Metroland Media for Wheels.ca
LOS ANGELES: Kia?s slogan is ?The Power To Surprise? and they?ve done it again with the 2014 Forte Koup.
The Kia Forte Koup was one of the first designs of Peter Schreyer whose styling acumen vaulted him to industry stardom, and most recently to president, the first non-Korean to head the company.
The idea was simple enough. Take the Forte sub-compact and make it a sporty car with the now famous signature ?Tiger Mouth? grille, a swoopy coupe roofline and a ton of content.
The 2014 Forte Koup as it is officially known (we?ll just call the Koup from here on) shares almost everything mechanically with the 2014 Forte5, five-door hatchback that was launched simultaneously with the Koup in California.
But they are really two different cars, thanks to what the engineers can do with suspension and drive trains, as I was to find out.
The Forte5 will be dealt with as a separate story because of the difference in temperament between the two, but also the vast array of content.
Looking at both cars sitting side by side during the Canadian press preview, you knew they were the same under the skin but they looked different, which is sure to make dealers happy when buyers come in and wander around the showroom.
Obviously the Forte5 and Koup are aimed at divergent demographics.
Kia says it is one of the three brands (the other two being Mazda and Scion) attracting the youngest buyers in Canada. The average age of a Kia buyer is 46. The Koup buyer is 43.
Besides standout style, what?s included on the car and price are dealmakers or breakers for this group.
There are two Koup trim levels beginning with the entry level EX that starts at $20,995 and comes with standard amenities sure to attract this buyer profile.
Some of these include: UVO infotainment with rear camera display, dot-matrix type LCD cluster, leather-wrapped steering wheel, FlexSteer, auto folding outside mirrors and LED front positioning headlights.
The SX that starts at $23,695 includes everything on the EX then ups the ante with 18-inch wheels as opposed to 17-inch on the EX, aggressive front fascia with larger bumper and grille openings, black gloss grille inserts and outside mirrors, larger front brakes, alloy sport pedals, Smart key and LED taillight technology.
The EX uses Kia?s latest direct injection 2.0-litre inline DOHC four-cylinder with 171 hp and 154 lb/ft of torque equipped with an in-house designed six-speed manual transmission. Opting for the six-speed automatic adds $1,200 to the sticker price.
Before it was released for use, this engine was run for 300 hours at the redline followed by another 20 hours at 10 per cent above redline.
The SX pumps up the ponies with a 1.6-litre twin turbo inline four-cylinder with 201 hp and 195 lb/ft of torque. Again, a six-speed manual is standard, with the six-speed automatic available for $1,200 more.
Suspension is MacPherson struts up front and a rear twist beam with the Koup getting a sportier set up than the Forte5.
I am pleased Kia thinks a manual transmission is important. Yes, it is cheaper than an automatic but so much more fun.
It gives a sense of control you just can?t get with an automatic even with sequential shifting and/or double clutches.
Seating in the Koup is snug thanks to the seat side bolstering, but it starts to feel good when you adjust seating position to eye level ahead and to the side through the outside mirrors.
The turbo SX manual tested here is the most sporting and, for those who like to drive, is the most attractively priced at $23,695.
First-to-third gears on the Koup are more performance oriented than those in the Forte5 Hatchback. Launch is huge fun with the torque all there from the moment the clutch bites, even with standard low rolling resistance tires.
With the electric power steering comes FlexSteer that weights the feel of the steering input in three modes ? Normal, Comfort and Sport. Normal is what you would expect while Comfort is for long-distance highway cruising and Sport makes the steering tauter for those who drive briskly.
The turbo gathers speed very quickly with not a lot of engine noise and no boost lag I could sense. My co-driver didn?t believe it was a turbo because of the lag-free engine response, until he opened the hood and checked for himself.
One thing that was bothersome was changing into first gear at a stop. More than once, the shifter slotted into third which caused me to bog down. From then on I had to make a conscious decision to move the lever as far over to the left as possible.
With just 1,450 km on the odometer, the trouble was the transmission?s newness. The springs that help move the shifter to the right slot were probably still stiff, something which would improve over time. This was the case with some Mazda MX-5 Miatas I?ve driven over the years.
The UVO infotainment system made in conjunction with Microsoft is probably the way to go. You?ll have to pay $28,295 for the SX Lux, which brings the eight-inch navigation/infotainment system. By the same token the Lux also includes sunroof, leather trim and a heated/cooled driver seat.
And for those who want an automatic, autoboxes across the Forte5/Koup board come with an Eco mode that does help stretch the mileage, as I found out previously on the Kia Optima sedan.
Until now, affordable hot compact coupes like the Civic Si and Scion tC have had this niche pretty well to themselves.
But now there is the 2014 much-enhanced Koup that really does have the Power to Surprise.
Kia Koup 2014 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Compact sports coupe
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual/automatic transmission
ENGINE: 2.0-litre direct injection inline four-cylinder (171 hp, 154 lb/ft); 1.6-litre two-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder (201 hp, 195 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 2.0-litre manual, 9.0/6.1L/100 km city/highway, automatic, 8.9/6.9L/100 km; 1.6-litre, manual, 9.4/6.8L/100 km, automatic, 9.3/6.0L/100 km
CARGO: 376 litres
PRICE: EX, $20,995-$23,095; SX, $23,695-$28,295 not including $1,465 shipping fee