We drive Kia’s new turbo Koup
By Minesh Bhagaloo in Seoul, South Korea
Next year will mark four decades that Korean automaker Kia has been building cars, with the Brisa the first passenger car range to leave its factory floor, back in 1974.
Kia, which opened its doors building bicycles in 1944, has since become a global player in automotive terms - doubling its sales worldwide in the past five years and proud bearer of the “world’s fastest growing automaker” title.
Keeping this momentum going is the third-generation Cerato Koup, due for South African release in time for Christmas. The launch is significant for two reasons: firstly, this will be SA’s first taste of turbo flavour from Kia, and secondly, the Koup heralds a new entry in the tightly-contested hot-hatch wars.
The Koup is the third prong in the Cerato trident, which also includes the sedan - launched in South Africa earlier this year - and the five-door hatch which will be introduced here later this week. The Cerato is also Kia’s best-selling range worldwide.
In terms of design, the new Koup gets some serious Gangnam Style lines, with the end product both sleek and futuristic in the metal. Kia’s renowned German design chief Peter Schreyer has penned an all-new successor that’s marginally longer, wider and higher, with a more-generous wheelbase for improved interior roominess. The wheelbase is said to be the longest in the segment, matching that of the Sorento.
Created at the company’s design centre in California, every exterior panel on the Cerato Koup – except the bonnet and front fenders – is new. The theme is “dynamic muscularity” and the Koup gets a cab-forward focus, a rising beltline, swooping C pillars and stylish, frameless doors. The “tiger nose” front grille is slimmer and deeper, the air intake wider and lower, and the badge has been moved.
The new Cerato Koup also gets a two-tone rear bumper with diffuser, and a boot-lid with LED tail lights and an aerodynamic shape. Interestingly, the boot-lid is 60mm wider than its predecessor for easier access, and capacity is quoted as 433 litres, which Kia reckons is one of the largest in its class.
The sporty theme continues inside the cabin, with soft-touch and carbon fibre-look surfaces evident. Space at the rear has grown too with head, leg and shoulder room all improved. New to the driver is the “organ-type” accelerator which follows a more natural movement of your foot, a greater steering adjustment range, and different dials dependent on the model (a TFT colour LCD setup is optional in overseas markets). Even the glove compartment is bigger.
Being a two-door Koup, the seatbelts gets extended guides for easier reach, which is a winner. Seats are wider, bolsters deeper – and rear passengers now get a folding centre armrest and cup-holders in the side panels. Rear seats drop for extending loading options, and the newcomer has reduced noise, vibration and harshness levels – thanks to a stiffer structure, vibration-damping frame mountings, and three-layer noise-lowering insulation.
Powering the new Koup in SA will be one petrol engine offering, a 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo, or T-GDI (Turbo-Gasoline Direct Injection) in Korean-speak - mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto ’box.
I drove it at the world media launch last week, and at first glance it certainly looks the hot-hatch part with its unique darker body finishes, dual-pipe freeflow exhaust, more aggressive body kit and lekker wheels.
Only auto derivatives of the T-GDI were on offer though, and if these are anything to go by Ford ST and VW GTI drivers have little to lose sleep over. The maker claims 7.4 seconds for the manual, and 7.7 for the auto over the 0-100km/h sprint, but the auto I drove felt significantly slower.
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. The Koup also suffers from that electric steering issue we’ve picked up in so many other Korean models, it won’t self-centre and feels vague – irrespective of the driver settings on offer.
The newcomer is very well built though, offering a plush and quiet ride - and was confident in handling terms, thanks to gas-filled dampers and a tweaked suspension set-up.
The last hurdle in the turbo Koup’s path may be pricing, with Kia SA talking about landing the car at around the R330 000 mark.
This may make it too much of an ask - as pretty as the new Koup is - with cars such as the entry-level Focus ST offering more power at a lower price. - Star Motoring
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