2010 Kia Forte Koup SX
2010 Kia Forte Koup SX. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Kia Canada

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

Photo Gallery:
2010 Kia Forte Koup

Ottawa, Ontario – In little more than a decade, Kia has gone from “don’t bother” to “you-don’t-know-what-you’re-missing.” This rapid improvement has come largely thanks to parent company Hyundai and its efforts to improve the quality and marketplace perception of its vehicles.

With the Forte already in place as Kia’s new compact sedan, this two-door “Koup” version of the Forte makes this the Kia that goes where no Kia has gone before, as the brand’s first sporty car.

There is, of course, a difference between a sports car and one that is simply sporty, and the Forte Koup lands firmly in the latter category. Yes, it has two doors, a rakish profile and aggressive stance, characteristics that make it easy to draw comparisons with sub-$30,000 sportsters such as the Honda Civic Si and Chevrolet Cobalt SS, even if the top-rung Koup SX is priced well below either of those cars.

2010 Kia Forte Koup SX
2010 Kia Forte Koup SX. Click image to enlarge

Regardless of price, that’s some tough competition the Koup finds itself up against, if indeed Kia intends to attract shoppers looking for a hotted-up small car.

The SX model uses a 2.4-litre four-cylinder making 173 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine used in the Forte SX sedan, as well as in Kia’s mid-size Magentis, and it’s as impressive here as it is in those cars.

As well, my tester had the six-speed manual transmission that comes standard in the SX Koup (the lower-spec EX gets a five-speed stick, or a four-speed auto, while the optional tranny in the SX is a five-speed automatic). On paper, this is exactly what you want to see in a sporty car. In practice, though, this transmission is one of the car’s weak points.

The ropy shifter moves easily from gate to gate, but its throws are quite long. Likewise, the clutch is light but there’s little feel to the pedal. That and a touchy throttle make this car tough to drive smoothly at first – though, as with most less-than-perfect manual transmissions, you’ll get used to it after a few drives.

2010 Kia Forte Koup SX
2010 Kia Forte Koup SX. Click image to enlarge

The transmission’s gearing favours economy, with long ratios across the board; in sixth gear, the engine turns just 2,000 rpm at 100 clicks, and just 2,500 at 120 km/h. It makes this car feel liked a relaxed cruiser rather than a sportster, especially compared to a Honda Civic Si, with its tight gearing and snick-snick shifter.

Still, the tall gearing allows the engine to shine. The bulk of the big four’s generous mid-range torque comes on line around 2,500 rpm, but in the lower gears, there’s useful power available from 1,500 rpm; the engine revs willingly and smoothly right to its 6,500 r.p.m. redline, too. Altogether, it makes for a car that’s surprisingly quick and entertaining enough to drive, but it lacks the urgent, racy feel that a high-revving motor (like the Civic Si’s) or a torquey turbo mill (like the Cobalt SS’s) provides.

Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings for the Koup SX six-speed are 9.2/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway). Based on those figures, my tester’s real-world consumption suggests an engine that wasn’t fully broken in yet (it had about 1,300 km on it when I picked it up); I averaged 11.0 L/100 km in city driving, and 7.6 L/100 km on a 350-km highway drive.

2010 Kia Forte Koup SX
2010 Kia Forte Koup SX. Click image to enlarge

The long gearing helps keep engine noise down; wind and tire noise are well-controlled, too. All of this makes for relaxed highway driving, but it’s out of character for a sporty coupe. (The exhaust’s punky snarl is more what you’d expect in this car, but even this is inaudible from inside.)

Armchair racers will take the torsion-beam (semi-independent) rear suspension as an affront to all they believe in, but in reality, few drivers will find fault with the Koup, which is plenty of fun to toss around.

In sharp contrast to the torquey engine and relaxed gearing is the car’s suspension tuning. Kia apparently subscribes to the “stiff is sporty” school of thought. While it suits the attitude of the car and will likely appeal to many of Kia’s target buyers, it gets to be too much, very quickly, particularly for rear-seat passengers. As well, the 45-series, 17-inch tires make the car feel skittish over broken pavement. The Koup EX’s softer suspension, though it softens the chassis’ responses, would be preferable in everyday driving.

Pages: 1 2 All

Connect with Autos.ca