ROAD TEST: Kia Cerato Koup T-GDi
Johannesburg - Nowadays there's little doubt that the Koreans are capable of creating stylish, good quality cars. But let's not beat around the bush here - until now, words such as 'performance' and 'excitement' had yet to be muttered in the same sentence as Kia or Hyundai.
With Hyundai's Veloster Turbo still on the way, the new Kia Cerato Koup T-GDi is the car that gets to deal that perception a devastating blow.
Like its predecessor, the latest Koup has a sleek, low-slung three-box coupé profile, yet Kia's California design team, under the direction of Peter Schreyer, has endowed the longer and wider new-generation Koup with a more mature style. It's certainly easy on the eye and borderline-enticing, but hardly radical or traffic-stopping.
And that, folks, rather neatly sums up the overall driving experience offered by Kia's first real attempt at an exciting car, despite the fact that it trumps it predecessor with a significantly more powerful turbo engine.
The 1.6-litre direct-injection turbopetrol delivers a healthy-enough 152kW at 6000rpm and 265Nm from 1750rpm. Yet performance and power delivery is far from the slap-you-in-the-face, push-you-back-in-the-seat variety. There's practically no lag on pull-off and it winds its way smoothly and consistently through the rev range, picking up speed in a deceptive fashion.
Zero to 100km/h took 8.4 seconds in Gauteng, so it's no ball of fire off the mark yet I'd rate it as a satisfying overall performer and rapid overtaker.
It's no bag of thrills through the bends either and the sensation through the steering wheel is more numb than communicative, even with the Flexsteer adjustable assistance system dialled into its firmest setting.
Yet the Koup does have an edge over most 'hot' cars in this bracket when it comes to comfort. Forget that bone-jarring experience you'd normally expect in a boy racer's tool - this Kia provides a surprisingly supple ride quality. Those shocks and springs appear to be tuned more for comfort than track hooligan antics and this is a car that you could happily drive everyday.
Its sensible disposition continues in the cabin where rear legroom is actually quite decent and there's sufficient rear headroom for anyone who's not too much taller than average. Build quality is rock-solid and the surfaces are of a decent quality, but the basic design of the facia is uninspiring - it's definitely more business that party in here.
There's only one specification grade available and it packs in leather seats, a 4.2-inch colour touch screen, six-speaker sound system, dual zone climate control, cruise control, reverse camera and start button. It won't leave you wanting much and the only significant optional feature here is a sunroof.
WHERE DOES IT FIT IN?
The latest Koup has a relatively racy look to it and it comes with the bragging rights of a sophisticated turbo engine that's powerful for its size. There is, clearly, a fair dose of street cred that comes built into this showy coupe, but if you're the boy-racer type then don't let this car deceive you.
The best description that comes to mind here is a phrase that VW coined for its CC 'coupe sedan' a few years ago: Comfort Coupe. Unlike the confusingly positioned VeeDub, this is a proper coupe and it is truly comfortable for something trying to be this sporty. It will satisfy you in most situations with its effortless performance, smooth ride as well as its quiet and roomy cabin.
Given that the previous Koup cost just a notch over 200K, many potential buyers might find the R334 995 price tag a bit hard to swallow. But take a look at what else is out there for the price after our rand's recent bout of low self-esteem and the latest Koup does provide somewhat reasonable bang for the buck - even if it no longer sits in the bargain box.
It won't necessarily ignite your automotive passion or make you weak at the knees, but it could tick a lot of boxes for those looking for something semi-sporty, but without all the sporty compromises.
Kia Cerato Koup T-GDi
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual/automatic
Power: 152kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 265Nm @ 1750 - 4500rpm
0-100km/h (tested): 8.4 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 224km/h
Consumption (claimed): 7.2 litres per 100km
Price: R334 995
Warranty: Five-year/1500 000km
Service plan: Five-year/90 000km
Renault Megane RS (195kW/360Nm) - R359 900
Toyota 86 2.0 High (147kW/205Nm) - R365 200
VW Scirocco 1.4 TSI (118kW/240Nm) - R342 500