Topping out its Cerato range with a new, now turbocharged Koup leaves Kia New Zealand in a playful mood, but not underestimating the level of competition in the sports coupe sector.
Kia identifies 11 rivals for its new 1.6-litre and cites one in particular, the Toyota 86, as the kingpin, with a 35% slice.
The 86 is mainly selling to young males, which is good for the car's image but actually hardly in keeping with the traditional market trend for coupes. This has previously seen coupes sold to 40-plusers with at least 50% of the audience being female. This is the age and gender set that Kia is targeting, and so Kia New Zealand boss Todd McDonald says the 86's penetration has intrigued but not alarmed; he sees the Koup and 86 as being rivals only in a broad sense. They're really two different species that happen to be lumped into a common category.
Sensible thinking. On power and torque output, the Koup would seem to have a handy advantage over the 86, while 0-100kmh in 7.4 seconds and top speed of 222km is also competitive.
Yet a first drive suggests that on any challenging road the contest wouldn't last long. Front-drive versus the Toyota's rear-drive and a six-speed automatic make a difference, yet basically it's about resolve. Even though its strut/torsion bar suspension has benefited from an Aussie firm-up and the steering and brakes are sharpened, the Koup isn't as incisive.
It could still cause upset within the coupe class though. Actually, it seems purposely positioned to embarrass Hyundai's equivalent, the Veloster, which costs $7500 more yet presents the same drivetrain, with identical output, plus a similar specification.
The Koup also creates a different impression from the standard Cerato sedan; being firmer and sharper under braking and more deft. Ride is a little busy, but those 18-inch tyres do seem to offer reasonable grip.
Six airbags and electronic driver assistance programs feature, while it also stocks keyless entry, cruise control, Bluetooth, front and rear parking sensors with rear camera, daytime running lights, a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and DVD player, plus dual-zone air-conditioning.
Kia hasn't finished with this 1.6-turbo powertrain either. Indeed, one reason why the Koup only shows in automatic form is that this choice lessens potential for a clash with the Pro'ceed GT, a manual-only five-door hot hatch from Kia's Slovakia factory, set to land around June.
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