This is how I approached the new Kia Cerato Koup - as Kia’s own attempt at taking on a totally different market, namely the performance segment. This third-generation Cerato is the second attempt by the Korean manufacturer to create a sporty vehicle. Remember the previous-generation Koup? It was undeniably a great-looking car but its naturally aspirated engine left much to be desired.
The styling of a coupé is one of the most important aspects of the car and I believe that Peter Schreyer has done a great job yet again. It isn’t as pretty as the previous generation model, but at the same time it does strike a more modern silhouette.
There is a good combination of gloss black, chrome, LED lighting and even carbon-look materials used up front and at the rear, while those 18-inch wheels just finish the car off perfectly. There’s even a carbon-look rear diffuser with a tailpipe on either side to add to its sporting appeal.
There is a practical side to the Koup too. It is some 50mm longer (4 530mm), 15mm wider (1 780mm) and 20mm higher (1 420mm) than the vehicle it replaces. It has a large 433-litre boot and the rear quarters (51mm more legroom and 28mm more headroom) are definitely big enough for adults to use.
Gone is that older 2.0-litre unit and in its place a new 152kW/265Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre Gamma T-GDI engine. The difference in performance is truly impressive - the Koup is now a properly fast car. Claimed figures for the six-speed manual we had on test were a 0-100km/h time of 7.4 seconds with a top speed of 222km/h.
The figures are totally believable and at the Koup’s new price of R334 995, they have to be as it now competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Scirocco, the Mini Cooper S coupé and even the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 duo.
Often when a car is turbocharged, it is muted and that can take away from the experience. I am happy to report that Kia has included a sporty free-flow muffler that is especially audible between 1 000rpm and 4 000rpm. The sound reminds me of a high-power Honda VTEC.
The interior is a nice place to be with leather seats, soft-touch materials and a colour LCD cluster with a built-in 4.2-inch TFT centre screen. The front seat belts have even been fitted with extended guides to put them within easy reach of the front seat occupants. There are also a few practical additions, such as a large glove box, centre and door cup holders and two console boxes, one behind and one in front of the gear lever.
The handling is decent thanks to independent MacPherson strut front suspension and coupled torsion beam axle at the rear. The steering rack has been moved forward by 15mm to deliver improved feel, however, the MDPS electric power-assisted steering still provides a strange feeling to the drive. It doesn’t matter which mode is selected on the FlexSteer system, there is still that artificial feeling.
Overall the new Koup is a great car. You get quite a bit of bang for your buck. For a similar price you will struggle to find a rival that offers the same sort of specification and performance combo. The only problem is the brand cache, as Kia has only just arrived on the performance scene. It is amazing to note the progress that the brand makes with each passing generation.
The Kia Cerato Koup 1.6 Turbo GDi manual comes with a 5-year/150 000km warranty and 5-year/90 000km service plan.