Kia has given a whole new meaning to the term “flying the coop”. Or, in this case, flying the Koup.
The Korean maker’s cute but previously mild-mannered Koup – a two-door version of its popular Cerato sedan – has been given the hairy-armed treatment with a new turbo-charged engine – Kia’s first boosted engine to arrive in Australia.
The injection of this feisty, home-built 1.6-litre turbo – now also found in the smart Pro_Cee’d hatchback released recently – has added an interesting edge to the Koup, which up to this point has been mostly “all show, not much go” in the performance stakes.
In turbo form it’s an altogether different thing – its 150kW and 265Nm certainly providing impressive bang for your buck with its $27,990 (manual version) asking price.
It’s yet another appealing offering in the Kia showroom – a place which only a handful of years back offered cheap and cheerful motoring – but now is home to some of the most appealing small cars on the Aussie market.
Aggressive, modern styling and massive improvements in vehicle dynamics and presentation have transformed the Kia fleet over the past couple of years.
The Koreans certainly seem to have the Japanese, and even the Europeans, in their sights. The Koup isn’t necessarily the car to do that – it’s a niche vehicle at best, although the turbo certainly broadens its buyer appeal.
We drove it in 6-speed automatic configuration, a $2200 premium over the six-speed manual – and it seems like a good investment.
The auto transmission is decisive and well-calibrated to the strengths of the engine – primarily its very good low-down torque rather than its abilities higher in the rev-range. It drives purposefully off the line and out of corners with the engine in its sweet spot – between abut 2000 and 4000 revs.
Let the engine spin much beyond that and the punchy performance tends to drift away. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s hard to imagine the Koup selling directly against hard-edged performance machines such as Subaru’s WRX and the like.
Instead, Kia is pitching it as the most powerful machine under $30,000 in Australia and it certainly impresses as a smartly presented, reasonably equipped two-door fun machine. From the outside, the Koup’s styling really fits the bill.
It boasts modern, sweeping lines, nicely proportioned stance, the obligatory LED running lamps and, in this case, a smart-looking diffuser beneath the rear end. Inside, it’s slightly less impressive.
Functional, no doubt, but it doesn’t quite match the eye-catching quality and flair of its recently-launched sibling, Kia’s Pro_Cee’d, which boasts one of the best cockpits we’ve seen for ages. The Koup is a little more conservative – there’s a lot of black finishes, albeit mostly in soft-touch materials, but the centre stack and instrument binnacle are a touch pedestrian.
There is a useful muti-function display in the instrument panel delivering all manner of useful trip and economy information, and wheel-mounted paddles to take charge of the gearshifts, but otherwise there’s not much to excite the driver.
Mind you, that’s probably a harsh criticism for a car costing so little and delivering such satisfying performance. The turbo commands a $4000 price premium over the entry-level Koup, which will set you back $23,990 with a six-speed manual transmission and 129 kilowatts.
Of course, the danger in whacking a turbo-charger into otherwise fairly mundane machines is that their driving dynamics sometimes struggle to keep up with the additional performance.
That’s not a problem with the Koup – partly thanks to its nicely settled and predictable handling and sturdy braking – and partly because its power delivery doesn’t necessarily encourage all-out aggression from the driver.
A full suite of safety devices includes six airbags, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management and ABS brakes. It will reach the speed limit in a sharpish 7.4 seconds but remains very driveable in normal traffic situations.
Pleasingly, it emits a rorty exhaust note – and for the practical-minded it still manages decent fuel economy of less than 8L/100km.
In terms of practicality, two-door machines like this rarely score well, yet the Koup delivers acceptable space and comfort to the front-seat passengers, while those in the rear are afforded decent access and reasonable space once they get there.
The boot is also relatively roomy – although it becomes more shallow the further items are pushed in, and the struts for the boot-lid tend to intrude into the load space, reducing its overall usefulness.
Still, these are relatively mild criticisms of a car that’s very affordably priced and that delivers plenty of value. Quite a coup for the Koup coupe, you could say.
KIA CERRATO KOUP TURBO DETAILS: Two-door, five-seat compact coupe with turbo-charged, four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
TECH STUFF: 1.6-litre, gasoline direct injection, turbo-charged four-cylinder engine produces 150kW@6000rpm; 265Nm@1750-4500rpm; six-speed automatic transmission with gearshift paddles.
FEATURES: Six airbags, stability control, ABS brakes, airconditioning, cruise control, electric windows and auto-folding mirrors.
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds, top speed 222km/h.
VERDICT: Sweet looks, with a punch.
BOTTOM LINE: $30,190 (plus on road costs).