First Impressions: 2010 Kia Forte Koup

Expert Reviews Kia

2010 Kia Forte Koup

By Alex Kramer


  • Gutsy 173 hp engine
  • Appropriately agile in the turns
  • Nicely finished interior for the money
  • Excellent value overall


  • Manual tranny needs refinement
  • Suspension could be a bit firmer
  • Styling is somewhat bland

Ahhh, to be young again. Footloose and fancy free, and looking for that perfect set of wheels with which to cruise into summer. But what to buy? A nice little pocket rocket should fit the bill, and luckily there are quite a few sporty compact cars available. Unfortunately, a quick look at favorites like the GTI or Civic SI and you’re in for some sticker shock, with prices starting well over the $20k mark.

Enter the new 2010 Kia Forte Koup. 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.

We recently had the opportunity to drive the Koup in the hills outside of Monterey, California, as well as on the racetrack at Laguna Seca. Although this is normally the land of expensive luxury sedans and exotic sports cars, the little Kia adapted well to its new environment and showed how much fun it can be to drive a car that punches well above its weight.

2010 Kia Forte Koup

Out on the road, the Koup gets up to speed quite quickly, courtesy of the optional 173 hp 2.4 L 4-cylinder engine (a 156 hp 2.0 L engine is standard in the base model). We were especially impressed by the gutsy torque output (168 lb ft), which provides plenty of punch at low rpms and allows you to leave the transmission in a higher gear instead of downshifting should you need to make a pass or climb a hill. Staying more in the middle of the rpm range also helps keep things harmonious, since the engine does get a bit thrashy towards the redline.

Kia was nice enough to provide several test cars, one equipped with the standard 6-speed manual transmission and the other featuring the optional 5-speed automatic. Although the manual tranny works fine, with a decent clutch and shifter, it still needs further refinement to compete with the likes of Honda, and we question the need for a 6th gear given the solid torque output. Switching over to the slushbox, we usually don’t expect much from automatics in this price range, but this one proved more than willing to kick down a few gears when flooring the throttle and is even quite smooth in the process.

Out on the track, the Koup proved that you don’t necessarily need an expensive sports car to have fun driving fast. Although the suspension tuning is perhaps a bit on the soft side, the Koup is still quite agile and plants itself nicely in the turns, and there is plenty of grip available from the 17 inch all season tires. Compared to class leaders such as the MINI Cooper or Mazda3, the Koup more than holds its own when it comes to handling and performance, and should compare very favorably in real world driving situations.

(Continued on page 2)

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  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    For a car company with out a great history why is this going up close in price with a company like Mazda. They have made awesome cars for 30 years or more?It really makes me think that maybe Mazda is under priced or KIA is kidding themselves . Does a history and tradition count for something over an upstart who 5 years ago was building reconstituted Mitsubishi and Opel’s . There still copying there design from world wide market place rather then there own design language. That’s not a mature company and will not get my money unless the price is very low.Korea is still long way off from being a world class builder.

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