New Kia Koup seeks to turbocharge sales

RACY IN RED: Kia's new Cerato Koup.
RACY IN RED: Kia's new Cerato Koup.

There's one important detail about Kia's new Cerato Koup - it's the first Kia to be sold in New Zealand with a turbocharged petrol engine.

Powered by the same 150 kilowatt 1.6-litre engine as that aboard the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, it is clearly the most performance-oriented car yet to be imported to New Zealand by the fast-growing South Korean manufacturer.

With it, Kia New Zealand is aiming for an improved sales performance in a market segment currently dominated by the Toyota 86 coupe. Not that the company intends out-selling the 86, mind you - it plans to sell about one Koup a week, which is a lot less than the 221 sales achieved so far this year by the Toyota two- door.

But that level of sales will still be considerably better than those achieved by the last Koup which, like this latest model, is a two-door version of the Cerato range of hatchbacks and sedans.

And one reason for the increased sales will be because the new Koup is a snappier performer than before.

Whereas the new Cerato hatchbacks and sedans have normally-aspirated 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre engines that develop up to 129 kilowatts of power and 209 newton metres of torque, the Koup's engine offers 150kW and 265Nm, with the torque available from just 1750rpm.

This, plus the fact the new vehicle is considerably more rigid than the previous model, and with a suspension package that has been made sportier than the Cerato sedan or hatch, makes the Koup one of the sharpest performers on the coupe market.

Sharp pricing, too - a single SX model goes onto the market with an RRP of $42,990, which not only is $7000 cheaper than the Veloster with the same engine, but which also undercuts the price of an equivalently-specified Toyota 86.

Created at Kia's American design centre in California, the new Koup shares only its bonnet and front fenders with the other Cerato models. All the rest of the bodyshell is unique to this car, and it looks nice.

This is particularly the case at the front, where there is a new slim-line grille with carbon fibre-looking inserts, flanked either side by projection-style headlights with daytime running lights.

Meanwhile, in stark contrast to the previous Koup the rear is smooth and rounded, with the boot lid featuring an integrated spoiler.

Kia says that unlike most other two-door coupes, the Koup is designed to seat up to five people.

It shares the same seating layout as the other Cerato models, thanks to a wheelbase that is 50mm longer than before, which in turn has translated to 51mm more legroom, 15mm more shoulder room, and 28mm more headroom. It also has an impressively large boot, which can accommodate 433 litres with all seats in use, even with a full- sized alloy spare wheel.

The rear seats also split and fold 60:40 for more room if required.

Specification is to the same level as SX versions of the Cerato sedan and hatch, and standard items include remote keyless entry, alarm, power windows, powered and heated door mirrors with puddle lamps, front and rear parking sensors with camera display, steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, a six- speaker audio system with Bluetooth, multifunction trip computer, leather upholstery, dual zone climate control, drinks cooler in the glovebox, xenon headlights, LED daytime driving lights with front fog lamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels shod with low profile tyres.

There's also factory-fitted satellite navigation featuring a seven-inch screen, and the Suna live traffic update technology which at this stage provides real- time traffic information for drivers in the Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch regions.

The big news about the new Kia Koup is its powertrain. A twin-scroll turbocharged unit, it can accelerate the car to 100kmh in 7.4 seconds which Kia NZ says is a full second quicker than a Toyota 86 auto - and it adds that the auto Koup is three-tenths of a second faster than the manual model which can be purchased to indent order. It handles well, too. A drive programme as part of a media conference in Auckland quickly showed the Koup to be firmer in the ride than the other Cerato models, and this is due to combination of its 18-inch wheels and tyres, and the specially prepared suspension.

Like the other Cerato models, the suspension is a so-called Anzac setup which has been fine-tuned by Kia engineers in Australia to better suit road conditions and driving preferences in our part of the world.

But for the Koup this work has gone further, with springs and shocks made even firmer, and steering is now the Kia/Hyundai conglomerate's Flex Steer system that allows the driver to choose Normal. Sport and Comfort settings.

The car also gets equal length driveshafts to eliminate torque steer that often comes with a turbocharged vehicle.

The Koup's brakes are also beefier than the other Ceratos, featuring 300mm discs at the front instead of 282mm on the standard cars.

While this latest Koup probably rates as the warmest Kia to arrive in New Zealand thus far, it will only hold that title for about six months. At last week's media event the company's general manager Todd McDonald confirmed a genuine hot hatch - the European-sourced Procee'd GT - will be arriving here.

The Press