi Lancer Coupe.

Kia believes it will sell 30,000 Koups in export markets from 2010, which represents 15 per cent of Cerato sedan sales. Locally, Mr Fletcher believes the Koup’s proportion of sedan sales will also sit at about 15 per cent – meaning about 30 to 45 cars a month.

Kia sees global competitors for the Koup being the Honda Civic Coupe, Hyundai Tiburon, Citroen C4 Coupe, the outgoing Holden Astra Coupe, Renault Megane, Volkswagen Scirocco and Volvo C30.

17 center imageThe Koup is not sold in Western Europe as Kia believes its Pro’ceed three-door meets that market’s requirements. The US, Eastern Europe, Asia and Oceania are the Koup’s principal markets.

The Koup’s body is unique except for the bonnet it shares with the sedan. The door windows are frameless, a feature Kia suggests is usually reserved for high-end sports coupes.

Most of the Koup’s underpinnings and powertrains are shared with Cerato sedan.

The Koup sits 60mm lower than the sedan, due to a 50mm lower roofline and 10mm lower suspension. The Koup is 50mm shorter, 10mm narrower but shares the sedan’s 2650mm wheelbase. The body weights 20kg less than the sedan and has a Cd figure of 0.31.

Kerb weight is 1274kg for the manual auto adds 14kg.

Inside, the Koup uses familiar design traits such as the three-cylinder instrument cluster with red back lighting with a message digital information display at the bottom of the cluster.

Steering wheel controls for audio and cruise control, a six-speaker radio/CD Ipod/MP3-compatible audio system, semi-climate control air-conditioning, passenger side front seat one-touch tilt and slide seat operation, rake/reach steering adjustment, driver’s seat height adjustment, electric front windows (auto-down on driver’s side) and keyless entry.

Headroom is down 33/58mm front/rear compared to the sedan, while legroom is up 8mm at the front and down 28mm at the back. Shoulder room is down 1/58m front/rear.

The Koup’s boot capacity is 358 litres (57 litres less than the sedan’s 415-litre volume) and the rear seatback drops down in a 60-40 split to reveal a flat load surface. Australian spec cars will get a 17-inch alloy full-size spare wheel.

While global markets are offered transverse 1.6-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol, Australia will have only the 2.0-litre ‘Theta II’ inline four-cylinder all-alloy petrol engine only. The 2.0-litre CVVT (continuously variable valve timing) and four valves per cylinder engine develops 114.7kW) at 6200rpm 194Nm at 4300rpm The new Koup accelerates to 100 kmh in 9.3 seconds (manual) and 10.5 seconds (auto). The manual’s fuel consumption and C02 emission figures are 7.5L/100km and 178g/km respectively while the auto’s figures are 7.6L/100km and 181g/km.

Anti-lock braking system, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, ESC, six airbags, active head restraints for both front seats and five lap-sash seatbelts are fitted as standard.

Suspension is the sedan’s MacPherson struts, with coil springs and anti-roll bar at the front and a torsion beam axle with coil springs at the rear.

The Australian market gets the ‘sportier’ of US market suspension tunes, which is also the tune for Aussie spec Cerato sedan (though the sedan sits higher).

Drive impressions:

THE most spectacular thing about the new Kia Koup is the way it looks, with an Audi A5-like shape that doesn’t do it any harm.

It is arguable one of the best-looking Korean production cars yet, although some may argue that is not saying much.

No matter – this new coupe looks the goods, so does it deliver on the road? Slide into the cabin and there is plenty of room, and even tall adults will find a surprising amount of legroom in the back. Headroom is tight compared to the sedan, but for a coupe it is pretty good.

Up front the cabin quality is better than new Sorento, and while the red dashpad and door inserts are an acquired taste, it looks as if Aussie buyers will not have to worry about this feature anyway – Kia’s Jonathan Fletcher says the Aussie spec cars will not offer the bight interior colour contrast, instead sticking to plain black.

The quality of materials and panel fit is passable, and the driver’s seat provides ample side support. Instruments are stylish and legible – a feat not all manufacturers can manage.

The 2.0-litre four-speed automatic version we drove in Korea does a good around-town shuffle.

Just like a certain brand of fast-food hamburger, there are no nasty surprises but it is a touch bland. Throttle response and gearshifts in the daily grind traffic are unremarkable, just how most like it.

Give the Koup a little more to chew on, though, and it begins to get a dose of indigestion. The four-speed automatic and 2.0-litre engine are amicable enough when only light throttle is applied the engine’s quick to respond, the transmission shifts smoothly.

But ask it to climb a twisting mountain road at a quicker tempo, for example – some ‘sporty’ driving to fulfil its design brief – and the auto and engine start bickering.

The shifts are lurching, the ratio spread poor and the auto’s lack of ratio choice highlights the engine’s lack of torque. Trying to use the ‘manual’ mode is only partly successful as the transmission still upshifts automatically regardless – and this about 500rpm short of redline.

Even though it lands the engine revs way down the register in a torque hole, an up-shift can be a blessed relief because when revved, the engine has all the high-note sweetness of Kim Carnes.

Perhaps the manual might be better, but we suspect this car really needs something like the 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine fitted to the US market Cerato sedan – and Kia execs say that a six-speed will arrive for Cerato next year. It can’t come soon enough.

Handling is also fine when pottering about, although even then you get a warning that all is not well underneath when tripping over uneven joins and sharp bumps in the road, as the Koup stumbles.

The ride isn’t the Koup’s greatest asset, with dampers and springs feeling mismatched. Like the transmission and engine, really.

Start slicing up a few corners and while the Koup turns in okay and the chassis is responsive enough, it lacks the steering feel, mechanical grip and refinement needed to make it a truly enjoyable – let alone quick – carver of corners.

The Koup looks great and delivers enough in interior space and comfort but looks faster than it actually is.

Read more:

Kia flies the Koup - and Soul

New York show: Kia gets Koup krazy


The Road to Recovery podcast series


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