KIA CERATO KOUP REVIEW
A year on from its local launch, the Kia Cerato Koup is one of the top-selling sports cars in Australia, and yes, you read that right.
It's thanks to the FCAI’s sometimes-curious VFACTS segment categories that Kia’s Koup is listed in the sub-$80,000 sports car segment, right alongside the more-muscled 370Z and more-nimble MX-5. Its good looks and a pleasing $23,690 price-tag has certainly helped its cause, placing it solidly at third spot in the segment.
Even better for Kia, the Koup takes advantage of the virtually vacant sub-$25,000 coupe market and is top choice for budget-minded buyers definitely not in the market for a BMW or Mercedes (the 1 Series Coupe/Convertible and the CLC-Class being the segment’s current top sellers).
We’ve got a brand-new Kia Koup in the TMR stables. It is untarnished by the heavy feet of the motoring press, and this review marks the first instalment in our three-month long-term review of Kia’s sharp coupe.
Up front, the Koup’s headlights, grille, bonnet and front quarter panels are unchanged from the Cerato sedan. But thanks to the significantly (almost overwhelmingly) sportier front bumper, the Koup’s entire visage feels new, and certainly more intense.
The chunky C-pillar, longer tail-lights, flared guards and lower suspension also adds muscle to the Koup’s lines. From the rear, it looks ‘tough’.
The Koup’s interior is largely identical to the sedan, updated this year to offer the same dark-metallic grey highlights and fabric door cards. The front seats though offer a sportier look, featuring a mesh-like fabric with a red stitch.
What’s the appeal?
The Koup benefits from a number of handy factors; its aggressive and unique styling, Kia’s excellent unlimited-kilometres five-year warranty, and - at the time of writing - a $24,990 drive-away price for the manual model.
For budget-minded commuters most interested in turning heads on the way to work, there may not be a better buy than the Kia Cerato Koup - and that’s far from a bad thing.
What features does it have?
The Cerato Koup is available with just the one trim grade, specified to the same level as the top-shelf Cerato SLi sedan.
As with the Cerato SLi, the Koup offers cruise and climate control, a multi-function trip computer, auto-on headlights and rear-parking sensors.
Auxiliary and iPod/USB connectivity is featured, although iPod integration is limited to volume control and skipping tracks.
What’s under the bonnet?
While its American sibling is offered with a 2.4 litre unit, the Australian-delivered Koup is powered by the same 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine offered across the Cerato range.
Fuel consumption is listed at 7.8 l/100km when equipped with the five-speed manual (the model we’ve got under test), and 7.9 l/100km for the automatic.
Like the 2010 version of the Cerato sedan, the manual version of the Koup gets a slightly tweaked transmission with a revised clutch and a smoother action for the gear shift.
The Koup also gets the sedan’s MacPherson strut and torsion beam suspension arrangement, although with stiffer damper valving, a thicker front sway bar and a ride height 10mm lower than the four-door.
Braking is managed by 15-inch ventilated front discs and 14-inch solid discs at the rear, again unchanged from the Cerato sedan.
How does it drive?
MX-5, much less an EVO or STi.
It’s a lifestyle buy, not a blistering road-rocket.
Despite that, Kia’s engineers didn’t simply phone this one in. We’ve taken the Koup as close to the ragged edge as it’ll go - and it went further than we expected.
When pushed, there’s a strong tendency to understeer, but its economy-biased tyres simply don’t have as much grip as sportier-compound rubber.
The Koup’s stiffer suspension gives it a handling edge over the Cerato sedan - itself a reasonable-handling car - resulting in a Kia that sits a little flatter than the usual. Cornering can be attacked with more confidence, and while the differences are minimal, the Koup is sharper.
It can be a little too stiff around town however, and softer damping would help here. We’re surprised it is not a little more compliant as the primary focus of the engineering will undoubtedly have been in setting the car up for the daily commute.
That said, there is nothing wrong with the Koup’s willing 2.0 litre DOHC engine. It is not over-endowed with power but it spins readily and makes a nice noise when at work. It feels quite balanced through the rev-range and only gets a bit breathless right at the redline.
The transmission, although reworked, is an improvement over the 2009 model. But it’s still far from ‘good’ even for the Koup’s pleasing price point. The ratios are out of whack and the clutch lacks feel. On the upside though, the gear-shift feels good; the throw is right and the gate has nicely-defined slots.
Despite these shortcomings, the Koup offers genuine substance behind the style and is easy to enjoy at the wheel. (Look for our long-term review - first instalment coming September - for more of our driving impressions.)
What did our passengers think?
Headroom in the rear is slightly diminished however, but thanks to the square-ish cut to the roof and the relatively steep C-pillar, rear passengers are not badly served.
Rear leg space is only slightly smaller, but with a number of full-car trips under our Koup’s belt, the back seats have proven capable of accommodating two adults in relative comfort, and three at a pinch.
Boot space is listed at 358 litres, down 57 litres on the 415 offered in the sedan. However, as with the sedan, the rear seats can be dropped for extra space - although Kia doesn’t have a figure for the expanded volume.
How safe is it?
The Koup has not been tested for an ANCAP safety rating (the base sedan was awarded a 4-Star rating). It does however offer the same six-airbags package and stability control as its SLi sedan sibling.
ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control are all standard, along with three-point seatbelts all-round. Pretensioners are fitted to the front row belts.
How does it compare?
It may not be as powerful, as well-engineered or have quite the same cachet, but when you can buy nearly three Koups for the price of the Nissan 370Z ($67,990), it becomes a strong value proposition for anyone not seriously in need of everything Nissan’s Z car offers.
No, for now, the Koup is all alone as the market’s only two-door sports coupe under $25,000.
When the Tiburon-replacing Hyundai Veloster arrives sometime next year (or even in 2012), it might scrape in under the $30,000 mark - and it may be a more accomplished car than the stylish Koup - but here and now, Kia has this mini-segment sewn up.
Kia offers one of the best warranties on the market for its entire line-up, the Koup featuring the same five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty as its sedan sibling.
At launch, the Koup was offered with four colours: Clear White, Bright Silver, Ebony Black and Racing Red. For 2010, Kia has added metallic blue, along with the all-new limited-edition Lime Twist (TMR’s test car) and Sweet Orange.
Available in just one SLi-equivalent specification grade, the 2010 Kia Cerato Koup starts at $23,690 for the five-speed manual-equipped model, through to $25,690 for the four-speed automatic model.
At the time of writing, Kia is offering the manual model for $24,990 drive-away, and the automatic for $26,740 drive-away.
There is also a special $24,740 drive-away price for the manual model when fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels.
The Kia Cerato Koup is what it is: a sporting package - handsome certainly, and will win hearts on style alone - but not a performance car.
Lancer for instance, or Ford's sharp-handling Fiesta, even the i30.
But the Koup is a coupe and, at its price, is perfectly alone in a segment that has been all-but overlooked - or abandoned - by other manufacturers in this market.
But while it's stylish, it's not all looks and nothing else. It is quite nicely trimmed inside, well-finished, and is more than a half-decent drive.
In the almost-year since it arrived on the scene last September, the Koup has sold well - snagging around 750 sales so far.
Kia’s Koup deserves praise because it is a genuine good-value buy. It isn’t one for corner-hungry enthusiasts, but for A-to-B commuters looking for an affordable, good-looking two-door, Kia’s Koup is one to take seriously and well-worth a drive.