Although Kia hits the mark with the numbers, it completely misses the mark with how those numbers are transferred from the engine to the rubber on the road. Quite simply, the jumpy and unpredictable drive-by-wire throttle combined with an extremely vague, almost nonexistent clutch made pulling away from a stop in a smooth manner nearly impossible. Anyone standing on a street corner would think you were a rank amateur upon hearing the over-revving engine and slipping clutch. In nearly 20 years of driving manual transmissions, never have I had such difficulty as I did with the Forte Koup.
And once moving, shifts which usually require a little gas for smooth execution only result in continued over-revving. Eventually, I just gave up giving it gas and just let the clutch out, and behold, it shifted smoothly.
In the handling department, the Forte Koup is adequate. It turns the skidpad at a respectable .85 G, which is actually impressive when you consider the Koup sports an archaic rear beam axle suspension. Competitors like the Civic and Mazda 3 all have modern independent rear suspensions. The rear beam axle also explains the somewhat harsh ride characteristics, as well as the unsettled tail wagging when the Koup hits a bumpy patch of road.
The Koup won’t inspire you to hit the windiest mountain road three surrounding counties, but at the same time, it handles well enough to have fun hucking it into corners during your daily commute. In other words, a vast majority of Koup buyers will find it plenty sporting.
Although the Koup’s interior design isn’t as pleasing to the eye as the exterior, it is not unsightly, and it gets the job done simply and efficiently. It offers an abundance of hard plastics, but is balanced nicely with the piano black lacquered finish on the center stack. The center mounted speedometer features bright backlighting with a red halo, which is terrific during the day, but once night falls, the instrument cluster lighting is almost as bright as the headlights of oncoming traffic.
The center stack is very straightforward, and considering its a sub-$20,000 car, there aren’t many features beyond the basics to clutter up the dash. However, for the money, the Koup offers an incredible list of features not limited to Bluetooth integration, USB/iPod interface, SIRIUS satellite radio, power everything, keyless remote and more.
One real cheeseball feature which we’re not sure why anyone would care about is the LED ring around the front speakers which can adjust to be always on, always off, “mood”-based pulsation (however that’s measured) or pulsate to a song’s bass line. All of this is controlled by a retractable knob underneath the dash on the driver’s side. But it just begs the question ‘why?’ In our opinion, all a feature like this does is cheese up an otherwise classy package.
The faux leather seats are well bolstered and comfortable, with nice detailed touches like red stitching. Rear seat legroom is surprisingly good. In fact, it’s even good for a full-size sedan, let alone a compact coupe. But if you’re 6 feet or taller, unless you have a raging case of scoliosis, your head’s going to be greasing up the roofliner.
Trunk space is on-par with competitors, and by flipping down the rear seats, we were easily able to fit a mountain bike in the back.
Part of what makes the Koup so attractive is the blend of different styling cues applied to the body. It offers a strange combination of Audi A4, Chevy Camaro and Infiniti G coupe – all cars priced double what the Koup goes for. Additional touches like the faux rear diffuser and twin chrome tailpipes, 17-inch alloys and the copperhead paint job – which we really like – makes for a car that turns a lot more heads than it otherwise would.
Although there are no current NHTSA ratings for the Forte Koup, at least in the equippage department, the Koup is geared for safety. A long list of acronym-riddled standard features include ABS, EBD, ESC, TCS, TPMS and LATCH – a new one on us, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.
The Koup offers airbags aplenty with the standard front ones, seat mounted side bags and full-length side curtain bags. Plus the Koup’s nearly 3000 pound weight is sturdy enough to feel like you’re not a rolling target of Hummer H2s.
Of the minor faults we’ve highlighted with the Koup, when it comes to the value department, those faults simply fall to the wayside. The Forte Koup offers an incredible value, in fact, we think the best value of any car in its class. Base price for our SX is $17,695. As equipped with the Leather Package and power sunroof, total MSRP was a tick over $20,000. Then throw in the classic Kia 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and the value shoots up even higher. We used to think the Scion tC was the best sub-compact coupe value going, but no longer. The Forte Koup is on a level by itself.
Who Should Buy It?
The Forte Koup offers an ideal blend of sportiness and practicality. It’s probably not sporty enough for a pure driving enthusiast, but plenty sporty enough for daily drivers, especially those accustomed to the lifeless banality of modern Toyotas. Because the appeal of this car is so wide, the better question would be – who shouldn’t buy it? We think the aforementioned enthusiast shouldn’t, because, they’ll most likely get the six-speed manual, and they’ll most likely be screaming bloody murder at the temperamental throttle/clutch.
This must be what Kia’s ad campaign considers “The Power to Surprise”. Surprised the hell out of me, that’s for sure. It seems to have surprised airport security guy too, not to mention the poor sap who dumped 100 big ones on a Porsche Panamera, only to get chided by the same man who just seconds before was fawning over a $20,000 Kia.
For a first attempt, Kia has put together a world-class offering. The combination of styling, performance, quality and features all make for the best compact coupe value going. Or should we say, the best Kompact Koupe value going.
|MORE EXPERT REVIEWS|
|2010 Kia Forte Koup Review – Kopious Kar for the Kash
By Kurt Gensheimer
“Behold, the very first Kia that you’d actually want to be seen in.”
|First Impressions: 2010 Kia Forte Koup
By Alex Kramer
“With athletic styling, a willing engine, nice interior, and starting at just over $16k, the Koup should get lots of attention from eager teenagers pining for their first car, or anyone looking for something sporty that won’t break the bank.”
2010 Kia Forte Koup SX Specs
|The official website of Kia Motors – www.kia.com|
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