- Published: Wednesday, 16 April 2014 13:07
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - How to strike envy into the hearts of other men: brandish a salary figure with one more digit in it than the average, have a woman on your arm with more inches where it counts, or drive a car with two doors fewer.
The Kia Cerato Koup is probably the easiest choice of the lot, then. It may not be fancy or come with a posh badge, but by virtue of being a coupe with swoopy styling, driving one ought to bring a few wistful glances your way. If nothing else, a car like this is the opposite of an MPV (or Multi Purpose Vasectomy-you-should-have-gotten), signaling your enjoyment of a carefree lifestyle.
Mainly, it’s carefree because you haven’t got kids so it doesn’t matter how much space there is in the rear, or because you do but you don’t care about how much room the little snots take up anyway, either way’s good.
Mind you, that’s not to say the Koup is kramped. Er sorry, cramped. It’s been stretched in the middle by 50mm, with a wheelbase that at 2,700mm is the same as the Sorento’s, a car which incidentally has seven seats. Accordingly, there’s actually a large amount of legroom both front and rear.
It’s a larger car overall than the first Koup (and consequently, a sizable car in the class), with length (4,530mm) width (1,780mm) and height (1,420mm) all up by 50mm, 15mm and 20mm respectively.
The proportions of the car have been altered slightly over the first Koup’s silhouette, too. The front is slightly more snub-nosed (with an overhang shorter by 15mm) while the rear overhang has been extended by the same amount, which helps to give the new car a more hunched, ready-to-pounce stance.
For some reason the boot has shrunk by 7 litres to 433 litres in kapacity, er sorry, capacity, but that’s unlikely to dent the car’s appeal. Placing practicality high on your list of desired attributes when you’re shopping for a sporty coupe is like choosing a mate by selecting the one who can hold the most mugs of beer.
Anyway, the Koup doesn’t exactly leave a person feeling shortchanged. As per the generous Kia norm, it’s loaded with kit once common only to much plusher cars: iPod- and Bluetooth-ready entertainment is standard (alas, the full-colour touchscreen you see in our press car isn’t headed for Singapore), along with a ventilated and powered driver’s chair. The frameless windows dip when you open the door, and slide back up automatically when you shut it — apparently that creates a better seal, an idea that originated with BMW and seen on the current 4 Series also tested in this issue.
Note, too, the multifunction steering wheel and obligatory gearchange paddles for the six-speed auto. If you drive the Koup briskly, you’ll use them often. The autobox can shift fairly languidly, and it doesn’t always make the best decision about what gear you should be in as you make ready to tackle a korner. Er, sorry, corner.
And here’s where the Koup has undergone some serious improvement. For all its rakish sportiness in the looks department, the first model didn’t exactly go around bends on rails. The steering wanted lots of little corrections from you to keep the car neatly in line, and if you hit a mid-corner bump the rear would skip out a little. This new model feels much more securely planted, and it’s much more neutral in its behaviour so it’s obviously better balanced. Overall you can take aim at an apex with plenty of confidence that you’ll hit it. (So it doesn’t relak one korner then? - DW)
Yet, though Kia says it’s been hard at work on it, the steering continues to feel pretty numb just off-centre. Nor does the ‘Flex’ steering system doesn’t really help much here, because the ‘sport’ setting makes the steering so unnecessarily ponderous that you’ll just leave the thing in its lightest setting.
I’d still call the Koup a fun car to drive, but it’s never going to amaze you with crisp precision the way a French hot hatch would. That said, a huge factor in making the car much more enjoyable than before is the new direct injection turbo engine. From 1.6-litres it conjures 204bhp, with 265Nm of torque coming on stream at just 1,750rpm.
All of that grunt has just 1.3 tonnes to move around, so as you’d expect, the Koup doesn’t shilly-shally when you put your foot down. It picks up speed with plenty of gusto, and at times the traction control light flashes frantically as the front tyres struggle to put the power down cleanly. (Incidentally, our test car came with Nexen eco tyres. A set of sportier rubbers would have undoubtedly aided traction, and might even have added some steering sharpness.)
The acceleration isn’t strong enough to turn anyone’s hair white, but the Koup is undeniably quick for a 1.6-litre car, and you’ll never catch us complaining about Kia giving power to the people.
Thing is, what should be an advantage could well turn out to be a liability in our market. The turbo engine obviously busts the 97kW (or 130bhp) power cap that will see many luxury cars pushed up into the Category B COE market, so come February next year it is anyone’s guess how much a Koup will cost. Nominally, it’s priced around $10,000 more than a K3 Forte, which would have been fabulous value if it had remained a Category A car.
Still, it might just survive the push into Category B because it looks good, and it does feel much more grown-up than the first Koup. It’s noticeably quieter on the move, and the improvement in handling hasn’t come at the expense of ride quality. If anything, it handles poor road surfaces much better than the last Koup.
Sure, there is the odd misstep — the reverse camera is mounted like a wart on the tip of the boot lid because engineers couldn’t find anywhere to hide it, for instance — but the second Koup is much better equipped to mix it with actual Category B cars than its predecessor.
That said, there’s a slim chance that a few units could sneak into the country before next February’s bifurcation of the Category A COE system. Or, if you were a betting man, you could always pick up your own Category A COE before February, and hope that your Koup sails into port within the certificate’s six-month validity period. Either of those could enable a handful of people to score a Koup with a relatively cheap COE if they’re lucky. Now, that really would provoke lots of envy.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,591cc, turbocharged 16-valve, in-line 4
Power 204bhp at 6,000rpm
Torque 265Nm from 1,750 to 4,500rpm
Gearbox Six-speed auto with steering wheel paddles
Top Speed 222km/h
0-100km/h 7.4 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 7.9L/100km
Availability First quarter, 2014
Also Consider Hyundai Veloster 1.6 Turbo GDI, Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI