By: IOL Motoring Staff

Kia's third-generation Cerato Koup T-GDi, launched in South Africa this week, stirs the senses with designer Peter Schreyer's sporty front treatment, sleek profile, frameless doors and 18" alloys - but the big news is that, for once, it has a proper engine.

We're talking about an all-aluminium, 152kW/265Nm, 1.6-litre direct-injection turbopetrol four with an offset crankshaft and variable valve timing - as well as a free-flow transverse muffler with dual tailpipes set into the rear diffuser, that's tuned to deliver a rorty sound-track from just above idle to 4000rpm.

Six-speed transmissions are standard, whether you choose manual or auto.

LIVELY ENGINE

Denis Droppa, editor of our sister publication Star Motoring, drove the manual version on its local launch and described it as a strong performer.

"The T-GDI engine is a lively little performer with energetic acceleration and good midrange torque, with a notable lack of turbo lag."

However, Star Motoring's Minesh Bhagaloo was less than impressed with the auto version that he drove on the world launch in South Korea last September:

"It's hard to say whether it's the software or the old-school gearbox, but the new engine feels like it's barely boosting - to the extent that I had to double check the badge on the boot-lid."

According to Kia, the manual-gearbox Koup will dash to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds, while the auto version will take 7.7s.

As for the all-important handling aspect, the Koup's MacPherson-strut front suspension is mounted on a new, stronger sub-frame and the steering rack is 15mm closer to the axle line. Electric power-assisted steering is standard, as is FlexSteer, which provides three different settings (or weights) in Normal, Sport and Comfort modes; the effort required to turn the wheel varies with mode, says the maker, but the number of turns lock-to-lock remains the same.

Bhagaloo wasn't impressed, however.

"The Koup suffers from the electric steering issue we've picked up in so many other Korean models," he wrote. "It won't self-centre and feels vague - irrespective of the driver settings on offer."

He was more complimentary about the suspension, saying: "It offers a plush and quiet ride - and it's confident in handling terms, thanks to gas-filled dampers and a tweaked suspension set-up."

Braking is entrusted to 300mm ventilated front and 262mm solid rear discs backed by anti-lock braking with electronic brake-force distribution.

The new Cerato Koup is 50mm longer at 4530mm, 15mm wider at 1780mm and 20 mm higher at 1420mm than the previous model, and its wheelbase has been extended by 50mm to 2700mm.

HIGH-TECH FEATURES

Front overhang has been reduced by 15mm, while the rear overhang is 15mm longer and boot opening 60mm wider, over a boot capacity of 433 litres.

It has plush leather seats and soft-touch finishes on the upper door trims, dashboard, door armrests, door centre trim panels and the centre console, with faux fibr trim - incorporating the air vents - on the sides of the centre stack. A new organ-style accelerator pedal follows the natural movement of the driver's foot.

The B-pillars are further back than in the sedan so the front seat belts have extended guides to put them within reach, while the front seats have tilt-and-slide 'walk-in' access to the rear seats.

The extra volume of the body shell also allows more rear headroom (up 28mm) legroom (up 51mm) and shoulder room (up 15 mm), while providing space for a centre folding armrest, cup-holders in the side panel trim and a 60/40 spilt folding backrest.

Read Denis Droppa's full story in Star Motoring, Mercury Motoring or Drive Times this Thursday.

PRICES

Cerato Koup 1.6 T-GDi - R334 995

Cerato Koup 1.6 T-GDi AT - 346 995

Included are a five-year or 150 000km warranty, a five-year or 90 000km service plan and three-years' roadside assistance.