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Published on Thu, Aug 19, 2010
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
2010 KIA Forte Koup SX Story by Doug Stokes (words by Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary) ADVISORY: If you haven’t read a review of a KIA product in the past few years, please remain seated and take a couple of deep breaths before you continue reading… Thank you. STORY: Having just come off a week’s drive of a new 2010 KIA Forte Koup, I am still cocking my head to one side and saying (out loud, but under my breath): “Whoa, that’s cool!” (in this case the word cool is spelled “kool” of course).
Most likely this is not big news, as KIA has been climbing up the quality ladder step-by-step for a number of years now. But this car, de-badged, could be taken for almost any of the product from any one of the better-regarded car-builders from anywhere on the globe you’d care to call out. Let’s go right to the numbers: $20,090.00. That’s what the sticker says right after “Total Manufacturing Suggested Retail Price.” And that, in my humble opinion is a pretty darn good bargain, one that, if you are in the mood for a sporty (looking and handling) two-door, you really should look carefully at before springing for something else, even if your budget allows for more to be applied to the purchase. Looks (sometime) are NOT deceiving. Our Koup, LOOKED sporty/racer/eager and WAS sporty/racer/eager.
There is much to interest the eye with this one, with some great contours that sweep back from the hood (right at the edge of the front door) right back to the tail with it’s complimentary lower swoop that reverses just before the read wheel well. There’s a version of the tall front grille style with, what look’s like (isn’t … yet) the perfect place for an intercooler to nestle down in the more dense air near the road surface. The edge angle of this blacked-out area are perfect, splaying out at the bottom to make the car look more broad and low. The old standby term ground-hugging comes to mind. There’s also a stance that gives this machine a clear air of confidence—again, the visual impression is fully backed up with a short (enthusiastic) test drive. All of the lines of this car are clean and, yes, there are a couple lines that evoke of other brands, but, in each case, only the best features have been paid tribute to by the KIA design crew. Form does, after all, tend to follow function, and there’s not a miscue that I can observe anywhere. In fact, most of the people who admired my “new ride” during the week we drove it were of the “THAT’S a KIA? … Whoa!” school of car connoisseurship. Yeah, and the interior was just as inviting with nicely-placed controls and an easy-to-read/use dash display that did its job without overdoing the design aspect. Contemporary without being cute, cluttered, or mannered. Maybe ‘smooth’ best explains the mood.
This Sport (Capital, bold S) model came into our hands with a crisp six-speed manual and a single clutch. The single clutch is really plenty if you are cool with the gear-changing, I know that twin-clutches are cool, but this power transmission set-up was plenty nice and gave as good as the stick operator asked. Third gear with the powerful (173 horsepower, 168 pound-feet of torque) 2.4-liter engine in the SX edition was a particularly nice shot from 40 to 75 miles per hour. This strong, smooth double overhead cam engine comes equipped with one of the true marvels of the (automotive) age: CVCC or continuously variable valve timing. With this feature, once the domain of only the highest of the high-zoot automobiles, the engine can run smoothly and economically at low revs/light load and yet do a full-on impression of Doctor Bruce Banner when asked to abruptly. (I actually like what happens when you kick this machine in the gas, the best explanation is that the engine feels turbocharged when actually the valve timing is being seamlessly optimized to the demand … slick stuff.) Best news of all here is that the suspension is well up to the “Sport” moniker that’s so often misused when it comes to providing seriously aggressive handling in many cars. I surprised myself (and a couple of colleagues who were watching at a safe distance) with the kind of tenacious grip this relatively inexpensive front wheel drive car had on a local racetrack’s parking lot drift track.
If you want a smoother ride than this, please don’t buy the SX version and spend all your time complaining about the rough ride. The EX Koup is for you with the same great looks, slightly less horsepower and torque (156/144) and far less assertive underpinnings. At that point you’ll want KIA’s very competent four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission in there too. With the standard side of the price tag taking up the whole column, the optional extras side of the ledger has but two items: the heated leather seat package ($1,000 even) and the very slick power moonroof (bargain-prices at only $700). For me, you can drop the perforated leather package (although I do like heated seats) and keep the opening top. Everything else on this one was included in the $17,695 that precedes the seats and the hole in the roof. Which means that ALL of the below (and much more are included along with a 10/100,000-mile powertrain warranty). Four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes with assist, Traction control, Electronic stability control, Air conditioning (with tinted, solar glass), an AM/FM/CD/MP3 Audio system with six speakers, Sirius (first three months free—this is like the old drug dealer giving you your first hit for free…I’d drive anything to be able to spend a week listening to the Sinatra channel), Blue tooth (with a cool little “hands free” microphone mounted on the headliner just above the upper edge of the driver’s door), power everything (everything).
WHAT THE HECK IS THAT! I had been driving a few hours and when darkness finally fell, that’s when I noticed something strange and possibly foreboding in my low peripheral vision. What was attacking my left ankle? Red eyes flashed … (wait a minute) … in time to the music? This car has a damn disco speaker deal that you can have on (or off luckily) that lights a color ring around the speakers … in time to the music. Okay with me, but where’s the OFF switch? Add a set of really smart looking black over silver alloy wheels, rear view mirrors with integrated turn indicators, and a high-tech Formula-styled rear diffuser (that’s the under-rear of the car, getting a bit of aero-help to slip through the airstream more easily). Slipping through the air cleanly is good for fuel mileage too and Uncle Sugar call this one: 22/32 meaning that, out on the open road, this aero package must be very truthful. That’s good use of a gallon of regular anywhere. The power steering system in this car was one of the best parts of the ride. Very strong on-center and great road feel do not have to make a car feel nervous or flighty (ever driven a Porsche?). All small car engineers (from every car company that makes over 100 cars annually) should be required to drive one of these Forte Koups for three days minimum to see what good steering feedback without fatigue feels like. Congrats on that KIA!
This is a two door coupe (“KOUP”) but the trunk came out of some mid-sized sedan somewhere. Wide, deep, and with a very reasonable lift-over height, this coupe will hold the luggage for two in the (relatively) easy-to-get-to back seat as well as for the two up front. We forgot to mention that the front seat space for passenger and driver is excellent, so we’ll add that here. Like (almost all) new cars this one has an e-throttle (“drive-by-wire” is the common term). It would still needs a bit of tweaking for race-fast shifts and double-clutch downshifts (it is just a quarter-click slow to react to a quick throttle blip). But for everyday sporting use it worked just fine and dandy. In ten years from now, when everyone will have driven with an e-throttle (and the engineers put just a tiny tweak into the one that comes with the manual trans) no one will miss the directness of mechanical cable and bellcranks of old. 24-hour roadside assistance comes standard here too, as do an easy-on-the-back six-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that’s instantly-adjustable for up and down as well as nearer and farther away. In short this car is an altogether attractive package of top features at a most reasonable price. As we said earlier, you really owe it to yourself to include this marque in your short list of car makers when thinking sports coupe. You’ll be pleasantly surprised and (if you step up to the autograph phase of the negotiation) likely have enough money left over for a decaf double latte with light whipped cream and cinnamon on the way home from the dealer. That is if you can stop having all that fun driving to take time for a cup. For more information about KIA products, go to kiausa.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 KIA Forte Koup SX Price: $17,695 (base) $19,395 (as tested—includes SX leather package and power sunroof) EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 22 city / 32 highway Engine: 2.4-liter 16-valve DOHC CVVT four-cylinder engine Horsepower: 173 at 6000 rpm Torque: 168 pound-feet at 4000 rpm Transmission: Six-speed manual Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Independent front suspension, front stabilizer bar, torsion beam rear suspension, sport-tuned Brakes: Front and rear power-assisted disc brakes, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BAS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), and Traction Control System (TCS) Wheels and tires P215/45R17 tires and alloy wheels Dimensions Length: 178.3 inches Width: 69.9 inches Height: 57.5 inches Curb weight: 2853 pounds