Kia has, in recent times, developed a reputation for building quality, affordable cars and, thanks to having Peter Schreyer at the helm of design department, the cars have a reputation for being pretty stylish, too. The Korean carmaker has taken huge leaps forward since the days of poor quality and dodgy reliability, but there was always one area in which the firm fell short of its much more established rivals. But not anymore…
That area was always the engine department. When rivals like Volkswagen were claiming multiple Engine of the Year gongs with its diminutive force-fed offerings and Ford was developing the brilliant EcoBoost engines, Kia seemed to be stuck in the dark ages with larger, less efficient and less powerful units. However, with the introduction of the all-new Cerato Koup, Kia will also, for the first time locally, be introducing its 1.6-litre direct-injection turbo mill.
The new engine delivers 150kW at 6 000rpm and 265Nm from 1 750-4 500rpm, which is enough to get the Koup from standstill to 100kph in 7.4 seconds when fitted with the six-speed automatic transmission, while it will go on to a top speed of 222kph. Furthermore, combined fuel consumption is claimed at 6.9l/100km. On paper, the Koup has all the right credentials and a decent balance of performance and efficiency, but what’s it like when it hits the Tarmac?
Well, for the most part, it doesn’t disappoint. We were given the opportunity to sample the new car at Taebaek Race Park about four hours outside of Seoul in Korea, and the engine itself feels like a huge step forward from the previous Koup’s 2.0-litre atmo unit and power delivery is smooth, linear and easy to modulate – I have to say, though, it’s just a pity about that automatic gearbox… In my opinion its just a mood killer and, although I never got to sample the stick-shift on the launch, I can only imagine it would be better than the lethargic auto.
Both automatic and manual are six-cog ’boxes and, though the auto comes with paddle shifters, it’s not the kind of gearbox that inspires you to get involved and use them. The short and twisty circuit at Taebaek meant plenty of gearchanges, but I had more fun focusing on clipping points and leaving the gearbox to do its own thing than I did fighting with it to find certain gears.
That said, the rest of the Koup makes for a pretty impressive package. The engine, we’ve established, is definitely right up there and, although it’s not groundbreaking in any way, as a first attempt for Kia it’s a real success. Styling is another area in which the Koup has taken a big step forward in my opinion. Much more curvaceous than the outgoing model, the new two-door Cerato still has plenty of presence and a sporty, aggressive stance.
With MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam set-up at the rear, the handling is, well, as you’d expect. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it but, of course, it’s not going to make you feel like a driving god, either – so you may not win the race in the corners, but it’s more than capable of putting a smile on your face, there’s no doubt in my mind about that.
Inside, tanbgible quality is yet another leap in the right direction. The Koup, although not quite premium, makes use of better materials to make for a more comfortable and cosseted experience. NVH levels have been enhanced, as has safety, with electronic stability control and vehicle stability management as well as up to six airbags.
Local specification is yet to be confirmed, but the all-new Cerato Koup should be with is in November this year. Pricing, also yet to be confirmed, ought to sit below the R300 000 mark, and although talk is that we may only be getting the automatic transmission (this is part of the spec that needs to be confirmed), I do hope Kia manages to source some manual models.
On the whole, Kia is offering a genuinely enticing package with the new Koup. It’s stylish, the engine is great, quality is good and it remains as affordable as ever. This is car that deserves to do well in the local market, but at the very least you can expect a bit of a segment shake-up from it. - Richard Macaskill