Aug
25
2015

2014 Kia Forte Koup First Impressions

San Diego, CA — Youth is certainly not eternal but at the same time, it is. Although you and I are getting older every day, someone somewhere turns 20. It is for this group of buyers that Kia — along with many other carmakers — targets cars such as the 2014 Forte Koup.

This car is a rare bird in a small segment that serves mostly as the young boy’s (or girl’s) affordable and attainable sporty car. With the hopes of capturing more attention for these cars, Kia has seriously revamped the Koup and has taken it from “fun” to a little more serious.

The result is a car that has (on paper at least) the potential to take eyes off the revered Honda Civic Si coupe and have them turn to it. The new Forte Koup is without a doubt an eye-catching automobile, but it lacks the dynamism provided by the Si. Its turbocharged engine is spirited but won’t ignite any serious driving passion.

What is a Kia Forte Koup?
The 2014 Forte Koup is the 2-door variant of the compact Forte sedan. The Forte Koup made its first appearance in early 2008 right around the time the then-new Focus Coupe arrived, hoping to also compete with the mighty and popular Honda Civic Coupe.

2014 Kia Forte Koup Price and Specs
The basic 2014 Forte Koup EX+ retails for $20,995. The SX packaged car goes for $23,695 while the top of the line SX-Luxury comes in at $28,295.

The EX features a 173 horsepower 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The SX versions are spoiled by a turbocharged 1.6L 4-pot that develops 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. This is the same mill that powers the Veloster Turbo.

Transmission selections reside between a 6-speed manual and automatic. Depending on trim, Kia’s adjustable FlexSteer is available for the electric power rack and pinion. Brakes are 4-wheel discs, slightly larger on the SX trim and the suspension is fully independent, sport tuned on the SX.

Driving the 2014 Kia Forte Koup
As with the 2014 Kia Forte5, I was only given the opportunity to evaluate one of the four available powertrain configurations. As such, I ended blasting my way out of Borrego Springs (appropriate, no?) in a Koup SX with the automatic transmission.

This car’s twin-scroll turbocharged 1.6L engine is the real story. The near absence of lag promotes rapid un-delayed acceleration, which is accompanied by a sweet turbo whistle. From 1,750 rpm, max torque is working to make the Koup go fast and it works until just before 5,000 rpm where the engine drops into a noticeable lull before max horsepower kicks in at 6,000 rpm. I found that, like old-school turbo-boosted cars, shifting early actually improves the seat-of-the-pant feeling.

When left in “D,” the autobox grooves from one gear to another without fail and will react accordingly on kickdown. Equipped with, well, flimsy and far-too-small plastic paddles, the automatic transmission can be coerced manually. Upshifts play ball, but because this is a “regular” slushbox, downshifts are not rev-matched and thus function more as an engine brake, marring what should be an otherwise sporty driving experience.

From there, steering also lacks the goods to be a true sporty alternative compact car. Strangely, unlike the Forte5, I found that the Koup’s electric steering lacked bite on-centre. Perhaps I was expecting too much of the car but thankfully, it weighs up nicely, especially in the FlexSteer’s Sport setting.

The ride also left me wanting more. Handling was better than good for a compact coupe, however, the car felt heavier than my SX-Luxury’s already paltry 1,390 kg. It did not hamper the Koup’s abilities per se, but this car is not as light or agile as it should be — or worse, as lively as its competitors.

Inside and Out of the 2014 Kia Forte Koup
The 2014 Kia Forte Koup borrows heavily from its brethren, however, with two fewer doors. Like the other Fortes, the Koup features available Xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights and LED taillights.

The SX trim is the one that sets the car apart. From the front lower gaping grille (that’s all about function and form as it houses the intercooler) to the dual-exhaust tailpipes and specific wheels, the SX trades the Forte family’s handsome styling for some attitude and road presence.

The 2014 Kia Forte Koup’s cabin is well-crafted and according to some could use a little more colour. Ergonomics and presentation are on par or better than its competition. Heated front seats are standard on all trims, and a heated steering wheel is available. Bluetooth and satellite radio are included while navigation, leather, a cooled glove box and push-button start are all on the menu.

The cabin is roomy for a coupe as the rear bench can be used for its intended purpose. Seats are comfortable and offer up sufficient support.

Comparing the 2014 Kia Forte Koup
The Koup holds the aforementioned Civic Si coupe square in its sights. The Scion tC and Hyundai Elantra coupe are also on the short list, but Kia insists that their sporty-edged tuning lines them up with the revered Si.

The Kia may have more torque and bells and whistles on paper than the Honda, but the Civic essentially owns everything else. Those interested in more content and bang for their buck will love the Forte Koup whereas those looking for the drive will be more than swayed by the Civic Si.