SHOW and go. The new Kia Cerato Koup has the pace to match the face.
Now available with a turbocharged engine, the Kia Koup is the most powerful vehicle you can get in this genre for those shopping in the less than 30 grand aisle.
While the base model price has risen $600 to $23,990 for the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol, all eyes are on the 1.6-litre Turbo which starts at $27,990.
The force-fed derivative generates a healthy 150 kilowatts which provides some decent shove, but this isn't designed to be a hardcore sporting star.
Kia calls the Koup a "grand tourer" and is leaving the souped-up stuff to its Pro_cee'd GT due early next year.
Things are standard Cerato fare in terms of cabin styling.
The colour scheme is black and could do with a dash of excitement. Carbon fibre look finishes across the dash add some pizzazz, but there is widespread use of hard plastics on the doors and console.
Up front the driver has a clear and concise view with legible dials and easy-to-use buttons. The standard 11cm touch-screen is simple to navigate and has an ultra-fast Bluetooth pairing system.
There is quite a bit of action on the steering wheel, with buttons for cruise, audio, phone, steering wheel load settings and the trip computer. It can be bewildering at first but it doesn't take long to learn the positioning of functions for simple operation.
Down back, head, leg and knee room is generous for adults up to about 180cm and they even get an air vent. The view from the rear is hindered by a large rear pillar and a small window, yet that's the standard coupe trade-off.
On the road
Kia has continued its Australian-specific tuning regime with the Koup and claim this is their best work yet. It's hard to disagree.
Testing all four variants through the Yarra Valley this week the two-door did a stellar job walking the line between performance and comfort.
The Koup manages to iron out the poor conditions, corner with precision and even soak up mid-corner bumps without rattling the kidneys or becoming flustered.
Our choice would be the turbocharged manual. Despite not having jaw-dropping acceleration figures, the 1.6-litre Turbo has a lovely turn of speed with an ability to pull with vigour from low in the rev range.
The six-speed manual offers nice slick shifts, and while the automatic box has paddle shifters on the steering wheel and a faster 0-100kmh time it felt more nose-heavy with a 20-odd-kilogram weight disadvantage.
That's not to say the 2.0-litre petrol engine is a chore. Far from it. Most drivers would be more than happy with its performance, but the Turbo is definitely the choice for those who like to drive or want the peace of mind to have the ability to swiftly overtake.
Some extra exhaust tune wouldn't go astray, it's pretty quiet within the cabin, while we'd also like to see how it performs with some better rubber. The Nexen tyres do grip but are quick to squeal when pushed.
What do you get?
The Si model gets 17-inch alloys, the full safety suite, six airbags, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, six-way driver's seat adjustment, rear view camera, six-speaker MP3 compatible CD stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, air-conditioning, rear air vent and paddle shifts on automatic variants.
Turbos gain 18-inch wheels, bigger brakes, LED rear combination lamps, LED daytime running lamps, alloy sports pedals, cooling glovebox, electrochromic rear view mirror, cloth seat with artificial leather bolsters and a smart key with push button start.
There's an optional Touring Pack available for the Turbo which adds leather trim seats, satellite navigation, DVD player, colour 17.7cm touch-screen and dual-zone climate control air-conditioning.
Hopefully insurers don't place too much of a premium on the turbocharged models, and some drivers may face steep costs depending on age and driving history. Fuel economy is good for both petrol engines, and expect about nine litres for every 100km in real-world conditions.
Kia has capped price servicing for five years, along with the outstanding five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Boot space is up 20 litres, and although the opening has been improved, bulky items can still be a difficult fit. The rear seats do 60-40 split fold for extra load space.
There are excellent storage spots, large glovebox, two cup holders in the front and four in the rear.
Rural drivers can rejoice, there is also a full-size spare.
Designer Peter Schreyer has taken Kia to the next level. This Koup may look similar to the previous iteration, but it's larger than the outgoing model, and except for the hood and front fenders, every exterior panel on the new Koup is unique to this variant in the Cerato clan.
Kia is coming along in leaps and bounds. During the past six years the Korean carmaker has made strong inroads into public perception, and the Koup garners attention for pure fashion and pizzazz.
Adding the Turbo variant further pushes Kia's credentials as an emerging challenger brand and adds substance to the style.
What matters most
What we liked: Head-turning style, nice punch from the turbocharged engine, ease of interior operations.
What we'd like to see: Improved exhaust note, better tyres, extra internal pizzazz.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty with one year roadside assist. Capped price servicing for the first five years, average price of $349 annually for the 2.0-litre model. Turbo service costs have not been finalised, expect slightly higher prices.
Model: Kia Cerato Koup.
Details: Two-door front-wheel drive compact coupe.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 129kW @ 6500rpm and peak torque of 209Nm @ 4700rpm; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 150kW @ 6000rpm and 265Nm @ 1750-4500rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 2.0-litre - 7.3 litres/100km (manual, combined average), 7.4 (auto); 1.6-litre - 7.7 (m), 8.0 (a).
CO2: 2.0-litre - 175g/km (m), 177g/km (a); 1.6-litre - 184g/km (m), 190g/km (a).
Bottom line: 2.0-litre Si $23,990 (m), $26,190 (a); 1.6-litre Turbo $27,990 (m), $30,190 (a); 1.6-litre Turbo with Touring Pack $30,190 (m), $32,390 (a). Premium paint add $520.
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