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Motoring: Kia Koup sounds wonderful

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 10th, 2011

Regular readers would testify that I am a huge fan of the Kia Forte sedan, and its hatchback brother the Forte 5-door, but what about the sportier sibling, the two-door Koup?

Last year I tested the EX version of the Koup, which comes with a decent 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 156 hp. I liked it, but was not exactly bowled over by it. It was a practical everyday coupe, but nothing to get your heart pumping.

Kia hopes to address that with what we have on our page today. It is a Koup, but not only is it in the SX trim that gives it a much more exciting 2.4-litre, four-cylinder motor that produces 173 hp and 168 lb/ft of torque, but my test vehicle also came equipped with the Rpackage, which is a dealer-installed performance kit for the Koup.

What does the R-package do for you? Well first of all, it enhances the appearance with a body kit that includes a front skirt, side sills and a lip spoiler on its trunk lid.

It also wears gorgeous 18-inch Europa wheels with grippy Yokohama S-drive tires, and couple that with lowered Eibach performance springs and a front strut bar, this Koup can handle corners with much more enthusiasm. Even the steering gives good feedback as to what the front wheels are doing and placing this car into corners is easy.

Add all that to a performance exhaust, and what you get is a mean little pocket rocket that can deafen your entire neighborhood.

I'm serious about the noise thing; this car is loud, and not just loud when pushed — it is loud all the time. My wife hated the noise, saying it gave her a headache, while I enjoyed the high bass sound and would sneak away for a drive to enjoy the music it created.

Something I didn't enjoy was its clutch. The Koup SX has a hydraulic job, and it is simply awful when you just want to crawl around town smoothly. You don't get much feedback about its bite point and as a result I'd often have a jerky getaway as if I was a student learning to drive a stick shift for the first time. This is a shame because the six-speed manual gearbox is truly a delight to use. The shifts are nice and clean and they have a nice feel when it engages. So Kia if you're listening, just fix the clutch and it'll be a much nicer car to have.

The interior is a fairly nice place to be in. The seats are decent if not great, and all the switchgear seems to be in the right place. There is decent room for four people in here too, so it's practical, and if you do a lot of grocery shopping in one go, you'll be pleased to know that the trunk is simply massive. My only gripe about the interior is that the plastics look and feel cheap. I am sure nothing will break or squeak, but the interior quality won't make you smile either.

The pricing is not bad, though; a Koup SX with the six-speed manual is yours from $21,495 (Automatic is a $1,200 option). If you want all the goodies from the R-package line, then look to spend an extra $5,000. That might not be cheap, but since the Koup only sips gas — after all, even with my driving style I still managed to score 10- liters/100km in my week, it won't cost you much to run.

So how does this Koup SX-R compare with the Honda Civic Si coupe? The Kia is cheaper to buy, and has a better warranty. However, in the fun department it is not quite as good as the Civic Si. It comes a very close second, though, and that is really very impressive indeed.
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