Australia has had a long held fascination to cars with just two doors, going back to the sixties with cars such as the XP Falcon in 1965 or the muscular Holden Monaro. There are others, such as the (at the time, Chrysler) Lancer of the early ’70s and the car best known for being being a two door, four cylinder powered car with sporting aspirations, the Celica. Of recent times the market has been somewhat sparse, with the Toyota/Subaru collaboration under the names of 86 and BRZ being perhaps the best known. Hyundai’s Veloster is technically a three door and now sister company Kia has thrown its hat into the ring, with the Kia Cerato Koup. A Wheel Thing sampled the entry level Si.
The Driven Heart
There’s two engines available for the Koup, the standard two litre GDI (gasoline direct injection) and the new turbo version, which will be evaluated soon. It’s effectively the same engine as used in the Rondo, tuned for slightly higher peak power and a touch less torque, with a high rpm point for both (129kW/6500 and 209Nm/4700). It’s a free revver, with Kia having gone for a touch of nostalgia at the other end, with a woofly sounding exhaust evoking memories of older British four potters. A six cogger manual is standard, whilst a sportsmatic auto is optional and supplied in the test car. It has a reluctance to hold the gear you select, with the electronic brain overriding the manual selection in order to reduce engine stress where ever possible. Fuel economy raised my eyebrow as well, with Kia’s own figures suggesting a plus ten litres per 100 klicks in an urban situation. An average figure of 9.5L/100kms was hovered around during the week; the only time it was sub nine was on the freeway based return journey to Kia HQ and saw 8.4L/100kms. For a vehicle that’s quoted as having a kerb weight of under 1400 kg and would be used around town that’s unsuitable, given a heavier Holden Commodore with a 3.6L engine can offer the same figures. I should point out the Koup spent most of its week in a purely urban environment and driven normally, rather than exuberantly as one might on a race track.
On The Road
The shift feel is crisp, whether using normal or manual shift on the auto, with no slurring from one to the next, with manual shift feeling just a touch quicker. Unfortunately, as a person that prefers a manual over an auto, the ‘box doesn’t hold the chosen gear when using the flappy paddles/sportshift, moving up or down at its own discretion. It negates, then, the point of offering a manual gear change choice.
The engine is willing and rorty, rarely feeling off song and once the torque band comes into play, feels strong and flexible. There’s no feeling of torque steer although the steering itself feels a touch numb on centre, moving into a well weighted feel left and right. It’s talkative in a muted way, providing feedback but doesn’t yell it through to the driver, nor is it prone to bump steer. The rear follows the front faithfully and rides bumps well, with no pogoing, settling back down flat quickly. There’s very little in the way of push understeer when punted hard into turns nor does any measure of oversteer become readily apparent, with the 215/45 rubber on attractive 17 inch alloys providing grip. It’s tied down well all around and feels controllable at all times. Under heavy braking there’s the expected pitch down but nothing outrageous; the brake pedal itself is balanced with only light pressure required to get a feel of something happening yet isn’t grabby either, with a good, progressive feel.
The Office Space
Being the entry level Si model, it’s a mix of carbon fibre look plastic against the traditional dimpled, ripple style contrasting with the almost suede feel flat black. It’s a budget car with a budget interior look; the radio is a 4.3 inch colour touchscreen with a matt finish, with simply laid out button for basic controls. The aircon is a single zone, three dial setup with an odd penchant for blowing warm air whilst the temperature dial was set to the coolest setting but with the aircon compressor switched off. Driver’s dials are minimalist, being two large ones for tacho and velocity housing fuel and temperature. They bracket a small monochrome screen with info displayed via a folder button mounted on the fully adjustable tiller. There’s also the now ubiquitous Bluetooth and Cruise buttons to be found here as well. The seats in the front, remembering it’s a base model and in two door configuration, are surprisingly comfortable and supportive enough. Access to the rear pews are via a lever mechanism high up on the shoulder of the seats, with all covered in a black and grey striped fabric. Of an ergonomic note is the location of the door grab handle; it’s where it should be in order to pull the door closed with a minimal effort just using the fingers. Fingers also pull the plastic paddle shifts hidden behind the steering wheel, placed exactly where a well trained driver would use them.
It’s a revamped look for the Cerato, losing the full angular look front and rear, being replaced by a softer, somewhat rounder look for the nose. A Billy Idolesque lip curling look comes into play, with the Schreyer grille compressed however the opening for air below is increased. The headlight cluster is more of a protuberant style, being laid back along and into the fender compared to the previous, whilst driving lights are the traditional round style. Tail lights are a refinement of the previous model, looking broader, wrapping around into the rear quarters yet look more integrated and featuring a smaller reverse lamp opening. The roofline folds back into a almost trapezoidal pillar before finishing in a integrated spoiler in the bootlid. A strong crease line from the wing mirrors draw the eye into the bootline and is balanced by a swage line that joins the front bumper to the rear.
Fuel economy aside, the Cerato Koup is a pearler. It doesn’t set out to do anything spectacular and achieves that immensely well. By doing so it exceeds the sense of purpose it was meant to have; it’s fun, handles well, has enough get up and go for most people and is reasonally well equipped (at Si level). Priced a lick over $26K, it’s really whetted my appetite for the Turbo. Head here: http://www.kia.com.au/showroom/cerato-koup for more on the range.