“Kia is the new Honda”, you may have heard people say, but perhaps a more appropriate likening would be to say that Kia is the new BMW. While that statement may seem farfetched, the Kia Koup proves why it’s more plausible than you might think.
No, the Kia isn’t rear-wheel driven, nor is it German, and more importantly it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg at a price of only R334 995. Unlike BMW, the Koup also comes laden with features included in the base price, rather than mile-long lists of options that leave you out of pocket. Amongst the standard features, the Koup includes air-con, Bluetooth, automatic headlights, cruise control, an auto-dimming mirror, leather upholstery, and keyless entry, with the only options available being a sunroof, GPS radio system and metallic paint.
But the Koup has style. The sleek two-door coupe, although not as bold as its predecessor, still remains a striking piece of machinery. From any angle, the Koup looks good, inside and out; with the carbon-look dash angled towards the driver inside, and the leather steering wheel and gear lever, and classy cabin accentuated by elements of aluminium such as the pedals.
But where the previous Koup had all the style in the world, it lacked any sort of enthusiasm to go anywhere. The new Koup has that remedied with a new 1.6-litre Turbo GDI engine, producing 152kW and 265Nm, and driving the front wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission that we had equipped on our test unit, although an automatic is also available.
Torque delivery feels typically turbocharged, and despite the maximum torque being made available from 1750rpm, one has to wait until about 3000rpm to receive the surge forward that you would expect from such claimed figures. The slug of torque is potent though, and when mated with carefully considered shifts of the slick, short-throw manual gearbox, a constant power-band is available providing the ability to rapidly devour kilometres of asphalt.
The gear shifts do need to be well-considered though, as despite having ample torque the low capacity engine does suffer from substantial turbo-lag and requires peak boost range to utilise all 265Nm of torque effectively. As such a certain amount of pre-emptive thought is needed, and concentrated foresight of the road ahead is vital as the slug of power provided after lag doesn’t always find its way cleanly to the ground.
The reason being that the suspension setup, although wonderfully pliant across all road surfaces, battles with the sudden lump of torque delivered at once. In a straight line under heavier acceleration it’s not uncommon to experience some torque steer, whilst around bends and corners, the unexpected torque often results in understeer. But the slightly wayward handling under heavier loads is forgivable, as the firm ride is well damped and offers fantastic absorption of imperfections in the road surface.
Combined with a classy cabin, insulated well against outside elements such as wind and road noise, the suspension played a vital role in adding a level of class superior to what the Koup’s price might suggest. But it isn’t classed beyond being a fun vehicle.
The core of the Koup seems to remain one of creating a fun driving experience. Proving power isn’t everything there is to a good car, the lively suspension and steering setup is smile inducing and keen to please at any speed. The Flex steer variable weight steering setup is poor at providing feedback through the electronically assisted system, but in ‘normal’ and ‘sport’ modes provides a well weighted feel to the steering with a keen turn in and relatively transparent responses to steering inputs.
On the whole, the Kia Cerato Koup aims to impress, but due to the turbocharged nature of the power delivery and the requirement to be higher in the rev range to have freely accessible power, fuel consumption was a bit on the heavy side, returning figures of 9l/100km over the period of our road test.
For the price and power of the Cerato Koup, you may be swayed in the direction of the Ford Focus ST1, whose performance credentials are far superior to the Kia’s. However, the Kia isn’t attempting to be a hot hatch – if you thought that then let me be the first to say you are greatly mistaken. The Koup provides coupe style and class, with sufficient poke beneath the bonnet and an extensive standard kit list, all at a bargain price. The Kia Cerato Koup is to this price and market segment what the BMW 2 Series is to the more affluent market, and in that way, Kia is the new BMW.
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152kW @ 6000RPM
265Nm @ 1750-4500RPM
6 Speed Manual
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|Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):||
Front Wheel Drive
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Author: Roger Biermann