Metaphorically speaking, if you close your eyes and drive this car, you’d have a hard time telling where this car is from. You see, every car out there, no matter the brand, hints at the country in which it came from.
For example, the interiors of Japanese cars usually feel bright, filled with synthetic materials, rides on the softer side, have good handling and are more reserved with the steering. German cars, on the other hand, are over-wrapped in skin and loaded with buttons placed in a very organised manner. Cars from Deutschland ride firmly, have excellent handling and the steering is always full of banter.
And Korean cars, well, they were lacking ideas in every department. In recent years though, they have proved that they can pull up their socks and make a car loaded with features, enjoyable to drive and with a head-turning design. The difference between then and now is really night and day. They have, somehow, integrated the cost-friendliness of the Japanese with the driving dynamics of the Germans. It’s not perfect but it all signs are pointing in the right direction.
This brings me to the car here: the Kia Forte Koup, which was launched in Malaysia sometime late last year with a price of RM115,800 on-the-road with insurance. Finally a two-door coupe that does not cost both kidneys, and it has good value too.
At this point, you might expect me to somehow tie in Peter Schreyer but I am not going to. I leave its design to your own mind and judgment. Personally, I think that the loss of two rear doors, the lowered roof and the redesigned bumpers make the car look appropriately aggressive; bigger wheels might even give it more street cred. The dimensions of the Koup is made tauter too – 4,480 mm in length, 1,765 mm in width and 1,400 mm in height – compared to its four-door sibling.
As for the interior, well, I leave that to you as well. The point of contention here is the red two-colour interior. Some have warmed to red-accented dashboard you see in the pictures while others run the other way.
Besides the colour scheme, the interior does lean toward the Japanese. The whole catalog of interior plastics is here – from the soft and malleable to the hard and shiny. What’s more important is that these plastics are put into their appropriate place following function.
The centre console is not outfitted with tons of buttons either. It hosts the usual climate control and stereo system. Above the disc slot is the ‘hazard lights’ button. It is the only button there, thus, you’ll never miss hitting it when the situation calls for it.
There is also a feature called the Speaker Control Switch that does not control the volume of the speakers at all. Instead, it surrounds the front speakers with a ring of light, which also let you make it pulsate according to the beat of the song. Rounding up the electronic gadgetry are cruise control, engine start/stop button and the smart key.
Both front seats are bucket type and have adequate thigh and body support. Sitting in the driver’s seat, I can tell that there has been some thought that went into the ergonomics. All buttons are easy to reach and those that are further than my finger can be controlled from the steering. The steering feels thick and substantial. The meter cluster is huge; speedo is in the middle, rev meter flanks the left and the fuel gauge is on the right.
A surprising thing to note about the interior is its spaciousness and I don’t mean the space in the front. What is quite unexpected is the legroom at the back. The Koup’s wheelbase of 2,650 mm matches that of its four-door sibling. This also means that you’ll be able to fit two full-sized adults in the rear without the need to detach their legs. But the getting-into will be tight head-wise; the Koup loses 60 mm of headroom due to the sloping roof.
But enough of measurements and design and spaciousness… what you are really here for is to know how the Koup drives.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0 litre THETA II engine with CVVT that generates 156 PS (or about 154 hp) at 6,200 rpm and 194 Nm at 4,300 rpm. The engine is mated to a 6-speed torque-converter automatic transmission that allows for manual shifting of the gears that drive the front wheels. However, if you’re hankering for earth-burning acceleration, don’t. The partnership does not make the car quick.
Given the natural-aspiration nature of the engine, most of the power lives in the median of the rev range. Not to say that the Koup is a slouch, it is just that you need to spur the Koup into the middle rev range before things get really exciting. The challenge then becomes a game of keeping the revs in the sweet spot, which can be achieved with surprising ease. The manual shifter is snappy and locks in the gears with minimal delay and all you really need to do is to hold the throttle. Done.
Although the Koup is not quick getting to 100 km/h, it does have the legs to run once you settle in. And when the urge to get ahead of the car in front overwhelms, the Koup proves that it has still plenty of fire in its belly to complete the mission. Hitting near double-century figures on the speedo becomes all too easy.
At speed, the Koup shows its worth. It is also where the Koup feels like a car from continental Europe. Armed with MacPherson struts at the front and a coupled torsion beam axle at the rear, the Koup dispatches high-speed sweepers with a predictably flat and stable behavior that simply builds confidence to get from apex to apex until the tyres start talking back. The steering feels properly weighted and alert so it is easy to keep the car tracking the way you want it to.
Find yourself understeering? Not a problem, feed the steering a bit more turn, just lift off the throttle for a bit and let the Koup’s weight, grip and the electronic stability program keep you on the black stuff.
The trade-off with the brilliant handling is that the Koup gets a rather unyielding ride. You will feel every inch of the road, flat or otherwise, yet it is not hard enough that it crashes into every hole it rolls over.
When everything is taken into consideration, the Koup drives as how a sporty coupe should. I do think the Koup is less of a road warrior and more of a long-distance B-road runner. If you’re not packing to much people for a weekend, here’s the ride you should take.
So, if you’re looking for a reasonably priced car that hasn’t got too many doors, strides well in the city and have the endurance to go interstate, then say hello to the Kia Forte Koup.
Photos: H.T Production