Until recently "affordable enthusiastic driving" was the domain of high-style, but lower utility, two-door coupes. Then, "Drive...He Said" discovered some enthusiastic four-doors out there, picking the sleek 2014 Kia Forte EX automatic as tops among 4 top small family sedans.
But in defense of a seemingly dying breed of sporty affordable 2-doors, Kia [quietly] markets a more powerful variant of Forte with a manual transmission. MINUS two doors...and the letter "E", appending Koup.
2015 Kia Forte Koup SX:
WHAT: Compact C category , front-wheel drive, 2+3 occupant 2-door coupe;
Locomotion: transverse 201 hp/ 193 lb-ft turbocharged, direct injection 1.6L DOHC I-4 gas engine;
Transmission(s): 6-speed manual (optional 6-speed torque converter automatic) transaxle
Chassis Layout: front strut/ rear torsion beam semi independent; Four wheel disc brakes, front vented; 18"-inch alloy wheels on SX, electric power steering assist
Standard Accoutrement: Cruise control; 1 x USB/ 2 x 12V ports; Keyless entry, push-button start; 7"-inch touch LCD infotainment screen; 60/40 folding split rear seat back; Power locks, windows; Power heated & folding side mirrors; Aluminum pedals; Selectable steering effort; Tilt & telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel; Bluetooth connectivity w/ voice commands & streaming audio; Music jukebox HDD
Major Options: 7" touch LCD infotaiment w/ HDD navigation; Leather seats, Power moonroof; Leather seats: Front heated, driver's cooled & 10-way powered; Heated steering wheel; HID headlights; 4.2" TFT color MFD, Auto-dimming rear-view mirror w/ Homelink; 2-Zone auto climate w/ rear seat vents; Carpeted floor mats, cargo mat.
WHEN: On sale: September 1, 2015
WHERE: Kia dealers
HOW MUCH: Price w/6-speed manual transmission = $20,590; As tested (w/ Premium + Tech Pkgs.): $25,485
HOW SAFE: 8 airbags, high tensile steel, no driver's assist tech offered; IIHS Ratings: side & frontal impact: "Good", "Good"; small front overlap: "Poor"
WHERE MADE: Hwasung, South Korea
GOES LIKE: Throttle-on-a-String demands 3000 rpm upshifts for serious steam, exacerbating the garbage disposal sounds from the engine; Smooth 2nd-3rd manual gearbox throws aren't possible...come to think of it nor are 1st-2nd; rapid steering, but numbness isn't helped by selectable effort; Body leans aplenty; 18" Wheels pound ponderously; not even Traction control can stop Nexen CP671 M+S tires from slipping in the slick; Not the worst undesteerer in class; Hungryman appetite brakes need cattle stampede pedal application to come alive.
FEELS LIKE: Chrome door releases & center stack switch bezels brighten up dark office; Low front cowl grants generous forward field of view; Perforated pebble grained leather feels rich; Instrument binnacle hood stitching & faux carbon fiber trim, half-hearted; Switch buttons are where buttons belong and knobs where knobs belong; Engine buzz makes abundant hard plastics resonate; Small icons on 7" Center stack touch infotainent screen, which is sun wash-out prone; Navigation response is jerky and lacks bird's eye map mode; Front seat-belt B-pillar extender arm clever but clunky; Doors weigh a "ton".
HOW USEFUL: Supportive front buckets remember recline but not pitch when accessing rear seat; Seat to pedal distance, relative to steering wheel, not ideal; Nice to have concealed center stack USB and dual 12V connections; Doors low on storage and swing too wide; Good luck entering/ exiting rear seat without dinging neighboring car doors; 6' footers shouldn't have any issues in the back seat; Trunk easily holds weekend getaway's cargo for four.
HOW EFFICIENT: 28 combined miles-per-gallon on 87 octane unleaded gas
HOW APP-licable: subscription available UVO telematics + E-Services ($600); 6-speaker audio system has plenty of volume, some depth, but too much tone coloration.
VALUE: Feature wise, you could do far worse than Forte Koup. Lazy throttle saps noisy drivetrain. Warranty: Can't beat 10 yr/ 100k mi. drivetrain, 5 yr./ 60k mi. B-T-B warranty - except after a resale, which halves powertrain warranty.
COMPETITORS: Scion TC , Hyundai Veloster , Honda Civic Si Coupe, Honda Accord Coupe , Mini Cooper , Fiat 500 Abarth , Volkswagen Golf 2-door, Ford Mustang V-6; Hey...a base VW Golf GTI S costs only $900 more.
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